A sufficiently funded and internationally recognised University is a must for the South East if Waterford City and its environs is to thrive as envisaged in the National Development Plan according to the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (Ibec).
In its submission to the NDP’s mid-term review, Ibec references the city’s (minimum) projected 50 per cent population growth between now and 2040.
“To achieve this growth, the NDP must ensure that priorities in relation to connectivity, skills development and infrastructure provision in the South-East are realised, to mitigate the impact of Brexit and strengthen the region’s competitive position,” said Helen Leahy, Ibec’s Senior Regional Executive.
“The South East region sees 60% of its third level students leave the region to study in other regions. The creation of a Technological University is the first step in encouraging students to remain in the region. As the South-East is at a disadvantage through the lack of an internationally recognised University, the TU must redress that disadvantage through targeted and sufficient investment.”
In addition, Ibec’s NDP investment priorities include upgrading “Further Education and Training (FET) facilities, including the development of FET ‘Colleges of the Future’ in the region, a Regional Outdoor Education, Training and Adventure Park and a National High Performance Building Alliance Training (HPBA) Centre”.
In the review, Ibec calls for the upgrading of the N24 (Waterford to Limerick) and N25 (Rosslare to Cork) national primary roads “to ensure vital port access and greater collaboration between the three cities and metropolitan areas and drive the region’s growth, as a counterbalance to Dublin”.
The report also recommends the “accelerated delivery of an integrated sustainable transport across metropolitan Waterford, capable of supporting significant levels of population and employment growth”.
Further recommended regional road improvements include the N80 (which effectively runs from Tullamore to Enniscorthy) and the N11/N25 Oilgate to Rosslare road, linking into the M11, enhancing access to Rosslare Europort.
The development of a ‘smart’ sustainable city and region, Ibec feels, will “optimise economic growth and revitalise town centres by ensuring they are connected, vibrant and accessible to everyone and underpin recovery across the region”.
Ibec has also recommended investment in “regional co-working smart e-hubs to embrace economic opportunities arising from new ways of working post-Covid, attract and retain high-value talent and provide resources and facilities to support towns and villages”.
Funding must be provided for “the future development and expansion of the region’s ports, including the facilitation of offshore renewable energy projects”, the review notes.
Meanwhile, the “right housing and tenure mix (e.g., apartment focus, rental sector, ageing population, students, social housing, affordable housing etc) must be provided for”.
Accelerated high-speed broadband for homes and businesses, along with increased investment in tourism infrastructure can “stimulate demand and build upon the tourism potential of the South-East. This includes the development of new visitor experiences, upgrading existing attractions and sites, and enhancing visitor awareness and accessibility”.
Said Helen Leahy: “A substantially enhanced and more ambitious ‘NDP Plus’ programme of investment is vital for economic recovery and growth. The South East was already experiencing slower economic recovery than the national average before the pandemic took hold, hence addressing these long-standing regional inequalities is now more urgent than ever.”