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Sunday, 14th April 2019

Louth and Meath Council bosses respond to allegations from Ged Nash

Front Page

The Chief Executives of both Meath and Louth County Councils have responded to an article about a report of the boundary committee that appeared on Drogheda Life on 4th April under the headline Government asleep at the wheel as Councils bin Boundary Review recommendations

In the article Senator Ged Nash makes several allegations including that both Councils had failed to execute recommendations of the independent boundary committee.

The two Chief Executives write:

Dear Sirs,

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In response to your front page article on the report of the Drogheda Boundary Review in your issue dated 4th April we would like to take this opportunity to state the facts and set out what has actually happened since the review report was published in February 2017.

The report contained a number of recommendations for co-operation between Meath and Louth County Councils and set out a suggested timeline within which joint actions could be advanced.  The recommendations were accepted by the Chief Executives of Meath and Louth and a letter to that effect and signed by both was sent to the Department in May 2017.

The preparation of a joint Local Area Plan and a joint Retail Strategy are key recommendations in the report. More recently the draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) recognised the strategic importance of Drogheda as a Regional Centre and re-emphasised the need for joint plans. In your article Senator Nash criticises the fact that the suggested timeframes for delivery of the joint plans have not been met. However he may not be aware that legislation passed by the Oireachtas in July last year required all planning authorities to stop work on development plans until such time as the RSES were adopted. We understand that this will happen in early May following which work on the joint plans can recommence.

An implementation team has been established consisting of the Senior Management Teams of each county. Regular meetings of the team, jointly chaired by the Chief Executives, are held to monitor and measure progress on joint initiatives. Two cross-county teams, a Strategic Team and an Operations Team, have been established with a remit to advance an agreed programme of mutually beneficial activities.

The Strategic Team has been tasked with a review of the Greater Drogheda Area Planning Strategy to include a joint Local Area Plan and a joint Retail Strategy. It has also progressed a number of economic development issues including joint initiatives of the Local Enterprise Offices and the Boyne Valley Tourism and Food strategies. That team also considers the need for further capital infrastructure works of relevance to the Greater Drogheda Area and has co-operated on a number of cross boundary greenway proposals.

The Operations Team meets regularly to agree and monitor progress on a range of day to day operational issues including transportation, roads and footpaths, Fire Services, Housing, Community matters, Public Participation Networks, Environment, Library Services and public events.

The following are some examples of joint initiatives undertaken and advanced by the teams to date:

Strategic Team:

  • Agreement of a framework to advance the review of the Planning Strategy for the Greater Drogheda Area which will inform the preparation of a joint Local Area Plan and Retail Strategy as required in the recently published Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies.
  • Inclusion in the forthcoming Draft Meath County Development Plan of objectives to prepare a Joint Vision and Local Area Plan for Drogheda within the life of the CDP.
  • Setting up of a Regional Centre Co-Ordination Group consisting of the Senior Planners from Meath, Louth and Westmeath (and potentially Roscommon) to ensure consistency of methodology and approach to the preparation of joint plans.
  • Joint actions on the development and implementation of Tourism and Food strategies for the Boyne Valley (Meath & Louth) as part of the Ireland’s Ancient East initiative including joint funding of a Tourism Officer, Food Development Officer and strategy implementation including joint marketing.
  • Joint initiatives between the Meath and Louth Local Enterprise Offices including the development of academic programmes for food producers and support for retailers, manufacturing, women in business and general business support.
  • Co-operation and support for cross boundary greenway proposals and related funding applications.
  • Co-operation and funding in conjunction with Failte Ireland of the National Samhain Festival to be staged at the end of October each year commencing in October 2019.

Operations Team:

  • Co-operation on practical cross boundary operational issues such as road and footpath improvements (e.g. Deep Forde/Five Oaks footpath works), winter gritting etc.
  • The preparation of a Joint Migrant Integration Policy (Community)
  • Practical co-operation on homeless accommodation and H.A.P. (Housing)
  • Review of Fire Services operations, training and billing
  • Discussion on the potential for joint PPN initiatives (Community).
  • A range of joint Library initiatives including cross boundary extension of the Louth mobile library services into East Meath.

In summary Meath and Louth have put in place structures and plans at executive level for ongoing co-operation and engagement on issues of mutual interest and these are working and delivering on the recommendations in the boundary review report.

We note that the Minister has signalled his intention to put in place more formal political structures to agree and adopt statutory plans and we look forward to implementing and working with whatever emerges from that process.

In the meantime our respective Council executive teams will continue to engage in a practical, positive and cooperative manner to help the town and wider environs of Drogheda reach its undoubted potential as an entity as articulated in the report of the Boundary Committee.

Signed:

Jackie Maguire – Chief Executive Meath County Council

Joan Martin – Chief Executive Louth County Council

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