1 - Economic Development and Planning Policy

Minutes of Strategic Policy Committee 1 (Economic Development & Planning Policy) of Sligo County Council held at 3.00 p.m. on Thursday, 25th October 2007 in the Training Room, Riverside, Sligo


  • Councillor Patsy Barry,
  • Councillor Seamus Kilgannon,
  • Councillor Sean McManus,
  • Councillor Tony McLoughlin,
  • Councillor Aidan Collery,
  • Councillor Deirdre Healy McGowan


  • Declan Breen, Director of Services
  • Rita McNulty, Director of Services
  • Janet McNamara, Administrative Officer
  • Devona Finnegan, Clerical Officer
  • Aisling Smith, Administrative Officer
  • Finneen O’Driscoll, Senior Executive Engineer
  • Paula R Gallagher, Senior Executive Officer
  • Mihaela Davidescu, Executive Planner
  • Frank Moylan, Senior Executive Planner
  • Niamh O’Driscoll, Ballisodare Community Council
  • Gerry Healy, Chamber of Commerce
  • Michael Keenan, Keenan Construction Ltd
  • Siobhan Ryan, Heritage Officer
  • Joe McHugh, IDA Ireland
  • Tom Hobson, Consulting LT


  • Councillor Jude Devins


  • Phil Tuohy


  • Cathaoirleach, Councillor Tony Mc Loughlin, presided.


Proposed:  Councillor Seamus Kilgannon
Seconded:  Councillor Patsy Barry

And agreed: 

“that the minutes of the Strategic Policy Committee No.1 meeting held on 28th February 2007 and Special Meeting held on 3rd April 2007 be confirmed”.


In his presentation, Mr Joe McHugh, Regional Manager IDA Ireland, informed the members that Ireland is respected as one of the most successful and dynamic locations in the world. He stated that to market Ireland we need to show that we can compete on world markets and to date our record of performance nationally and in specific businesses, e.g.; pharmaceuticals, medical technologies, electronics, financial services, software and other traded services is excellent.  Multi Nationals are attracted to Ireland because of the people, skills, ability and the way we do business.  Due to the management expertise and capability, we can get things done and he indicated that we are a low tax location with political consistency in relation to tax, pro- enterprise and have the ability to respond to the need of changes.

Mr McHugh indicated that our business areas and activities were centred on life sciences, ICT, financial services, international services, manufacturing, technical and customer support, sales and marketing, e-procurement, research and development.  However he indicated that we are not well served in some areas of Information Technology and the provision of Broadband particularly outside the urban areas.  He confirmed that the first financial services degree launched by the Institute of Technology was over subscribed.  He also stated that the manufacturing business is now moving into other activities like research and development etc. and that Ireland has to compete very aggressively in view of the increasingly global competition, not-alone from Europe, but from advanced countries like the U.S, Switzerland, Benelux and Nordics.

Mr McHugh informed the meeting that in order to attract industries to the North West, they were working with the Western Development Commission to attract people with skills back to the North West.  He stated that much progress was made in the last ten years, in particular in energy and telecommunications.  He stated that investors require the right people with skills in abundance, right infrastructure, energy, telecommunication, good clean environment, and a good quality of life. 

Mr McHugh stated that under the National Spatial Strategy, Letterkenny and Sligo are a priority and welcomed the fact that infrastructure is to be included in Gateway Projects.  He stressed the importance of grant aid and stated that while state aid is reducing (or eliminated) it will remain available in the Border and Midland and West until 2013.

Mr McHugh stated that we must focus on the Gateway Status as we are competing with City Regions elsewhere with a population of one million or more and therefore we must think and act regionally, not locally.  Therefore, development of major routes, access and in particular air access together with the development of skill pools and education is imperative, hence the necessity to work with the Institute of Technology to have available qualified personnel.

