Limerick council role 'key' to Newcastle West plan due for launch

Norma Prendiville

Reporter:

Norma Prendiville

Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan welcoming the imminent plan

Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan welcoming the imminent plan

THE long-awaited five-year-plan to develop Newcastle West will be launched publicly next month.

The date for the launch was announced this Wednesday and will take place early on Monday morning, September 25 in the local council office.

The idea of a comprehensive plan which would provide a vision and roadmap for the economic, social and cultural development of the town was first put forward in 2014 as a joint venture by the Newcastle West Community Council and the Newcastle West Chamber of Commerce who set up a steering committee to get it off the ground.

Limerick City and County Council then came on board and undertook to pay for the plan, a draft of which was circulated to the different stakeholders in January this year.

In the months since, the council and the steering committee have been involved in tweaking the plan which is expected to be very comprehensive. It is also expected to take into account all aspects of social and economic life in the town, unlike the council’s local area plan which deals mainly with infrastructure.

Jobs, facilities, tourism, commerce, promotion, all have their place in the plan.

Earlier this summer, a Newcastle West Development Association was established, to operate as one voice for the various organisations in the town and to drive and implement the final plan when adopted.

Michael Finucane, the new chairman of the Newcastle West Development Association, has consistently warned that making a plan was the easy bit.

“Implementing it afterwards is harder,” he commented last year.

Newcastle West native and Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan, welcoming the launch date, also stressed the importance of implementing the plan. 

“My biggest fear would be if it falls back on to the backs of volunteers alone. That would be very unfair,” he said. “They don’t have the time, the resources, the expertise.”

And he believes the role of the council will be central to this. From the very beginning, he said, he argued that for the plan to succeed, the council needed to buy into it, whether the issue was traffic management, physical infrastructure, roads or how the town is marketed.

“They are absolutely key.”

“You are not going to achieve all the things in one year. But if three or four can be delivered every year and a report brought to the councillors and the association, that is what will make this fly.”

He accepted that the initial response to the plan could be one of caution. “The proof of the pudding will be the implementation of the plan. I don’t think people are intentionally negative but they are cautious,” Minister O’Donovan added.

What makes the difference this time, he said, was the full backing and involvement of the council, “from the start rather than at the tail-end.”  

And he was confident that with the council firmly behind the new plan, it would make all the difference.

However, he stressed the important role the Development Association also needed to play. Their focus, he said, will be to make sure the the council and other agencies will drive on with the implementation of the plan.