Mullingar (file pic).

Reuse of town centre sites part of new Mullingar plan

A new Mullingar Local Area Plan which allows for a population rise to 28,000 by 2031 is being compiled and a draft should be ready by October. New opportunities associated with the population growth and economic development are anticipated, and it is envisaged that Mullingar will be a focus for significant investment.

At the April meeting of Westmeath County Council, Cathaldus Hartin, senior executive, said the plan will be used to guide development and determine how the town will grow and evolve.

“It is going to be important that, when we plan for this, we support the development of a vibrant economy, supported by safe, socially inclusive communities,” he said.

Mr Hartin said the draft plan went out for public consultation last October. Housing needs and zoned land capacity assessments are now being done.

A town centre health check and a social infrastructure audit are also being carried out.

The plan will be informed by the ongoing Mullingar area-based transport assessment and must be accompanied by environmental assessments. Regeneration and reuse of town centre sites will form part of the plan, Mr Hartin said.

It is “too late!” declared Cllr Mick Dollard, who described as “a disgrace” a recent An Bord Pleanála decision to refuse an application for a housing development on an already zoned residential site on the Dublin Road, Mullingar.

“I am aware that another developer has purchased land on the Ardmore Road and, if he applies, is he going to be refused by ABP too?” he asked.

Cllr Dollard said there was a huge demand for houses in Mullingar and accused ABP of “not being very democratic in their decisions”.

He said ABP had made reference to the local area plan in their ruling.

In response, Mr Hartin indicated that the council supported the Dublin Road development proposal and said they were engaging with the developer and a new proposal was being progressed. He pointed out that a significant pipeline of housing developments had been permitted in Mullingar and Athlone in recent times.

Cllr John Shaw said people have been “waiting in anticipation” for the plan. “We are in a different landscape than we were two or three years ago,” he said, citing the many major developments that have occurred and pointing out that more were coming on stream. “There is a greater need now for zoned land right throughout Mullingar,” he said.

Large tracts of land have been purchased or are up for sale, and lands that were traditionally used for farming may become available, he added. He bemoaned the fact that councillors had not forced the residential zoning of more lands in towns and villages.


His regret was shared by Cllr Frank McDermott. “We were far too accommodating in dezoning an awful lot of land in our rural towns. You take Castlepollard at the moment; all the zoned land has planning and most of it is being built on.

“There is no new zoned land in Castlepollard, Delvin or Clonmellon. Where are we going to go? We were far too amenable in dezoning such an amount of land; now we could do with it,” he remarked.

Cllr Aoife Davitt said services need to catch up, particularly water and waste water services. She complained about continuous break-downs and poor pressure in the water supply around Mullingar. She said people in Robinstown wanted to know when they would be added to the wastewater network.

Cllr Ken Glynn spoke of the many development around the town including Farranshock and further developments coming in Rathgowan and Newtown.

There is a lot of development coming, he said, and he called for more schools, bus services and the re-opening of the Mullingar to Athlone rail line to cope with the growing population.

“It is fantastic to see the housing developments, but we need to extend our services, hospitals and schools, and supports to the retail structure and service providers. Hopefully, the plan will encapsulate all that,” Cllr Glynn said.

Cllr Denis Leonard agreed that services would be provided and must be accessible to people in satellite towns, “or we are on a hiding to nothing”. He called for a park and ride plan and proper bus services. People need to be able to get in and out of town or there will be gridlock, he warned.

Cllr Leonard said “the dogs in the street will tell you” if you have 30,000 living in Mullingar and Athlone, you will need to connect them by rail, as a matter of urgency. “Joined up thinking is needed and it is needed now!” he insisted.

Mr Harkin assured the members that the Mullingar area based transport assessment will be critical in informing the policy and the need for regular buses to towns and villages, as well as the reopening of the light rail and old Mullingar to Athlone rail line, are provided for. Provision is being made for all further services needed to allow the town to grow, he said.

The Local Area Plan is described as setting out an overarching land use framework which will form the basis for deciding the appropriate locations for different types of future development in the area.

It will be strategic in outlook, but will also focus on key economic, social and environmental issues affecting Mullingar. It will include tailored and site specific objectives and actions to enable the town to fulfil its full development potential.

The draft plan will be available for consideration in October and can be adopted within six weeks, if there are no amendments.