DISAPPOINTED WITH STRATEGY Senator Michelle Mulherin.
BALLINA-based Senator Michelle Mulherin has criticised Mayo County Council’s plan to develop an economic hub linking county town Castlebar and tourism haven Westport. The Fine Gael senator claims that such a move would ‘split the county and cause uproar among the ratepayers of north and east Mayo’.
Announced last month, the local authority’s Director of Services for Planning, Economic and Community Development, Catherine O’Connell, said such a hub had the potential to overtake Sligo as a centre for investment. Now, expressing her disappointment at this strategy, which is being developed by a team of consultants for Mayo County Council, Senator Mulherin says that ‘the plan is totally counterintuitive to what the local authority should be about and would leave Ballina and its entire hinterland behind and on a different tier of development’.
“We do not want a separate plan for north and east Mayo, but rather a plan that pertains to the entire county with an objective for progress throughout the county and in particular recognising the significance of Ballina to the north and east. When the ratepayers of north and east Mayo realise that their commercial rates are being spent in this way they will be up in arms – and rightly so,” Ms Mulherin said.
She argued that ‘the objective for Mayo should be to grow and promote the three main towns Ballina, Castlebar and Westport in tandem as a linked hub to structurally reinforce Mayo from the point of view of economic and social growth’.
“Unless we develop Ballina, Castlebar and Westport together and make it a priority to connect all three towns the county will be split in half with the northern half pulled towards Sligo and the southern part towards Galway,” she said.
IN a submission to the Northern and Western Regional Assembly in Ballaghaderreen on its Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy, Mulherin has called for greater transport connectivity between Mayo’s towns.
Citing the case of Ballinrobe, she said it was ‘in need of serious regeneration with many people living there simply commuting daily to Galway for work’.
Ms Mulherin stressed the significance of ‘upgrading both the N58 through Straide linking Ballina to Castlebar and the N26 Swinford-Castlebar road in order to develop east-west connectivity in the county.
“Over 4,000 workers commute daily to and from our three major towns, Ballina, Castlebar and Westport, to work in multinational companies alone. Also freight traffic is taken from Castlebar by road to the freight train in Ballina. People from Ballina travel to Castlebar to the hospital and GMIT and other local authority public services. Multinationals in Ballina avail of state-of-the-art warehousing facilities provided in Castlebar.
“An upgrade of the road would address that. In fact, as part of the work done to find a new route for the N26 with the yearly funding I secured through TII since Budget 2012, it was identified that a new major road scheme for the N26/N58/N5 would be desirable and now stands as a line on a map to be developed. This should also tie in with access to Ireland West Airport Knock.
“Prioritisation is also needed for the N26 from Swinford to Ballina to bring it to a standard worthy of its categorisation as a national primary route on the national roads network.
“Progress on the road has been seriously impeded by environmental designation and constraints pursuant to the Habitats and Birds Directives although the recent decision by An Bord Pleanála to grant planning permission for a new bridge at Cloongullane on the N26 is most welcome and a long awaited step in the right direction,” she said.