'Woolly', 'rushed' plan criticised
COUNCILLORS voiced their criticism to a rushed and negligent regional plan being submitted to the government this month, which was described as being vital to the county's future.
The National Planning Framework submission was rushed and poorly thought through, councillors complained. Director of Services for Economic Development Tony Larkin said the council had to make its submission for the Ireland 2040 plan this month.
Minister Simon Coveney said the deadline for submissions for consultation for the pre-draft stage plan is March 31.
Cllr Malcolm Byrne said: 'I think it's critically important (for the county),' calling for a dedicated meeting on the submission.
'We have to look at all the data as this will affect our relationship with the south east and even in terms of regional balance within this country. It's potentially one of the most important plans to be drawn up as it affects transport, industry etc.'
Cllr Oisin O'Connell said: 'I appreciate there is a rush on this,' pointing out that important issues like the need for a new treatment plant in Enniscorthy and Wexford need to be included.
Cllr O'Connell said the number of waste water treatment plants in the county needs to be reduced. He said the need for an improved rail service should also be included in the submission as rail is the most efficient form of transport.
Cllr Michael Sheehan said: 'For Enniscorthy and New Ross this is a vital plan as it will be the first plan to be progressed at a time when we will have bypasses around the towns. It's vital that we have a strong solution rather than having heritage or tourism towns.'
Cllr Pip Breen highlighted the importance of developing Rosslare Europort. He said with with Brexit looming, developing the closest port to Europe, Rosslare Europort, should be a priority for the government.
Cllr Keith Doyle said the local authority needs to proceed cautiously. 'Waterford used the spatial strategy as a stick to beat us back. Towns like New Ross, Gorey and Enniscorthy will be put down the pecking order if we are not careful, like Waterford have done for years.'
Director of Services for Economic Development Tony Larkin said the region includes Cork and Limerick so it is important to support Waterford city as an economic driver. Cllr Ger Carthy said University Hospital Waterford should not be prioritised over Wexford General Hospital, adding that the county hospital needs to attain universty teaching status.
Cllr Carthy said: 'I am not in the business of looking after Waterford. We have a huge issue in relation to how the health service is set up. We are in the Ireland East health group and we are now talking about expanding University Hospital Waterford. If anyone has a massive heart attack in County Wexford after 5 p.m. they are sent to Dublin.'
He expressed concern that Belview port will be developed in favour of Rosslare Europort.
Cllr Fionntáin O'Suilleabháin said with freight becoming increasingly important, the county's rail service needs to be improved.
Cllr Anthony Kelly said there was no mention of the need for a 24/7 acute psychiatric unit in the submission, while Cllr Lisa McDonald asked what are the consequences if the submission is not submitted by the required deadline.
Mr Larkin said: 'This is our opportunity to get in at a very early stage. Realistically there will be a few hundred submissions. Being part of the regional submission will be really important. Wexford County Council will make its own submission.'
Cllr McDonald said the submission should include a line stating that the local authority was given very late notice to complete its submission.
'This is a little bit woolly. There are certain very obvious omissions and inclusions. I don't want us to be playing second fiddle to Waterford.'
Cllr McDonald said there is no mention about the need for a new secondary school for Wexford town. 'We should be able to reserve the right to make another submission,' she said.
Cllr George Lawlor said he was astounded that education and the county's economic development is not featured in the submission. 'I am absolutely astounded that there is no emphasis on second level education. If the CEO can't get the his son or daughter into a school or if someone comes here and can't get their child into a local school (it's not good enough).'
Cllr Lawlor said the main reason Wexford General Hospital was aligned with the Dublin hospitals was because there were fears University Hospital Waterford would cannibalise Wexford's hospital.
He said with the impending Brexit vote County Wexford has a massive opportunity to become the quickest and fastest route to France.
'County Wexford has a massive opportunity to be the real gateway to Europe without having to go through Britain and suffer tariffs. Rosslare should be the number one port for load on, load off freight. It will become an economic driver in this county.'
Cllr Davy Hynes said under the national spatial strategy Waterford was designated gateway status and Wexford was given hub status.
'We were supposed to be an economic driver but unless we push forward it will never be done.'
Cllr Deirdre Wadding was critical of the lack of any detail in relation to the need for housing in the county. 'If we are looking to bring people to Wexford they need somewhere to live. Each one of us is dealing with people under housing pressure. We need to have houses at affordable rates.'
Cllr Tony Dempsey said the council needs to make a strong case for a third level institution in the south east, while Cllr Michael Sheehan suggested that more coordination is needed at a regional level. Chairman Cllr Paddy Kavanagh said he agreed with Cllr Sheehan that more cohesion is needed between counties in the south east.
Cllr Keith Doyle said Gorey, Enniscorthy and New Ross are devastated economically. 'We are at the bottom of every indicator. We have to show what is happening because of regional decisions that are being made.'
Cllr Larry O'Brien said County Wexford is the biggest haulier base in the country and yet 'we have a port that is falling to bits'. He said there has been investment in Dublin and Cork ports, but none in Rosslare as no applications for funding were made.
Cllr Johnny Mythen said the county has the third highest level of unemployment, suggesting the beat industry be revived in the county. Cllr Mythen stressed the need for foreign direct investment via the IDA to be highlighted. The councillors eventually agreed to allow the submission to be sent.