Clonmel is well placed to drive economic development in the south east region, according to a senior planning official.
As the county town, Clonmel shouldn’t be “sitting in the pack” like it was at present and it had the potential to have a national impact, operating above its county town and arguably hub town designation.
Brian Beck, a senior planner with the County Council, made his remarks when he made the case for an improved designation for Clonmel with the presentation of a review of the 2002-2020 National Spatial Strategy to a meeting of Clonmel Borough District.
He also said it was a mistake that the town hadn’t been included in the last round of hub town strategy as it was outperforming towns designated as hubs.
He said that the review document drawn up by the Council could be used to lobby the Department of the Environment. The department had a number of options, which could include getting rid of all the hub towns or adding more.
Whatever happened it was important to present Clonmel in a manner that would enable it to either stand alone or link with an existing gateway such as Cork, Waterford or Limerick. If this plan was adopted it could be in place for 10-15 years.
A failure to build on the strengths of the area would represent a missed opportunity.
Mr. Beck said that Clonmel was home to more people with a third level qualification than the average hub town, while the Clonmel campus of the Limerick Institute of Technology is set to expand its presence in the town by developing a 1,600 square metres building. It had a critical mass of population; a strongly performing and diverse local economy; strong research and innovation capacity; high quality of life; strong retail and service offering; availability of essential strategic infrastructure; and was strategically located at the centre of the new southern region.
Its unemployment rate in 2011 was 18.18%, compared to an average of 20.07% in the hub towns. Between 2006-2011 Clonmel’s population had increased by 4.3%, while the population in the hub towns had decreased by an average of 1.26%.
Clonmel also had an important employment base with key employers such as Abbott Vascular; Boston Scientific; Merck, Sharp and Dohme; Clonmel Healthcare; Suir Pharma Ireland and Bulmers.
The report was welcomed by Cllrs. Siobhan Ambrose, Michael Murphy and Pat English, while Cllr. Andy Moloney hoped that Cahir wouldn’t be forgotten. Mr. Beck said the Oireachtas members had been briefed and they were aware of the contents of the report so they could promote Clonmel as strongly as possible.