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West=On=Track - News

The West Must Plan According to its Strengths - Statement by Minister Ó'Cuív

7th July 2003

Minister Ó Cuív Requests Western Development Commission To Co-ordinate Radical New Approach To Western Development

Éamon Ó Cuív TD, Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, has asked the Western Development Commission (WDC) to co-ordinate a development strategy with the local and regional authorities for the seven western counties (Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare).

This strategy is intended to maximise the benefit to the west from the National Spatial Strategy, major roads investment, the strategic rail report and decentralisation. The WDC have agreed therefore to develop a Strategy for Towns on Radial Routes in the West.

At the launch of the WDC's Annual Report in Sligo Folk Park, Riverstown, Co. Sligo today, (11.30am, 07/07/03), Minister Ó Cuív said,

"There has been an unending debate, which hinders development, as to which comes first, the provision of infrastructure or development. This sterile argument is leading us nowhere and it is absolutely vital that we bring it to an end. Development and infrastructure should in fact go together and reinforce each other - each should make the other happen. The way forward, therefore, is a co-ordinated, planned approach towards spatial planning in the West that plays to our strengths and maximises the benefits that will accrue from major investment in roads and the fact that the West of Ireland has potentially the most intensive rail network outside of Dublin."

As is outlined in the enclosed strategy, the goal is to get all of the local and regional authorities in the seven western counties to plan a co-ordinated approach, in order to maximise the development potential of the region.

This in the first instance will centre around the towns on the radial and cross-radial routes in the West - both road and rail, including the Western Rail Corridor - and with access to international airports such as Knock and Shannon. The WDC will examine strategies to build on the strengths of such towns, most of which are located in CLAR areas. They could become the focal points for small and medium-sized firms. Indeed, along with others throughout the region, they already have many strong, well-rooted and successful indigenous Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

The idea of creating a network of growing towns serving the Gateways and Hubs as outlined in the National Spatial Strategy has a huge attraction for economic and social reasons.

"The need for an emphasis on smaller towns as part of the strategic development of the Western Region has been consistently pointed out in WDC reports. The National Spatial Strategy also reiterated the Government's commitment to balanced regional development, including the development of towns outside gateways and hubs, and rural regeneration. Therefore, it seems to me, with its statutory remit, and proactive board and staff led by the very efficient and effective chairperson Michael Farrell and the CEO Lisa McAllister, the Western Development Commission is the ideal choice to spearhead this dynamic new initiative." Éamon Ó Cuiv TD








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