Over the past year, the National Development Plan continued to deliver significant investment in a range of economic and social projects in Co Westmeath. Despite the global financial crisis and the pressure on Ireland’s public finances, further investment was made in training and employment programmes, business supports, education, healthcare, social housing, and the county’s physical infrastructure during 2008.
The purpose of the Plan is to keep economic growth as strong as possible, to build a fairer society, and to ensure that all the regions of the country benefit. That is why it is called Transforming Ireland – A Better Quality of Life for All. It also promotes environmental sustainability and underpins greater co-operation throughout the island.
NDP investment in Co Westmeath in the past year includes:
The Enterprise Boards support innovation in micro-enterprises at local level, through direct grant aid and indirect, non-financial support. During 2008, the Westmeath Enterprise Board was allocated over €960,000. Companies supported include ASC Drives and Control Systems Ltd in Tyrellspass, Tech Lining Solutions Ltd in Ballymore, and ES Digital Media Ltd, Mullingar, winner of the County Enterprise Award.
Enterprise Ireland provides both advice and financial assistance to High Potential Start-Up companies with a business plan underpinned by realistic projections of rapid growth in exports or sales. Companies in County Westmeath which received support include NewCode Technologies Ltd, Athlone, which provides model-driven modernisation of legacy software systems and Athlone Optical Ltd, manufacturer of prescription safety eyeware.
Ten research centres, funded by the NDP under the Applied Research Enhancement Programme, have been set up across Ireland and are contributing to regional development by the commercialisation of their applied research outputs. In Athlone Institute of Technology the SUNAT (Seamless Use through Network Abstraction Technologies ) Applied Research Centre specialises in adaptive networking technologies, a niche research area with great potential for the mobile telecommunications industry.
Investment in the research capabilities of higher education institutions through the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI ) has the overall aim of keeping Ireland at the cutting edge of research while enhancing postgraduate training and skills. Athlone Institute of Technology was awarded over €1.8 million for the refurbishment of research facilities and €900,635 for minor capital works.
Training and upskilling
During the year 1,760 local people participated in a wide range of FÁS training courses and a variety of other programmes, including apprenticeships, vocational training and in-company training. Skillnets promotes and facilitates learning as a key element in sustaining Ireland's national competitiveness. Future Leaders Skillnet, located in Mullingar received funding of over €355,629 to provide leadership, personal development and training to employees from all sections of industry in the Midlands region.
In Westmeath, over €96.7 million was allocated for national road improvements and maintenance in the county. National roads that received funding include the N4 Mullingar to Longford (Roosky ), the N4 the Downs Grade Separated junction and the N6 Kilbeggan to Athlone which opened in July of 2008 and bypasses Kilbeggan, Horseleap and Moate.
The improvement of non-national roads is also critical and a further €21.2 million was provided for local projects including the Clonmore Link Road, Mullingar, the Robinstown Link Road and the Rail Link Road in Athlone.
South Westmeath Rural Transport Limited operating in Co Westmeath (SWRTA ) was allocated funding of €286,000 in 2008.
Tourism and hospitality
Under the Tourism Capital Investment Programme, Westmeath received an allocation of €401,808 for tourism projects in 2008. Funds were approved for the Athlone Angling Centre of Excellence, Mullingar Cycle Hub, and Athlone Historic Town Trail. Under ACCESS II, the Arts and Culture Capital Enhancement Support Scheme the Athlone Art Gallery was granted €650,000 to develop a gallery and artists’ studios.
Under the NDP funded Sports Capital Programme, €1.39 million in grants was allocated to sporting clubs and facilities in Co Westmeath. Athlone Boat Club, Castledaly GAA Club, and Mullingar Athletic AFC were among those to receive funding.
In County Westmeath primary and post-primary schools received capital funding of over €22.2 million; schools that benefited include St Joseph’s College in Athlone, Moate Community School, Baile Coireil National School in Coralstown, Athlone Mixed National School, and Mullingar Educate Together.
Childcare services were allocated funding of over €277,000 in 2008. Services that benefited include Kidz Aloud in Castlepollard, Little Treasures Montessori Preschool, and Windtown in Mullingar.
The overall aim of the NDP Housing Programme (which is the plan’s second largest programme ) is to address the housing requirements of those who cannot afford to meet their housing needs from their own resources. Co Westmeath received over €10.7 million for social housing in 2008 and projects funded included ones at Drumacon and Fairlands in Athlone and Springfield in Mullingar.
Funding of over €920,800 for voluntary housing was also provided during the year, and projects funded include those at Green Road in Mullingar.
The allocation under the water services Investment Programme 2007 – 2009 to upgrade and expand water treatment capacity, improve drinking water quality and supply and improve and expand wastewater treatment was over €218 million. Schemes funded in 2008 include the Athlone Water Supply Treatment Plant, which was completed during the year and the Mullingar and Castletown Geoghan Water Treatment Schemes, Rochfortbridge Waste Water treatment plant, and Mullingar Sewerage Improvement Scheme, which are underway.
Rural Water schemes were advanced during the year and €3.32 million was allocated in 2008 to upgrade and expand water treatment services.
A spokesperson for the NDP said: “In challenging times, the National Development Plan continues to play a vital role in Westmeath’s economic development and in positioning the county to benefit from the upturn in both the global and domestic economies.
“In addition, the over-arching goals of promoting greater social equality and delivering more balanced regional development across the country are guiding lights to the Plan’s ongoing implementation. The work continues and real progress is being made.”