Mr McHugh welcomed the Gateway Innovation fund and the significant investment in development by Abbotts in Sligo, Donegal Town and Longford.  He also confirmed that Toucan are now employing in excess of 200.  He indicated that the IDA is anxious to attract financial services to the area and he stressed the importance of enhancement of access and infrastructure and the completion of the W2 to accommodate easy access to Oakfield.

Councillor Kilgannon, Councillor McManus and Councillor Barry thanked Mr McHugh for his very thorough presentation and it was agreed that the IDA would report to the committee each year. 

Councillor Kilgannon queried when the new Development Park would be available and also requested an update on the two empty factories.  He requested details of IDA/Fas proposals regarding the training of apprentices for manufacturing of plastics/tool making and indicated that Precision Engineering had totally collapsed. 

Councillor McManus stated that IDA were not involved in job creation in Manorhamilton and Tubbercurry and queried the rationale for excluding these towns.  While recognising that the Gateway status included ambitious plans for Sligo and that Infrastructure had improved, Councillor McManus questioned the shortfall of road access on the Dublin and Belfast routes and limited air access.

Councillor Barry requested Mr McHugh’s opinion with regard to the biggest stumbling block against Sligo.

In response to the queries raised, Mr McHugh confirmed that the buildings referred to are privately owned and have leasehold titles in manufacturing and trading services.  The Platter Foods building, now taken over by the Kerry Group, was a change of use from manufacturing to distribution and warehousing.  He indicated that the Tractech building is now in private ownership.
Mr McHugh confirmed that efforts and resources are focused on the Gateway areas and that the target clients require a good quality of life with health services, amenities, education and cultural facilities within a short radius of them.  Mr McHugh referred to Reed Employment in Tubbercurry and the challenges which they encountered with Broadband.  He stated that Knock Airport was a contributing factor in the location of the company in Tubbercurry together with the fact that one of Reed’s senior executives was from the area.  He emphasised the importance of having a champion in the company who will promote the area while recognising the deficiencies present in that location.

Mr McHugh acknowledged the progress regarding planning of the W2 route and the excellent partnership with Local Authority staff and confirmed that it was proposed to develop the Oakfield site immediately. He acknowledged that the Sligo/Dublin Route was less congested but indicated that refurbishment/realignment works were required at Castlebaldwin.  It was paramount that good access be available to the new Enterprise Park linking into the Interchange at Caltragh as this would boost confidence and attract investors to the area.  Air access was another vital requirement.  Councillor Collery made reference to the large global companies who want to process all travel expenses world wide from Sligo or internet auctioning.  Mr McHugh agreed that software skills are vital and confirmed that they would focus investment where IDA best believe it would work.

Mr Healy stressed the importance of Internet Connectivity and indicated that the Institute was now delivering some courses using innovative delivery methods such as IPod.

Mr McHugh acknowledged the investment, contribution made by Bruss and indicated that there were proposals by Bruss to develop new buildings in the Finisklin Business Park.  Mr McHugh confirmed that IDA will provide a site for them in Sligo and he welcomed the advancement of the project as a commitment to the company’s future in Sligo.

Councillor McLoughlin thanked Mr McHugh for his informative presentation and it was agreed that the IDA should give a further update in the New Year.


R. McNulty introduced Tom Hobson to members, who gave a presentation on the Co. Sligo Profile of Poverty & Social Exclusion.  Copies of the presentation were circulated to members.  The compilation of the Poverty Profile was derived from action 7.1 of the CDB Action Plan for Economic, Social and Cultural Development 2006 – 2008.  This study looked at vulnerable groups including Older People, Lone Parents, People with Disabilities, Traveller Community, Migrant Workers, Asylum Seekers and Refugees. 

Facts from the Poverty Profile

  • Statistics show that nationally those living in rented or rent free accommodation make up 43% of persons at risk of poverty. 
  • In Sligo 2,326 (11%) of households are in public & voluntary housing units. 
  • Research indicates that medical card holders are classified as being ‘at risk of poverty’. 
  • 28% of the population in Sligo are medical card holders. 
  • The early school leaving rate is 20.7%. 
  • The rate of absenteeism in secondary schools is high with 24.4% of students absent for more than 20 days in the year.
  • There are 1,906 people on the live register in Sligo.

