The €233m Center Parcs Longford Forest holiday resort is due to open its doors in the summer of 2019
If the current draft of the Regional Spatial & Economical Strategy were in place a couple of years ago, there would be no Center Parcs in Longford.
That was a statement made by Cllr Mae Sexton and backed up by Cllr Peggy Nolan at last week's special meeting to discuss the RSES.
The current draft of the strategy is too restrictive for Longford, according to local councillors who vow to do whatever they can to ensure Longford is not left behind again.
“I believe that every county in Ireland should have its own opportunities available to it,” said Cllr Sexton.
“And it should not be dictated by a document that is so tight that, in fact, I came to the conclusion that Center Parcs would never have gotten the go-ahead in the county of Longford if this document had been in place. And that’s the truth of it, gentlemen. And that’s why we are so angry.”
Cllr Sexton went on to express her concern that there is no flexibility in the document in its current draft and that if the local authority went out there and were able to pursuade another company as big as Center Parcs to come to Longford, it wouldn't happen.
“If we find another Center Parcs, through no help from anybody, and we were able to move that forward, this document would be so tight that we’d be able to go nowhere,” she said.
“We wouldn’t be able to get the money to do the infrastructure works that are so evident out in Ballymahon at the moment, that have already made huge impact on the county of Longford in its positivity and in job creation.”
The infrastructure required ahead of the Center Parcs grand opening was also discussed at length.
High-speed broadband, upgrades to the N4 and N55, an extension to the natural gas line, housing and tourism were other issues raised with Jim Conway and Malachy Bradley of the EMRA last week.
The two representatives of the EMRA listened to suggestions from each of the Longford councillors, as well as three Westmeath councillors and one Laois councillor before ensuring the chamber that each and every submission would be taken on board between now and the drawing up of the final draft.
Councillors in the room insisted that a copy of the final draft be delivered to them ahead of time so that they can ensure the county is not left behind once again in this strategy for development in the country.