Five days left to comment on new draft development plan

Eighteen public submissions had been made (at the time of writing) on the draft Westmeath County Development plan, the document that is intended to guide developments and investment in Westmeath for the six years 2021-2027.

The closing date for submissions is Tuesday June 30 (at 5pm).

In the first public consultation phase, 93 submissions were made to the County Council.

A special webinar was held on Tuesday last to enable the public to learn more about the plan and ask questions.

Hosting the event, Cathaldus Hartin, senior planner with Westmeath County Council, explained that originally the closing date for submissions for this second stage public consultation phase was to have been May 5, but due to the pandemic it had been pushed out to the end of this month.

Also due to the pandemic, an online site has been launched through which the plan and its interactive maps and diagrams can be viewed, including maps indicating proposed zoning.

Vanessa Liston (above) of the firm CiviQ, which set up the portal, explained that submissions can be made through that site.

Postal submissions are also acceptable.

She explained that all maps and zoning markings are interactive.

The web address for the portal is:

Submissions are published on the site within 10 days of receipt by the council.


Mr Hartin explained that the legislation under which the plan is prepared sets out 10 mandatory objectives that must be followed in the plan.

Mr Hartin told the webinar that the theme of the plan was to create and facilitate sustainable competitive growth throughout the county that supports the health and wellbeing of the people of Westmeath.

The aim is also to ensure it is an attractive destination in which to live, work, invest, do business, and to visit, offering high quality employment and educational opportunities within sustainable communities while safeguarding the environmental, cultural, heritage and tourism assets of the county.

The towns and villages are layered in a tiered hierarchy that is to be used as a guideline to promote the development at a scale appropriate to each of the settlements.

The hierarchy has seven tiers, and topping the table is Athlone, which is a regional growth centre. Tier Two level is for what are described as key towns, and that takes in Mullingar.

Designated as Tier Three locations – self-sustaining growth towns – are Castlepollard, Moate, Kinnegad and Kilbeggan, while the fourth tier, which covers self-sustaining towns, takes in Rochfortbridge and Killucan/Rathwire.

Three areas fall into the fifth tier, which is for towns and villages – Tyrrellspass, Delvin and Clonmellon.

Tier Six is serviced rural areas – Multyfarnham, Ballymore, Ballynacargy, Collinstown, Milltownpass, Ballinalack, Glasson and Castletown Geoghegan.

The seventh tier is for what is termed the ‘rural remainder’. It takes in Ballinagore, Coole, Finea, Raharney, Rathowen and Ballykeeran.

Lying below the seven are what are termed nodes. On this list are Castletown, Lismacaffrey, Streete, Archerstown, Taghmon, Tang, Moyvore, Rathconrath, Ballinea, The Downs, Gainstown, Loughnavalley, Tubberclair, Baylin, Mount Temple, Castledaly and Ballinahown.

“The plan seeks to strengthen Westmeath’s urban structure and realise the role of Athlone as a regional centre and Mullingar as a critical key town in a manner that reflects the national aspirations of providing viable alternatives to Dublin,” Mr Hartin said, going on to remark that the plan also recognises the importance of rural communities.

He spoke of the importance afforded within the document to the notions of regeneration, revitalisation, innovation and growth.

“There is a strong emphasis in the plan on how we can renew the role of existing settlements in order to ensure their viability and make them more attractive,” he said.

Mr Hartin stated that another important element of delivering improved quality of life is the presence of sustainable economic development.

“This includes enabling appropriately scaled economic development within urban and rural centres that supports the settlement structure envisioned for the county,” he said, explaining that the plan seeks to promote a favourable economic environment for businesses and enterprise building on the strength of established sectors in Westmeath such as ICT, advanced manufacturing, and agri-food sectors.

The plan also promotes new and emerging clustering opportunities across all economic sectors. Another focus is on the diversification of the rural economy through, for example, support for remote working hubs and landing spaces, which will become increasingly important post-Covid-19.

Other policy areas include tourism, smart economy and ensuring that the county is well positioned to capitalise on the economic benefits associated with the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Mr Hunt said an important factor in achieving these ends would be the presence of a well-functioning transport network and he went on to discuss the need to maintain and upgrade the road system and to enhance the rail network. Support for walking and cycling routes and the provision of more transport options would also become important.

On the subject of climate action, Mr Hartin said the plan would include measures which seek to promote behavioural changes such as the use of alternative transport methods; it would include flood resilient measures; and resource management measures including the promotion of energy efficient design and the use of alternative energy sources.

Also included are measures to protect the county’s natural and cultural heritage.

Mr Hartin explained that once the plan has been completed and passed, work will begin on the development of the new Mullingar town plan, and then – in conjunction with Roscommon County Council, on a plan for Athlone.