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.
I thank the Senator. I am replying on behalf of the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage. Project Ireland 2040, which was launched by the Government on 16 February 2018, is the overarching policy and planning framework for the social, economic and cultural development of Ireland. It includes a detailed capital investment plan for the period 2018 to 2027, the national development plan, NDP, for the same period and the 20-year national planning framework, NPF.
The principles of the NPF are underpinned by the NDP, a ten-year €116 billion capital investment programme. The National Development Plan 2018-2027 established four new funds, with a combined allocation of €4 billion to 2027. The urban regeneration development fund, URDF, has an allocation of €2 billion to 2027, primarily to support the NPF's growth enablers for the five cities and other large urban centres. The URDF, which was launched in 2018, is providing part-funding for local authority-led projects that will enable a greater proportion of residential and mixed-use development to be delivered within the existing built-up footprints of our cities and large towns while also ensuring that more parts of our urban areas become attractive and vibrant places people can choose to live and work in as well as to invest in and visit.
In 2019, approval in principle and provisional funding allocations issued in respect of the 87 major projects across the country approved under the first call. The URDF-supported capital programme has been very well received and already the URDF is providing assistance for this pipeline of major projects that will continue to regenerate and rejuvenate Ireland's five cities and other large towns.
Under the second call for the URDF, which was launched earlier this year, 76 proposals were received, with every local authority submitting at least one application. These included a proposal from Longford County Council in respect of the Camlin quarter project. Many of these proposals are of significant scale and complexity and require careful assessment. This assessment process is in train and the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage intends to soon announce a new tranche of approved projects, which will augment the existing pipeline of projects from the first call and contribute to the achievement of commitments under the programme for Government and the objectives of the national planning framework and Project Ireland 2040.
I thank the Minister. I note that she said that 76 proposals are under consideration, which include one from Longford County Council. If the Government is looking for balanced regional development, we need to balance where funding is given and at least one application from each local authority should be successful. As I have said, Longford County Council has only submitted one application. It relates to a major project for our county town. Anyone who knows the town will know that lower Main Street has been ravaged by closures. A lot of work has been done by the local authority. I compliment the authority and the regeneration team on the excellent work they have done so far.
I will refer back to the comments I made earlier. Longford County Council was the first local authority brave enough to increase the local property tax by 15%. The Fianna Fáil leader on the council at the time, Councillor Seamus Butler, and I did this together for the betterment of Longford, in which respect it has proved successful. Other local authorities have since followed. We took a lead where others were not prepared to do so. The council and the people of Longford need to be supported. I look forward to success when the announcement is made shortly.