THE new single authority for Limerick â€œhas to be headquartered in the heart of the cityâ€, Cllr Diarmuid Scully has said in welcoming a comprehensive new plan to be drawn up for the city centre.
It has been confirmed in recent days that the Department of the Environment and both local authorities are to evenly split the costs of the plan, a recommendation of the Brosnan Report and one which Cllr Scully said was citywide in scope but had the revival of the city centre as its driver.
He expects the plan to go to tender by Easter and, if adopted, to be incorporated into the statutory development plans. And Cllr Scully said it must address the four areas he believes are most responsible for the city centreâ€™s decline - population, employment, retail and government services.
â€œThe decline in our city centre didnâ€™t happen overnight. It is part of a process that has been going on for half a century, beginning with the depopulation of the city centre through the building of suburban housing estates from the 1960s on.â€
Next had come the development of suburban shopping centres and the closure in the 1980s of the traditional city employers - Ranks, Halpinâ€™s tea, Clunes tobacco, Gearyâ€™s sweets and Limerick bacon factory.
â€œWhen new employment was attracted to replace these declining industries, it was again directed to the suburbs â€“ the Raheen industrial estate and Plassey Technological Park. Even when the university for which the people of the city had campaigned so strongly was finally built, it was located outside the city.
â€œGovernment services have also been withdrawn â€“ medical services to the Regional hospital and Limerick County Council to the Crescent shopping centre. This resulted in the direct loss of hundreds of white collar jobs from the city centre and had the knock-on effect of deflecting users of these services away from the city towards the suburbs,â€ said Cllr Scully.
The net effect of building council offices in Dooradoyle was 1,000 jobs had been removed from the city centre.
And if the decline of the city centre was to be arrested, Cllr Scully said it was critical the new local authority would be based in town.
â€œThree hundred years ago, Edmund Sexton Perry devised and executed a plan to build a beautiful Georgian city in Limerick. This new plan is the first real opportunity since then to fashion a city we can all be proud of. We have to get it rightâ€