Last week’s decision by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan to scrap the National Spatial Strategy has left the Midlands in limbo, according to Deputy Robert Troy.
The decision means the Gateway status of Athlone, Mullingar, and Tullamore has been lost, which Deputy Troy says will “jeopardise future investment in the area”.
“The decision to drop the National Spatial Strategy without any sign of a replacement plan for over a year leaves the Midlands and the other 18 Gateway towns and areas in utter limbo. This could have enormous consequences for Westmeath and Offaly and the surrounding area, putting future growth and investment here in jeopardy,” he said.
The National Spatial Strategy was originally designed to promote balanced regional development to offset dominance by the Greater Dublin Area, and to help foster economic growth nationally by utilising our national resources effectively.
As part of the strategy Athlone, Mullingar, and Tullamore were identified as a special linked gateway. However, Minister Hogan announced plans last Tuesday to scrap the strategy, with no replacement planned for at least another year.
“Under the National Spatial Strategy, these towns had a central role in trying to attract infrastructural investment and acting as an engine of growth for the surrounding area. Now that the strategy has been completely abandoned by Fine Gael and Labour, the future role of the Midlands in this capacity is in limbo,” said Deputy Troy.
“Businesses basing their long-term projects on the plans outlined by the National Spatial Strategy now have to deal with greater uncertainty about infrastructure projects, population bases, and transport links. Given the pressing need for job creation in the Midlands the news that our Gateway status has been dropped will only create further uncertainty.
“We know from the most recent Live Register figures that the Midlands was the only region to record both a monthly and a yearly increase in the number of people signing on. The Government needs to start taking job creation here seriously. This latest news is another blow to hopes of investment in Westmeath and across the Midlands and must be addressed,” he concluded.