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Council promotes Europe’s first 21st Century University Town

9 April 2018

Clare County Council is seeking Government approval to designate the University of Limerick (UL) campus in County Clare and the hinterland of the campus as an economic strategic development zone with the capacity to generate 3,500 jobs.

Elected Members and the Clare County Council Economic Development SPC today backed the South Clare Economic Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) proposal, which has been targeted and zoned in successive Clare County Development Plans.

The Local Authority says the SDZ will be Europe’s first 21st Century University Town providing for a full range of living, working, amenity, social, cultural and recreational spaces integrated with a range of University facilities, including teaching, learning and research.  The SDZ also will include the redevelopment and integration of the Errinagh canal, thereby providing the final inland waterway link between Lough Erne in County Fermanagh and Limerick City as well as the Shannon Estuary.

Mayor of Clare, Councillor Tom McNamara, commented, “I welcome the fact that Clare County Council is working in close collaboration with the University of Limerick and other agencies in the delivery of an Economic Strategic Development Zone for South Clare.”

“The establishment of a SDZ at this strategic location will be a catalyst for the further economic and social development of Ireland in line with national and regional policy, including the ‘National Planning Framework – Ireland 2040’ and ‘Limerick 2030 - An Economic and Spatial Plan for Limerick’,” said Pat Dowling, Chief Executive of Clare County Council.

He continued, “The SDZ will establish a zone of substantial scale and strategic importance, advancing the region by creating a prime global site for investment with consequent high level employment opportunities for 3,500 people. The figure will be achieved by a mix of foreign direct investment (FDI) and enterprise of indigenous origin.”

“The SDZ acting as a homeland for significant investors and leaders of enterprise will become a fertile field of opportunity for entrepreneurs fresh from UL’s NEXUS incubation hub to gain partners, raise capital and accelerate their innovative ambitions. The early deployment of these enterprise partnerships will greatly enhance the long-term prospects of young entrepreneurs in this ‘Shannon Valley’ site as is evidenced in current Silicon Valley models,” added Mr. Dowling.

The SDZ site comprises the land area located north and east of the existing University campus in County Clare, bounded on its north by the corridor of the Limerick Northern Distributor Road and on its west by the Errinagh Canal.

University of Limerick President, Dr Des Fitzgerald, commented, “University of Limerick is delighted to support Clare County Council’s application to Government for the establishment of this Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) adjacent to the north campus of the university. UL works closely with both Clare County Council and Limerick City and County Council to fulfil its strategic development responsibilities in the Mid West. This designation would position UL as the first university to participate in an economic SDZ, complementing our longstanding commitment to the economic development of our region.”

“A strategic development of this scale, in a position so close to and including the university, would enhance our world-class educational and research proposition, would supplement our ongoing relationships with enterprise, industry and community, and would further establish UL as a hub for innovation.

“The announcement of the SDZ plan by Clare County Council is another milestone in the story of UL’s transformative impact on the economy of the Mid West and we look forward to the implementation of this over the coming years,” added Dr Fitzgerald.

“Seeking SDZ designation is logical in the context of driving the implementation of UL’s expansion across the River Shannon into Clare in 2001 and its continued expansion in the county in the seventeen years to 2018, the economic impact of universities worldwide on their hinterland, the inevitability that this university hinterland will be developed and the vital role of the site in contributing significantly to the future development of the Limerick Municipal Area. The SDZ also will complement the ongoing implementation of the Limerick 2030 Economic and Spatial Plan,” explained Liam Conneally, Director of Economic Development, in today’s briefing for Elected Members and the Clare County Council Economic Development SPC.

He added, “Under this SDZ designation the site has the capacity to become a game changer both regionally and nationally. Orderly, planned development as envisaged in the legislation enabling designation as a Strategic Development Zone will see the site generate 3,500 jobs in addition to the employment generated in construction and spin-off. Investment in both foreign and indigenous industry will partner with the University in expansion, placement, research and careers.”

“The impact on Shannon Airport will be significant as the site’s industrial population focuses on international partnerships with the United States, Europe and the East. From a European perspective this is a project of scale. From a national perspective this is an exemplar project enabling an early start to the balanced regional development strategy and creating an early win for the vision set out for the Limerick Metropolitan Area as outlined in the National Planning Framework and the National Development Plan,” said Mr. Conneally.

Commenting on the development of Europe’s first ‘21st Century University Town’, Brian McCarthy, Senior Planner, Clare County Council, stated, “The environment that we are seeking to engender will be located on the foothold of Europe, merging education, living and employment, modelled on the very best of modern on-campus living. It will be a model of sustainable urban living, education and enterprise, building on the standards of the existing campus. It will offer opportunities for collaboration towards a world class learning, research and development hub.”

Clare County Council will submit a formal application to Government for the designation of the South Clare Economic Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) in the coming weeks. If the application is successful, a detailed masterplan for the area will be developed by the Local Authority, in conjunction with UL, local landowners and other stakeholders.

Page last updated: 19/03/19

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