Michael Finucane is chairman of the Newcastle West Development Association set up last week
A NEW organisation has been set up in Newcastle West to drive forward and implement a new five-year plan for the town.
The final draft of the plan, intended as a road map for the economic, cultural and social development of the town, has not yet been agreed by the various stakeholders. However, it is expected that it will be publicly launched later this month or early next month.
Meanwhile, however, one of the main recommendations of the plan has been put in place: the need for an overarching and representative body in the town to liaise with Limerick City and County Council and/or other agencies.
The new Development Association will be chaired by Michael Finucane, former TD with Seamus Hunt Jnr as Vice-Chairman, Paddy Fullam as secretary, Triona Dore as assistant secretary, Peter Byrne as treasurer and Pat McLoughlin as PRO.
“The aim of the association is to be all-inclusive and representative of the many and diverse local groups, providing a conduit and an interface with all the government agencies and bodies,” Mr McLoughlin said this week.
Explaining the background to this latest development this week, secretary Paddy Fullam (who is also president of the Newcastle West and District Chamber of Commerce) said that Limerick City and County Council, which funded the plan, had also asked for an umbrella group to be set up and with which it would work to implement the plan.
The new Development Association, he said, was representative of a whole range of organisations in the town. And he assured that “every organisation in the town that wants to be represented will be represented”. “All voices will be listened to. This is an inclusive group,” he said.
Sub-groups to deal with specific areas of interest may be set up in the future, Mr Fullam said.
Meanwhile, Mr McLoughlin said the next priority is to finalise the plan and get it launched. A draft plan, from consultant Tom O’Leary was delivered last January and discussions with various stakeholders including the council have been ongoing since.
A second priority, Mr McLoughlin said, would be to identify short, medium and long-term projects and to assist the different organisations in making these a reality.
His hope also was that the plan and the Development Association would attract new people into activity.
The draft plan of over 100 pages has been undergoing changes, the Limerick Leader understands, and it remains to be seen how many of the original proposals will make it into the final draft.
One of the strongest recommendations in the draft plan was to carry out an audit of the town and promote Newcastle West as a destination town for shopping, food and culture. And it proposed an improved website and using social media as part of that, along with improved signage from the N21, an app and a history trail in the town.
The strategy outlined was intended to encourage local people to shop in the town, to encourage those passing by to stop and shop and to attract new visitors to a destination town, offering retail, food and creative experiences.
Some well-aired proposals were also back on the agenda in the draft plan, including parking, traffic management and a distributor road. But some very ambitious proposals were also included e.g. the development of the Halla Mór as an arts/theatre venue, the establishment of a food incubation unit, the expansion of the Enterprise Centre and the development of Maiden St as a cultural creative hub with art workshops and studios .
Town centre regeneration is also included in the draft plan, namely the upgrading of Bridge St, North Quay and Maiden St and remedial works on derelict buildings.
No date has yet been given for the final plan.