CLARE county councillors and hundreds of residents in South-East Clare are gearing up for yet another battle to prevent a “land grab” by Limerick City Council after a new Government committee was given the task of examining the possibility of changing existing boundaries.
Environment Minister John Gormley has appointed Kerry Group founder, Denis Brosnan, to head up a review group to examine a number of proposals, including a boundary extension into Clare.
Under the controversial terms of reference, the five members of the committee will examine whether there should be changes made to the boundary of Limerick City, having examined the City Council’s 2005 application for a boundary extension.
They will assess if the boundary of Clare, Limerick City or county should be changed, whether Limerick City and County Council should be unified and if alternative arrangements should be made to co-ordinate functions, administration and leadership between the three existing authorities on a more regional basis.
The last boundary proposal was unanimously rejected by 32 Clare councillors and the council also presented a case as to why Limerick City Council’s bid for extra land in Clare should be rejected.
Councillor Pascal Fitzgerald said people living in South-East Clare were totally opposed to any new “land grab” by Limerick City Council or any new committee.
“A lot of Limerick people have moved out of Limerick City into the suburbs and into County Clare because they want to live there.
“Limerick City Council is only interested in revenue and increasing its rate base. I believe the city council wants to extend into Clare so that it can say all of the University of Limerick is in Limerick, even though most of the recent developments have been on theClare campus.
“Any boundary extension shouldn’t be at the expense of Clare. Limerick City Council needs to start looking after the city centre and attract more business there. Most of the traders have moved out of the city to places like the Crescent Shopping Centre, which is very popular with shoppers and is in County Limerick,” he said.
Councillor PJ Kelly stated at the recent council meeting that the solution to Limerick City Council’s problems was to amalgmate with Limerick County Council.
Councillor Cathal Crowe claimed when he recently sought an insurance quotation, his premium increased by more than €100 when he used a Limerick City instead of a Meelick address.
“I know of many constituents who have sons or daughters quoted higher insurance premiums because they reside at a city address. I do not disparage against Limerick City – higher insurance premiums are a reality for many people who reside in Irish cities.
“If, under the Limerick City administrative area, business owners will also be obliged to pay one of the highest commercial rates in the country South-East Clare people are far better off in Clare rather than Limerick.
“It should be categorically stated that Clare people are not prejudiced against Limerick City. As a Clare man, I consider Limerick City to be of key importance to the economic continuity of the Mid-Western region.
Boundary lines do not need to be altered in order to ensure the sustenance of Limerick City,” he said.
It is expected that the new committee will make their recommendations within the next few months.
Environment Minister John Gormley said the need to put in place more effective local government arrangements for the Limerick area has been widely accepted for some time.
“A more appropriate system of governance needs to be put in place in Limerick if the city and region are to perform as a strong centre as envisaged in the National Spatial Strategy.
“Greater local government coherence will also assist the major regeneration efforts which are currently underway.”
“I hope the committee can conclude its work in a short number of months and I look forward to receiving the Committee’s report and recommendations,” he said.
Denis Brosnan also chairs the Task Force on the Mid-West, which is leading the response to the economic downturn in the region. The other committee members include Maurice Carr, partner, BDO Simpson Xavier; John Cullen, former director general of the Institute of Public Administration; Brendan Tuohy, former secretary general of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and Michelle Wilson, town planner, director of Tiros Resources.
The last boundary extension in 2008 allowed Limerick City Council to take over administrative control of over 7,000 residents who were brought into the city area from suburbs under the control of Limerick County Council.
The recommendation to widen the city boundary in a report by former Dublin city manager John Fitzgerald on the regeneration of run-down council estates in Moyross and Southill was, reportedly, a deciding factor.
Mr Fitzgerald said a boundary extension on the north side of the city, to bring in large residential areas such as Caherdavin, was essential for the balanced redevelopment of the northside of Limerick embracing Moyross.
Up to 2,000 acres was added to the city’s territorial remit, increasing its area by 50% as part of the move.