Fianna Fáil Councillor, Frankie Keena, has called for a Rural Economic Development Zone (REDZ ) to be established in the Athlone Municipal District area in collaboration with the neighbouring local authorities of Offaly, Roscommon, and Longford.
Cllr Keena made the call at this month’s meeting of the Athlone Municipal District on Monday, April 4.
The REDZ initiative promotes cross-administrative boundary cooperation between local authorities on projects of mutual interest. These projects would be part-funded by the REDZ initiative, but also require additional finances to be contributed by each local authority with a stake in the project from their own resources. Under last year’s pilot of REDZ, projects were 75 per cent funded from a Government allocated pot of €2 million.
REDZ are defined as functional rather than administrative geographical areas that reflect the patterns of local economic activities.
Cllr Keena said this cross-boundary approach will not only foster a local sense of ownership of the projects undertaken, but it will also ensure that local authorities and other relevant stakeholders work together to develop and implement their own proposals for the benefit of the local region.
“One particular project I feel is common and beneficial to the four local authorities bordering the Athlone Municipal District is tourism,” Cllr Keena said. “Under the REDZ initiative we could put together an excellent proposal to market, develop, and implement tourism initiatives in this area with the subsequent creation of more employment and supporting businesses. We need to bear in mind that the tourist is not aware of the administrative boundary.”
Councillor Keena said this is “an opportunity not be missed in establishing ways of generating more rural economic development”.
The Municipal District will now request Westmeath County Council to make contact with neighbouring local authorities to get their approval for an application for REDZ to be drawn up.