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Strategy Outlined in Minister Ó'Cuív's Statement

7th July 2003

A Strategy for Towns on Radial Routes in the West


The seven-county Western Region is dominated by an urban structure of small market towns. Clearly, while there is a need to target gateways and hubs for investment and as centres of knowledge, this approach on its own has limited applicability for the predominantly rural region. It will not ensure the stabilisation and growth of population and rural regeneration or drive demand for transport infrastructure investment such as the development of Knock airport or the Western Rail Corridor.

The need for an emphasis on smaller towns as part of the strategic development of the region has been consistently pointed out in WDC reports. In its submission to the National Spatial Strategy, the WDC argued that some western towns (with populations in excess of 1,500) could be targets for the decentralisation of government services so that they become focal points for the creation of critical mass of economic and social development to underpin development of the surrounding region.

The National Spatial Strategy reiterated the government commitment to balanced regional development, including the development of towns outside gateways and hubs and rural regeneration.

There are many towns well-positioned along 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 overseas firms. Indeed, along with others throughout the region, many already have strong, well-rooted and successful indigenous SME firms.

Developing such towns necessitates county strategies that build on their infrastructural strengths. It is useful to draw on the Cork experience in this context, although obviously significantly different in scale and demographics from the West. In the Cork Area Strategic Plan 2001-2020, one of the key themes is a redirection of development to corridors that can be efficiently served by public transport, especially rail, on the basis that this will contribute to a more sustainable future pattern of development in the area. In order to facilitate this reorientation of growth, significant investment in the local rail network was proposed and is being implemented.

The Government commitment to decentralisation of government departments and state bodies provides an opportunity for the WDC to facilitate the strategic positioning of the Western towns as attractive locations for decentralisation. However, in an environment where towns are inevitably competing for selection with others outside the region, it is essential that there be a coherent and well-coordinated approach to doing this.

A central element of such towns' attractiveness for decentralisation will be access (from Dublin especially), and the ease with which workers can commute to work locally within the region. By the same token, the presence of a substantial concentration of workers in towns along existing rail routes (even if not currently operational) could substantially enhance their viability as commuter routes. This could have a significant impact on the feasibility of the Western Rail Corridor. Minister for Transport Seamus Brennan TD has already announced that he is "committed to supporting the development of a realistic and viable plan for the Western Rail Corridor".

Project Objective

The Western Development Commission will facilitate the development of a strategy to position towns in the Western Region as attractive locations for investment and for the decentralisation of government departments and state bodies.

This will involve

  • the WDC working with regional and local authorities to develop a Western Region strategy for investment and employment, and decentralisation, based on clear and agreed principles;
  • the development of a typology which attempts to match the facilities available in towns in the region to industrial and commercial development needs and to the requirements of government departments and state bodies.

Project Elements

1. WDC consults with regional and local authorities (regional and county managers) to clarify their position in regard to the competitive positioning of towns in their region for both investment and employment growth and decentralisation. This includes identifying the steps which need to be taken to strengthen the competitive position of such towns in consultation with local authorities e.g. amendments to county plans, site provision, upgrading of access infrastructure. WDC secures their agreement to work on a regional strategy, based on named principles, to attract government departments/state agencies to locations in the Western Region.

2. WDC develops typology of towns in the region based on population data, transport, energy and telecommunications infrastructure, and the outcome of ongoing WDC analysis of the economic functioning of towns in the region. WDC works with local authorities to identify strategic linkages necessary e.g linkages between towns, roads investment, Western Rail Corridor.


Regional strategy based on above for submission to Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.








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