At this week’s monthly meeting of Westmeath County Council, councillors welcomed a proposed minimum 25 per cent cut in development levies across the county.
If new changes are approved in the coming months, there will be a reduction of 25 per cent for basic developments, 33 per cent for developments in core retail centres of Athlone and Mullingar, and 50 per cent in IDA parks.
The review of development levies follows a request from the Minister for the Environment in January and Westmeath is one of the first councils in the area to unveil its proposals.
However, elected members have asked for an amendment, saying they want the 33 per cent for Athlone and Westmeath to be extended to other town centres, such as Kinnegad, Kilbeggan, and Castlepollard.
The proposal will come before the public and the rates will be finalised in around three months.
Cllr Joe Flanagan proposed the amendment and described the levy reduction as “wonderful news”.
He was seconded by Cllr Denis Leonard who said rural Westmeath’s towns need a boost as much as the major towns, and a thriving core will have a ripple effect.
He said there are concerns in towns like Kinnegad that the town centre might end up moving away from main streets to the outskirts where there are retail developments.
He said it would also have a positive impact on derelict sites in towns.
Cllr Moran was delighted with the proposals, saying he’d called for such a move several years ago.
He congratulated the manager on a job well done and called for similar moves on parking in urban areas, which he says pushes trade into outlying retail developments.
Cllr Colm Arthur said a 33 per cent reduction to development levies could help turn around Rochfortbridge, which he said had received “poor publicity” in a recent RTÉ Primetime programme.
The core of the village has died away he said, and Cllr McDermott said the 33 per cent rate would also have a positive benefit to towns in the Coole area.
The new rates will be brought to the County Development Board, there will be public consultation for six weeks and then the Minister will consider the council’s plans.