Limerick: Development blueprint envisages a green future for the region

The Draft Limerick Development Plan 2022-2028 seeks to develop the city and county as an environmentally sustainable and carbon neutral economy, becoming a pioneer in sustainable growth

Pat Daly, chief executive of Limerick City and County Council: ‘Our vision embraces inclusiveness and a high quality of life for all.’ Picture: Alan Place

Environmental sustainability will be at the heart of the future development of Limerick city and county, under plans laid out by the City and County Council.

The Draft Limerick Development Plan 2022-2028 sets out a blueprint for the development of Limerick over the next six years.

“We see huge opportunities ahead as we ‘green’ our economy and transition to a more sustainable future, while also creating new employment and building sustainable homes and communities,” Pat Daly, chief executive at Limerick City and County Council, said.

“Climate change has become the issue that will undeniably be at the top of the world agenda when Covid is finally brought under control.

“And, the acceleration of development in this area has been, in so many respects, a positive one. In the midst of all the gloom of recent months, the need to tackle climate change has had more clarity than ever before.”

The Draft Limerick Development Plan 2022-2028 sets the policy support for Limerick to develop as an environmentally sustainable and carbon neutral economy, becoming a pioneer in sustainable growth.

It is part of a wider vision to position Limerick as a green city region on the Shannon Estuary “connected through people and places”, Daly said.

“Our vision embraces inclusiveness and a high quality of life for all, through healthy and appropriate place-making and social justice, including the ongoing development of the Regeneration Areas and other communities,” he said.

This will be achieved through engagement, innovation and resilient urban development, as the population of Limerick city and suburbs is expected to rise by 56,000 people by 2040.

“At the core of our vision are cohesive and sustainable communities, where our cultural, natural and built environment is protected,” Daly said.

Already, Limerick is one of just two EU Lighthouse Cities selected to take part in +CityxChange, a major climate change pilot programme, which will lead the rest of Europe on how to reduce the carbon footprint of urban areas.

“Now, ambitious plans to transform the Shannon Estuary into a major European renewable energy hub have been validated by a planned €5 billion investment in 1.6GW of floating offshore wind and hydrogen generation,” Daly said.

“This builds on our incredible heritage on the River Shannon – almost 100 years ago home to the world’s greatest hydro-engineering solution, the Shannon Hydro Electric Scheme at Ardnacrusha,” Daly said.

The council’s “digital green” vision will be key to marketing Limerick in the years ahead as “the ideal location for sustainable living in an increasingly digital world,” according to Daly.

The lasting impact of Covid-19

“The Covid-19 pandemic is set to have a lasting impact on individuals and organisations, as people worldwide reassess where and how they would like to live and work,” he said.

“Building a sustainable and connected Limerick economy, in this new world, will be key and, already, Limerick is proving to be an attractive choice for workers.

“Residential rental costs in the city are 44 per cent lower than those in Dublin, meaning people living in Limerick spend a lot less of their income after tax on rent.

“Quality of life is another local strength. Ninety-three per cent of professionals who have moved to Ireland’s Midwest region for work report feeling much happier in their new location.”

Currently, 500,000 people live within an hour’s drive of Limerick city, and more than 150 nationalities are represented in Limerick’s population.

“Many transformational and innovative developments have been realised in recent years and Limerick is now recognised as a progressive, attractive and inclusive city with a vision as a green city region leveraging the natural assets of the majestic Shannon and its estuary,” Daly said.

Overall, investment in Limerick jumped by more than 180 per cent in the first quarter of 2021.

This investment came in the form of private companies looking to expand their operations in the Limerick region, among them Takumi and Green Rebel Marine.

A welcomed announcement of €116 million in funding was also allocated to Limerick through the government’s Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF).

The city’s Worldclass Waterfront project is set to get €73.4 million in URDF funding, while a further €42.61 million will be allocated to Limerick’s Living City initiative.

The waterfront project includes the development of the area around the former Cleeves site as well as proposed pedestrian bridges and the re-alignment of the road at Arthur’s Quay and Honan’s Quay.

