Wednesday, 9 December 2020
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
Urban Regeneration and Development Fund
The Minister is very welcome. I wish to speak about the upcoming urban regeneration and development fund, URDF, funding for Longford. An application was submitted under category B in 2018 for a specific area of Longford town, addressing the infrastructural deficits on open lands from the Camlin river northwards for residential development. The application did not receive approval which allowed for subsequent detailed analysis of the area under the Camlin quarter urban framework. This study advocated a co-ordinated approach integrating strategic assets such as the considerable council-owned land bank in the area and using the Camlin river as a spine to increase the reach of the successful mall park. This project will co-ordinate the development of the northern area of Longford town, utilising its key assets and connected function area in a strategic way that maximises past, ongoing and future investment. The six elements contain and connect major residential, educational, recreational, amenity and public services and economic functions centred on major tourism events at the old Connolly Barracks site, Little Water Street, Bridge Street, the Albert Reynolds Peace Park, Abbeycarton and Great Water Street. In addition, the Providers innovation hub provides supporting connections and services as per the master plan. This plan incorporates an area of more than 55 acres, taking in the 18 acre barracks site, with renewed focus on the river. The project is designed to improve sustainable mobility and physical connection between the major functional areas in the northern section of the town core, enhance environmental quality and liveability and provide an environment that attracts and encourages inward investment into Longford, which is badly needed. Longford has a high ratio of jobs to resident population, indicating the need to provide suitable and attractive residential development in proximity to these jobs and to develop sustainable travel patterns and ensure the town derives economic benefits from these jobs. Longford town can then provide an enhanced range of services and facilities to the surrounding rural community and associated economies, including its function as a cultural and amenity hub, to act as a gateway for surrounding amenities, including the canal, the River Shannon, the associated blueways, greenways and peatways being developed and Center Parcs, as envisaged in section 4 of the regional spatial and economic strategy, RSES. There has been substantial investment from Fáilte Ireland, the outdoor recreation infrastructure fund, the URDF and the town and village schemes. There has been direct investment from the local authority, which is working towards achieving these aims. This project will represent a consolidation of this investment. Improvement to the western end of Great Water Street would incorporate the large council land bank in this area and will refocus on amenity, biodiversity and urban liveability, bringing the influence of the existing successful mall development to the town core, effectively providing a backyard for residents in the area. Children frequently play on the streets and in the back lands of this area at present. The provision of this additional space is essential in order to encourage town core residential uptake and compact, sustainable development into the future.
This project has been a priority for me over recent years and since being elected to Seanad Éireann I have worked to ensure continued support from the Government.In December 2018, an Tánaiste, Deputy Varadkar, visited this area as Taoiseach and met with members of the council and local businesspeople who described in detail how the lower part of Longford town had been ravaged in recent years, with the closure of many businesses. I ask that this project be prioritised in the upcoming announcements. I ask the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage to look at the Longford model in respect of local property tax, LPT. This model has been adopted by many local authorities. Under this model, an increase in the LPT is used to service loans which are used as matched funding to develop numerous projects, some of which I have already mentioned. We led the way with that. We need our county town to be supported. When it is supported, Longford County Council will deliver these projects not only for the people of Longford town, but the people of the county.