*University of Limerick. 

BOTH CLARE COUNTY COUNCIL and the University of Limerick must assure Department officials that the South Clare/UL Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) will not contradict development plans.

An application was made to the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage in February of this year to designate lands on the Clare side of the UL campus as an economic SDZ. Prior to this, both parties prepared an economic report with a fifty fifty owned DAC also created.

This report suggested that the site which would become the first ‘university town’ in Europe and could generate a gross added value of €1.795 billion annually to the Irish economy. The designation of the lands as an Economic SDZ will enable the site to generate upwards of 3,500 jobs with additional employment being generated in the construction phase and subsequent spin-off developments.

Further information on the SDZ application was requested by the Department in August. Four months on, both the Council and UL are due to submit their response to this. Specific development for the SDZ is among the issues raised by the Department, “they are inferring the land uses proposed for SDZ would not contradict what is proposed elsewhere,” Director of Economic Development with the Council, Liam Conneally stated.

Conneally recalled that in 2018, they along with UL “identified an opportunity to masterplan a significant development site on the north campus of the existing UL Clare campus for education, enterprise and employment and a world class living environment. Since then the two organisations have worked together to apply to Government for the University of Limerick/ South Clare Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) – a fast-track planning designation”.

Policy support for the plans in the current Clare County Development Plan and the Southern Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) for further expansion of the University into Co. Clare were acknowledged by Conneally. “This recognition is demonstrated further by the prioritisation of the SDZ objective in the Draft Clare County Development Plan 2023-2029”.

He added, “This is a national enabler, it is of national economic importance to the State. The work requested of us is being dealt with”.

Its inclusion in the new County Development Plan was deemed “inappropriate” by the Office of the Planning Regulator. The OPR acknowledged the “general ambition” for the project to be developed in the long term but felt it was “premature” to include it in the County Development Plan.

Cllr Pat McMahon (FF) and former councillor, Bill Slattery (FG) during their time on the Southern Regional Assembly made the initial proposal for the project. Cllr McMahon maintained the SDZ was “so important for the future of the Mid-West region, not alone our county”.

McMahon added, “the success of our county is born in innovation” as he listed Ardnacrusha, Moneypoint, Shannon Airport and Dr Brendan O’Regan. “It will have huge economic benefit, I can’t understand our neighbouring counties who can’t see that”.

UL’s Limerick City campus may have had something to do with the doubts from their colleagues across the border, Cllr Michael Begley (IND) believed. “Opposition has been there that we maybe biasedly might think should not be there. Those who opposed it and were opposing it for reasons which weren’t real that doubt there is sincerity in developing Limerick City campus, I think that has been alleviated to some degree”.

If all concerns are dealt with and an SDZ designation is granted, the next step would be the preparation of a planning scheme.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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