Thursday, 3 June 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
12. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the way IDA Ireland's property division plans to work in partnership with Mayo County Council to develop access infrastructure to lands in Ballina, County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30035/21]
I am asking about the situation with regard to the proposed IDA Ireland industrial park in Ballina. The project has been under way for almost 30 years and we are really no further on. Planning permission was allowed to lapse in recent years. My most recent update from the Tánaiste last January was that we would be ready for a new planning application in the third quarter of this year and I would like to know whether we are still on schedule.
I thank the Deputy for raising the question. IDA Ireland actively promotes available buildings and land in IDA Ireland business parks and high-quality buildings in private ownership through its network of overseas offices. IDA Ireland owns approximately 10.6 ha of industrial zoned land on the Sligo road in Ballina. The site has been masterplanned by the agency to demonstrate its potential to investors.
Planning permission was previously obtained for infrastructural development, although this has since expired. IDA Ireland continues to market the site to existing and prospective investors that may be interested in expanding or locating in County Mayo. IDA Ireland has appointed an engineering firm to undertake detailed technical due diligence, review the master plan design and submit a stage one infrastructure planning application to Mayo County Council, which IDA Ireland anticipates will be ready for submission in the third quarter of 2021, subject to ongoing review.
IDA Ireland will work with Mayo County Council to ensure that the infrastructural development will be complementary to the wider development plans for Ballina and that the site, once developed, will be positioned and marketed as a suitable location for indigenous and foreign direct investment developments.
I thank the Minister of State for his response. I am huge fan of IDA Ireland. It does extraordinary work. However, its handling of this issue has been less than satisfactory. The fact that planning was allowed to lapse in the first place does not suggest priority or urgency. As the Minister of State said, we know it is marketing the site but marketing an industrial site without planning is not necessarily the best way to sell the site as a location to potential investors.
Will the Minister of State confirm that the planning application is on track for submission in the third quarter of this year and that there have been no delays since January as a consequence of Covid restrictions? I invite the Minister of State to come down to see the site. Will he engage with IDA Ireland on potentially building an advanced solution on it, similar to what was built in Castlebar, which was essential to attracting the Meissner investment? Having a walk-in unit that is ready to go will make the site much more sellable than a site with planning permission.
I agree with the Deputy that IDA Ireland is doing remarkable work in promoting Ireland internationally. It has been hugely successful over many decades in attracting foreign direct investment to Ireland. I concur that it is regrettable that the planning permission for the site was allowed to expire. I commit to the Deputy that I will engage with IDA Ireland to make sure that the commitment for the third quarter is honoured and that planning permission will be resubmitted at that stage.
The Deputy is aware that IDA Ireland has launched its new strategy for 2021 to 2024, Driving Recovery and Sustainable Growth. A key part of this is regional development, which is at the very heart of the strategy. There is a commitment that of the 800 targeted investments to be completed by the end of 2024, 400 of them must be in the regions. From the Deputy's perspective, I can see the need to have the planning permission obtained and buildings constructed to enhance the marketability of Ballina for some of this investment.
I thank the Minister of State. I reiterate that Ballina is delivering for some of the biggest corporate names in the world, including Coca-Cola, Hollister and Lionbridge. If we are given the opportunity our workforce will deliver. We cannot be part of this regional effort unless planning permission is granted. It would be even better if, once the planning permission is granted, the IDA Ireland would commit to an advanced unit. We are located between Sligo, Castlebar and Galway. We are at the centre of the catchment area of the proposed technological university for Connacht and Ulster.
There are many advantages to Ballina as an investment location and we have proven time and again our ability to deliver for any investor. What we need is for the passion of our employees and the passion of our community to be matched by IDA Ireland in terms of proactively developing this site for Ballina and then marketing it and ensuring that it is not be left on the shelf, as it has been, for nearly 30 years. We are a long way down the road on this and we still have no progress.
I reiterate my commitment to engage directly with IDA Ireland on behalf of the Deputy and seek assurances in relation to the plans for the site in Ballina. IDA Ireland, as part of its strategy for 2021-2024, has targeted 76 investments for the west region. No doubt part of that will include targeted investment for Ballina. I will work with both IDA Ireland and Deputy Calleary to advance this proposal.