In conclusion, Mr. Hobson highlighted people’s concerns as recorded by the citizen’s information service as follows:

  • Social Welfare 30%
  • Employment 29%
  • Justice and Legal 10%
  • Health 8% and
  • Housing 7%.

He confirmed that the purpose of the study was to contribute to policymaking. Chairman thanked Mr. Hobson for his presentation.


R. McNulty summarised the membership and purpose of the CDB.  She outlined the six prioritised areas under the CDB’s 3 year Action Plan 2006 – 2008. 
They are:

  1. Delivering on Gateway for Sligo
  2. Rural Development Strategy
  3. Social Inclusion and Equality
  4. Childcare
  5. Public Safety
  6. Play and Recreation Strategy

In September 2007 the CDB established an Innovation/Job Creation Strategy Group which is linked to Priority Area No. 1 – Delivering on Gateway for Sligo.

She stated that Sligo will not have sufficient growth in population to meet the critical mass and we need to focus on bringing people into Sligo.  She highlighted that it is important for an area to have good cultural and social facilities in order to attract businesses to Sligo.  The group will look at the availability of broadband along with other priority areas such as Training/Upskilling, Tourism and Development of Urban Development Strategy.  Ms. McNulty stated the importance of having a strategy in place which will attract people to Sligo to make and take up jobs.  The purpose of the Innovation/Job Creation Strategy Group is to agree an interagency strategy that will work collectively under the CDB.  Its purpose is also to develop, oversee and manage this strategy in order to:

  1. Promote innovation and entrepreneurship
  2. Increase job opportunities
  3. Underpin development of Sligo as Gateway

The next meeting of this group is 14 November 2007. 


Ms Davidescu circulated a summary and chart of the up to date position regarding the Development Plans.

She informed the meeting that the Local Authority were statutory obliged to commence the review of the Sligo & Environs Plan by 07/12/2007 and to advise members to this effect.  Ms Davidescu stated that the draft would be prepared by November 2008.  Councillor Kilgannon queried the boundary limits of the plan and he was advised that it was proposed to stay within the boundaries of the current plan.

A discussion ensued regarding the Environmental issues, leases and constraints in the Docklands.

It was proposed by Councillor Seamus Kilgannon and seconded by Councillor Patsy Barry that an educational trip to Brussels be arranged for SPC1.  Councillor Sean McManus informed the meeting that the County Manager had indicated that he would be glad to accommodate a study trip to Brussels.  It was agreed that Councillor McLoughlin would raise this matter at the next Corporate Services meeting.  Councillor McManus raised the question of an educational trip to view examples of urban regeneration with the addition of restoration of harbour/docklands area.  There was unanimous agreement that this trip would be arranged at the earliest possible date.

The Director of Services, Declan Breen, advised the meeting that the Local Authority were considering organising an Urban Design Competition for the Harbour Area, which would result in an imaginative and innovative design for the Harbour area which would feed into the preparation of a Local Area Plan.  The members expressed unanimous support for this proposal.

Councillor Barry queried the current position regarding the Hazelwood/Ballinode plan.  Mr Moylan informed the meeting that there were extensive pre-planning enquiries with regard to this area, and it is anticipated that this will lead to significant development in this area.

Mr. Moylan informed the meeting that the review of the Sligo and Environs plan included the review of the Housing Strategy, Retail Strategy and the Record of Protected Structures. 

Mr Gerry Healy suggested the relocation of the Sligo Airport out to Collooney and suggested that when figures and costs were reviewed, it may be more prudent to relocate out of Strandhill.  Councillor McManus suggested that the Airport Authority seek funding to engage consultants to look at the feasibility of locating Sligo Airport on a new green field site.


It was agreed that a schedule of SPC1 meetings to be held in 2008 would be presented to the first SPC meeting of 2008.  An earlier commencement time was also agreed.


Meeting Date 25/10/2007