The DCSG delegation outside Dáil Éireann (from left): Brian Hanratty, Anthony Murphy, Sylvia McCann (Secretary), Dr. Brian Hughes, Anna McKenna (Chairperson), Brian Hughes and Niall Kierans.
Drogheda City Status Group (DCSG) had a very positive meeting with Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O'Brien at Leinster House on Wednesday.
A delegation from the group had been invited to meet the Minister at Dáil Éireann and travelled there with a very strong message about the future of Drogheda, which they say will become Ireland's sixth city by virtue of its population growth in the next few years.
“We had a very constructive meeting with Minister O’Brien, and he listened very carefully to what we had to say,” said DCSG chairperson Anna McKenna. “He was engaged and informed, and we had quite a lengthy discussion with him,” she said.
The delegation was armed with significant data demonstrating that Drogheda is growing at twice the national average rate. This data has been gathered and studied meticulously by DCSG in conjunction with top population and planning experts over the past few years and was presented to the Minister in a document which makes the case for city status extremely strongly.
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A drone video showing Drogheda’s dramatic growth, shot in February, was also presented to Minister O’Brien.
“The Minister has a strong interest in Drogheda and has links to our future city,” Anna said. “He spoke about his role in expediting the Port Access Northern Cross Route (PANCR), a portion of which is currently nearing completion.”
That new route to the north of Drogheda will open up huge tracts of land for residential development, but DCSG is keen that Drogheda be given city status now (or at the very earliest opportunity) so that the city can develop properly and not just become a vast housing estate.
Group PR spokesperson Anthony Murphy laid out the case for city status to Minister O'Brien and one of his senior officials, saying that this was not just a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do something significant in terms of planning for the future growth of Drogheda, but in fact a once-in-several-centuries opportunity.
"If proper planning is not undertaken, and moves are not made to give the city autonomy and power to develop, it could take Drogheda decades to recover, he said.
He suggested Drogheda could become something of a “beacon” city in terms of how its growth is planned, a city where development went hand in hand with education and employment opportunities, but also environmental and sustainable initiatives. Perhaps Drogheda could become Ireland’s first carbon-neutral city?
The growth of Drogheda means that even without including outlying areas and suburbs such as Tullyallen, Donore, Termonfeckin, Donacarney, Mornington, Bettystown and Laytown, the population was rapidly heading towards the 50,000 threshold which is generally accepted as the point at which a town becomes a city. Galway was the last population centre to be declared a city in Ireland back in 1985. At that time, its population was around 47,000, which is pretty much where Drogheda’s population is right now.
“All the evidence that we presented demonstrates our case for city status very clearly,” said Anna McKenna. “The Minister has given us an undertaking to study all the data very carefully between now and our next meeting. We think it will show him that our case is watertight.”
The pace of residential development means that Drogheda’s population is climbing constantly. The PANCR will open three new residential neighbourhoods to the north of the town, which will see over 7,000 housing units built, bringing a total additional population of around 20.000.
“We are happy that the Minister listened intently to what we had to say,” said Anna. “He wanted to know what the governance structure would look like, and although he did not make any commitment on the issue of city status, he did agree to meet us again early in the new year, by which time we are sure that he will see that our figures tell a compelling story.”
“We impressed upon Minister O’Brien the fact that Drogheda will soon become a city, and that recognition of that fact needs to be made at the earliest opportunity so that the new city’s growth can be planned in an orderly and sustainable manner that will benefit everyone who lives here.”
DCSG members also congratulated Minister O’Brien on the recent acquisition of the lands at Dowth Hall for the creation of Ireland’s seventh national park, which will be of enormous benefit to Drogheda city and the Boyne Valley region in the years to come.