The Living City Initiative

The Living City Initiative is aimed at revitalising the city centre, with a specific focus on underutilised Georgian buildings.

In the longer term, investment in commercial and residential development in Limerick city is expected to total €4 billion over the next five to ten years, while €1.4 billion in public expenditure has been earmarked for public transport and public realm projects.

“In 2013, Limerick unveiled what was initially a €250 million economic and spatial plan known as ‘Limerick 2030’ with a goal to revitalise growth and add 5,000 jobs,” Daly said.

“The plan was a national first, created to make Limerick a more attractive destination for businesses, potential residents and visitors.

“The successful plan has achieved its goals much faster than expected, and continues to grow, bringing added benefits to the Limerick ecosystem. Investments in Limerick have now reached €2.73 billion, and over 19,000 jobs have been created.”

Limerick has performed well relative to other parts of the country throughout the pandemic.

A new report released last month by Ernst & Young found that, despite the unprecedented challenges of the past 15 months, 860 jobs had been created in the county in the first quarter of 2021, a more than two-fold increase on the same period last year.

The EY Economic Monitor for Limerick, a biannual report commissioned by Limerick City and County, also pointed to strong start-up activity, with 194 new ventures emerging in Limerick in the first three months of the year, largely focused on the business services sector.

“Limerick’s economy continues to perform strongly, as we position ourselves as an affordable alternative to Dublin,” Daly said.

“We continue to win investment and provide a high quality of life to all of our citizens – built on a well-functioning and sustainable society, a collaborative culture, short commutes and easy access to nature.

“International companies with a presence in Limerick include Analog Devices, Regeneron, Dell, Edwards Lifesciences, Johnson & Johnson, Uber and WP General Motors.

“We are fast gaining a reputation as Ireland’s innovation capital and we have firm plans to keep this momentum going until 2030 and beyond.”

Limerick in a unique position to attract more visitors

Ireland became the largest English-speaking nation in the EU in 2020 and Limerick City and County Council sought to maximise this opportunity with the launch of a new brand identity, designed to reflect the county’s rich landscape and strategic location at the mouth of the River Shannon, flowing into the Atlantic.

“Limerick – Atlantic Edge European Embrace” launched in February 2020 with the aim of “internationalising Limerick, while also reflecting its unique position in the world,” Laura Ryan, head of marketing and communications at Limerick City and County Council, said.

The core mission of the brand starting out was to position Limerick as the country’s “go-to” destination for living, working, tourism and investment – and as a sustainable green city region, Ryan said.

“We wanted to ambitiously assert Limerick’s enduring place in the world and positive relevance today as a smart city,” she said.

Now, as we begin to take the first tentative steps towards planning for our post-Covid future, Limerick’s brand positioning has taken on a new significance.

“Covid-19 has transformed how we live and work, not just here in Limerick, but the world over,” Ryan said.

“The importance our shared experience during the pandemic has placed on climate and connectedness fits perfectly into our ‘edge and embrace’ positioning. Limerick has an edge in, – and embraces – sustainability and our digital future.”

Already this year, its new brand is helping Limerick to move beyond the challenges of the pandemic and embrace the future.

Just last week, Limerick was designated by Fáilte Ireland as a Wild Atlantic Way Gateway City.

To mark the announcement, Limerick City and County Council has partnered with the tourism body to launch a new ‘Double Your Summer’ invitation to visitors in the months ahead.

“The Double Your Summer campaign will provide a range of incentives and reasons for visitors to come to Limerick, do more, try something new, stay longer or to extend their coastal holiday here,” Ryan said.

Double Your Summer would build on the success of last year’s 50 Days of Summer campaign, which helped transform 2020’s Covid-challenged summer into a tourism season success for Limerick, Ryan said.

“We’re constantly looking at ways to advance our offering and it’s reaping dividends. That’s why, despite the challenges of Covid again this year, we are excited and confident about the future,” she said.

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