Investing for the next generation and planning ahead in Wexford
Roads, ports and a new university for the south-east are among the highlights of the new plan for Ireland, writes Kim Bielenberg
A new university in the south-east with a campus in Wexford and improved broadband in rural areas are among the highlights of the new plan for the future, Project Ireland 2040.
The national policy initiative also promises to give a boost to the county with a further upgrade of the N11/M11 road to Rosslare Europort.
The plan promises 3,500 extra social homes by 2021 across the south-east region.
Over two-thirds of these homes will be provided through new builds and, according to the government, a healthy pipeline of activity is already in place.
More than 1,500 units in the region are completed, under construction or progressing through planning.
Among the housing schemes that are at the delivery stage are ten units at Slippery Green in Wexford town, 40 new homes built by Oaklee Housing Trust in Enniscorthy, ten units in Ferrybank, and 12 homes in Danescastle.
The establishment of the Technological University for the south-east (TUSE) should give the region a major boost.
The project, which was initiated seven years ago, brings together two Institutes of Technology - Waterford IT and Carlow IT, which has a campus in Wexford town.
Already, these two ITs cater for more than 14,500 students.
The establishment of TUSE will be a landmark development in education as it brings the first university to the region.
The President of the Institute of Technology Carlow, Dr Patricia Mulcahy, welcomed the commitment to the capital investment required to deliver the first university for the south-east, including a new purpose-built campus in Wexford.
She said: "This University will be a major strategic asset in driving regional development. As well as region-specific goals, the TUSE will be able to compete internationally."
The new university will be designed to foster innovation, build and retain the skills base and provide more opportunities for individuals and industry in the south-east.
The ITs in Carlow and Waterford will also benefit from funding from a public-private investment programme in higher education, with a particular focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Madeleine Quirke, chief executive of Wexford Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the commitment to the new university.
"It will be hugely important to attracting foreign direct investment to the south-east," she said.
Ms Quirke also welcomed the commitment in the plan to enhance Ireland's transport links to continental Europe through Rosslare Europort.
She said: "The port is a huge asset not only to Wexford, but the whole region, and it has huge potential.
"Rosslare will become more important as Dublin Port is saturated - and with Brexit, hauliers may need to get to the Continent without the landbridge of Britain. It also brings in large numbers of tourists."
A hike in investment in schools in the south-east will be undertaken as part of a nationwide school-building programme in line with population growth.
Project Ireland 2040 promises a €285m investment in our national heritage, including national parks and nature reserves.
Among the amenities that are likely to benefit are the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve, the Raven Nature Reserve and Ballyteigue Burrow Nature Reserve.
As part of the Rural Water Programme, there will be more investment in the improvement of quality, reliability and efficiency of rural water services infrastructure, including group water schemes and group sewerage schemes.
The Enniscorthy Wastewater Treatment Plant will be upgraded.
As well as improving treatment standards, the upgrade will boost capacity and allow for future economic and population growth in the area.
Nationally, up to €430 million has been allocated for flood-prevention initiatives up to 2021.
This will protect threatened communities from river and coastal flood risk. Major projects in development include the Enniscorthy Flood Relief Scheme.
Towns and villages with populations of up to 10,000 people, and rural areas, will benefit from a new Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.
This programme will provide €1bn nationally over ten years to urban and rural communities, including in the south-east, to promote sustainable growth.
Rural and community development in the south-east will be supported by the Town and Village Renewal Scheme, LEADER, the Rural Recreation Scheme, the CLÁR Programme, the RAPID Programme and further library investment.
The Government hopes that the acceleration of the National Broadband Plan, ensuring access to quality high-speed broadband in villages, rural areas and islands, will play a major role in empowering communities outside the main population centres.
Greater digital connectivity will support business development, employment growth and enable citizens to benefit from advances in technology.
Continued support for smaller regional airports is planned under the Regional Airports Programme. This includes sustained investment in Waterford Airport.
There will be targeted investment in support of healthcare with the aim of creating a high-quality, safe, accessible service.
Health capital investment projects in the south-east include the development of primary care centres and the upgrade and replacement of community nursing units across the region.
A new patient accommodation block, to include replacement inpatient beds and a palliative care unit, will open at Waterford Regional Hospital.
This programme will be expanded between 2022 and 2027, allowing for new and improved sports facilities.
Project Ireland 2040 has a series of measures aimed at helping farming and Wexford's crucial fishing industry.
The Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS II) provides support for on-farm facilities and equipment to enhance growth and competitiveness.
The aim of the scheme is to address climate and environmental issues, and improve animal welfare and farm safety. It also targets young farmers to help lower the the age profile of the sector.
The Forestry Programme provides funding for afforestation grants, forestry development supports as well as payments for existing forestry.
As well as their valuable contribution to the rural economy, forests play an essential role in tackling climate change, through carbon sequestration and the provision of renewable fuels and raw materials.
The development of a National Food Innovation Hub is a priority project in the agri-food sector. The objective is to create a supportive environment for research and innovation involving food companies and research institutes with a focus on food, health and nutrition.
A Prepared Consumer Food Innovation Centre will be established to improve the competitiveness and innovation capacity of this sector of the economy.
The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Programme will offer support for aquaculture enterprises and will boost investment in seafood processing equipment and facilities in order to help small-to-medium seafood enterprises to scale up.
For more information on Project Ireland 2040 visit the official website