REGENERATING Limerick was “now a realistic plan” rather than the “pie in the sky” set out in the Fitzgerald Report seven years ago, Mayor Kathleen Leddin has said as Limerick City Council formally adopted the Limerick Regeneration Framework Implementation Plan.
Originally a €3 billion scheme involving huge private sector investment when announced in 2007, the City Council has this week given the green light to a more modest programme of €300 million to be spent in Moyross, Southill, King’s Island and Ballinacurra Weston over the next 10 years.
After many false dawns, the necessary legislative steps to integrate regeneration schemes into the city development plan can now begin. The Limerick Regeneration Agency formerly headed up by Brendan Kenny is no more and city and county manager Conn Murray said one of the biggest challenges he had faced over the past 18 months had been to ensure the programme would “survive absorption into Limerick City Council”.
The Framework Implementation Plan, which attracted 274 submissions as part of the public consultation process, had been ably steered by Oliver O’Loughlin and his team at Limerick City Council, Mr Murray said. “They have delivered a realistic plan that can be implemented and with targets that can be met.”
And in bringing the office under the ambit of the City Council, the overall project was “now accountable to the democratic process where it ought to have been in the first place”, Mr Murray added.
“I want to acknowledge the community leadership that is so clear from the consultation process. It is rare indeed to get over 270 submissions but now we can truly say the plan has come from the community.”
Despite the high number of submissions, Cllr John Gilligan said he didn’t know of a single person in St Mary’s Park, Moyross, Southill or Ballinacurra Weston who had read the plan, a 500-page document.
But other councillors rounded on Cllr Gilligan and said the public consultation process had been comprehensive.
“I find it bemusing to listen to Cllr Gilligan,” said Cllr Joe Leddin.
“There was more consultation done here than on anything else I have seen on this council. There was hours and hours put in at community centres for days on end where people could come in and speak to the council officials. What we have now is a very clear blueprint and we are no longer at the stage where we are operating in a vacuum.”
Cllr Leddin said he had visited regeneration housing schemes with the Tanaiste last Friday and looked forward to seeing more of the same go to construction.
The housing crisis in the city, said Cllr Tom Shortt, was the main reason why the City Council should adopt the plan.
“There are thousands of people on the waiting list. There is a tremendous urgency and we should get on with what is a considerable number of new builds,” he said.
Cllr Ger Fahy contrasted what he felt was a lack of community consultation from the former regeneration agency to a different approach taken by the City Council.
And Cllr Diarmuid Scully said that while the regeneration process had lost its way, partly through announcing “a €3 billion plan which nobody believed could be delivered”, there was now before the council “a realistic and deliverable plan that we need to approve”.
Cllr Maurice Quinlivan said the council needed to restore confidence in communities by seeing through what was now in the plan. “What we are talking about here is only 10% of what we had in 2007 and we need to make sure now that we achieve it,” he said.