Roscommon project reaffirmed in new €165bn National Development Plan

The Government’s new National Development Plan (NDP) was unveiled earlier this week and commits to a total investment of €165 billion in capital projects across Ireland over ten years until 2030.

Welcoming the plan, Fine Gael Senator Aisling Dolan said it would lead to balanced regional development.

“The NDP is our plan for the future development of Ireland – it is investment in our hospitals, residential units, our schools as well as roads, cycleways and public transport,” she said.

“In Roscommon, we are seeing the development of the Rehabilitation Unit at Roscommon University Hospital. The 50-bed unit for the Sacred Heart Hospital and Care Home is at design and construction phase with close to a million euros allocated this year.

“The N5 Ballagahaderreen to Scramogue road with an investment of €200 million is one of three major road projects highlighted in the NDP for immediate progression and both Fine Gael councillor Liam Callaghan and I have been advocates for this project”.

Senator Dolan highlighted projects such as the ‘Safe Routes to Schools’ programme, the development of the Galway to Athlone Cycleway and the Urban Regeneration Fund which she said were all key to the plan.

“The supports for regeneration projects are key through the Urban Regeneration Fund which delivered a €9 million investment in Roscommon town. In Ballaghaderreen, a Public Realm Enhancement will (also) give such a boost to the local community,” she said.

She added that a proposed increase in funding under Rural and Community Development would also be crucial to counties like Roscommon.

“It is part of ‘Our Rural Future’ initiative and Rural Regeneration Funding has funded developments such as An Bealach creative industries, inclusion projects and location for the Family Resource Centre in Ballaghaderreen. As well as the expansion of An Chistín Hub in Castlerea and the Digiwest Digital Working Hub in Tulsk,” she said.

“Roscommon Leader Partnership has seen close to €7 million invested between 2017 and 2021 in local projects for Tidy Towns, community groups and businesses across the county. The NDP will also include a fund to upgrade community centres”.

Senator Dolan said the NDP will also create infrastructure to support remote working hubs and allow for flexible working hours in light of the pandemic.

“There is also priority funding for the roll-out of the National Broadband Plan to ensure broadband access for the intervention areas across the county.

“A range of new funds for businesses has also been announced under the plan. The new Enterprise Green Transition Fund will help companies in Roscommon invest in technologies to reduce carbon emissions, while the Digital Transition Fund will aid companies in embedding digitisation into their business models,” she added.

In housing, the Fine Gael Senator said the plan would support the “largest-ever public housing programme in the history of the State”.

 

…but local TDs are not convinced!

The Government’s National Development Plan has been met with much scepticism by local public representatives, who have described it as “not credible”, and containing a lack of serious commitments for much-needed infrastructure in the west.

Sinn Féin TD Claire Kerrane said the plan was “the out-workings of a Government that couldn’t reach agreement so instead we have one for everyone in the audience”.

“The Western Rail Corridor, a key piece of infrastructure for the west, gets a brief mention but no commitment. It is kicked to a review. In fact, the word review appears 142 times in the 184-page plan – a review for almost every page,” she said.

The Sinn Féin TD was equally unimpressed with plans for housing and healthcare: “There are 1,000 less social houses put forward compared to the last plan. Hardly ambition.

“On health, there is no funding set aside for the major capital needed to implement the Maternity Strategy.

“It’s a pity we cannot put forward a plan that is deliverable rather than (one with) even more reviews and delays. We are hearing about Metro North (Link) for 20 years. At this rate, we’ll be hearing about it for another 20”.

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice said he was disappointed with a lack of serious commitments for infrastructure in the west of Ireland.

“Given the fanfare surrounding the publication of this document and the level of funding outlined in it, it gives the impression of a child writing to Santa at Christmas – but I fear we may be left disappointed on Christmas morning when it comes to some projects,” he said.

“The document outlined yet another review of how the Western Rail Corridor could revitalise the region. How many reviews and reports need to be compiled before action is taken?

“Where are the commitments for the N26 or the extension of the M17 motorway beyond Tuam?

“The time for reviews and reports has long passed. The people of rural Ireland need concrete commitments when it comes to crucial pieces of infrastructure to improve connectivity in the region,” he said.

Fellow Independent TD Denis Naughten said it was important the plan delivered “value for money”.

“The plan sets out a spending programme of just over €500 to be spent ever single second this decade. The key question is will we get improved delivery for that investment?”

The former Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications also said there was “very little detail” around plans to remove fossil fuels from home heating systems by the middle of the next decade.

He also questioned commitments to fast-track the delivery of the National Broadband Plan, saying it was currently six months behind schedule.

“Yes, there are some significant changes in the NDP like the decision to prioritise public transport over road transport investment. But there is a failure to acknowledge that in most parts of Ireland, public transport means buses, and you cannot have a reliable bus service without decent roads,” he added.

“While many aspects of this plan are very much a rehash of what was agreed in 2018, there seems to have been little thinking on how Government is going to deliver on what are very worthy objectives”.