Sunday 21 October 2018

Drogheda should be a city says study

Fiona Magennis

The Greater Drogheda Area now has a population of 83,000 and should be given city status, a leading planning expert has said.

The population of Ireland's largest town now exceeds that of Waterford and a new planning study, released last week, strongly advocates the granting of city status to the town.

The report from Dr Brian Hughes, a chartered planning and development expert, says the latest figures from the 2016 census point to a population of over 83,000 in the Greater Drogheda Area, twice the size of County Longford and larger than Waterford City.

The area earmarked for city status includes the borough of Drogheda and the rapidly expanding towns of Laytown, Bettystown and Mornington (LBM) in east Meath, which now boast in excess of 10,000 people and is expected to reach 15,000 or more by the next census in 2021.

The report was commissioned by Drogheda City Status group which has been campaigning for over a decade to end what it claims is the 'nightmare' dual administration of the town and its rapidly expanding satellite communities.

And momentum for the campaign us growing as the recommendations made in the report hit the national headlines last week.

The detailed report has also been submitted for inclusion in the Government's National Planning Framework. A final decision is due in the near future on a framework plan which will guide planning decisions up to 2040.

A copy of the report was presented to the former Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Simon Coveney TD, currently the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and he was also briefed on the study at Leinster House last week.

The Drogheda City Status Group said they were 'stood up' by current Housing and Planning Minister, Eoghan Murphy TD, after he cancelled a meeting at the eleventh hour during their visit to Leinster House last Thursday.

The report's author, Dr Brian Hughes, said: 'What worries me is the published draft framework proposal ignored Drogheda's city status request. This despite the fact that in seeking submissions, the Government said the final policy would be based on evidence. They have the evidence in this report. They need to act and act now.'

The Drogheda City Status report highlights how the former Municipal Borough of Drogheda, together with the adjoining Louth and Meath rural areas, have increased in population by almost 80% between 1996-2016. The population has risen from 46,451 to 83,042 at a time when the average national increase was 31.22%.

Crucially, the report pinpoints how Drogheda/LBM fulfils the criteria laid down by the EU Commission and the OECD for city status because of population density per kilometre and it numbers in excess of 50,000 people.

The Chairman of Drogheda City Status group Vincent Hoey said: 'We are living in an urban conglomeration of over 80,000 people but we have no effective joined up thinking to plan sensibly for the future because our local Government is divided between Co Meath and Co Louth. Drogheda lost its town council and we urgently need to be given city status so that we can have a city council that can best plan for the sustainable future growth of the region, provide housing, create jobs and nurture business.'

Drogheda Independent