Deeply divisive and festering wrangles between Kilkenny and Waterford over a potential boundary change have been “put to bed for good”, Minister for State for Local Government and Electoral Reform, John Paul Phelan, TD, has vowed.
The boundary will not change and its status, and the status of other boundaries nation-wide, is to be enshrined in law under a new Local Government Bill which is expected to be signed by Minister Phelan and his colleagues by the middle of the year.
That Bill effectively means that boundary reviews in Kilkenny/Waterford, as well as contentious proposals to change the county lines in Carlow/Wicklow and Louth/Meath, will not be raised again.
New, joint groups with equal membership from both counties will be set up in impacted border areas which have a population of over 15,000 to ensure their critical needs are met, Minister Phelan announced.
“This is very good news for the many people, businesses, organisations and groups who vehemently opposed a boundary change in Kilkenny/Waterford and who were also dead against proposals for a new administrative body which would decide on planning and other issues for the impacted area and its 7,500 residents, myself included.
“What will happen now is what we proposed all along, that the boundary will be retained as is and that a new, joint group will be set up, a new joint body which will have equal representation from both Waterford and Kilkenny and will be tasked with ensuring the needs of the area are met.
“This new, joint body will be involved with forward planning in areas such as retail and transport. But it will have no powers in areas such as planning, rates, Local Property Tax (LPT) and operation of libraries etc. Kilkenny will continue to be responsible for the administration of matters in its jurisdiction and Waterford will do the very same,” Minister Phelan outlined.
"Every time a boundary change has been mooted in the past, it has created rivalry and division, Minister Phelan continued. “Ferrybank and the surrounding communities grew significantly in the early 2000s. Residents and businesses there need the support of an administration that has its interests at heart and that plans, prepares and requires that both authorities working together, rather than in competition. This new body will be just that.”
Kilkenny and Waterford have worked closely in the past and the future development of both counties and the South East as a region requires even greater co-operation if the area’s higher than average unemployment rate is to be effectively tackled, the Minister added.
“Kilkenny has always supported the growth of Waterford City. This was seen in Kilkenny’s adoption of the Planning, Land and Urban Transport Study (PLUTS) 2004-2020. It provided for the growth of Waterford City towards a population of 80,000, over 40% accommodated on the Kilkenny side of the river Suir.
“In Kilkenny’s recent submission to the National Planning Framework 2020-2040, Kilkenny also supported the growth and development of Waterford City at the heart of the south east region, providing for a population of 100,000.
“The provision of critical infrastructure such as bridges, roads, schools, housing and improved access, are all necessary to allow for this level of growth and for Waterford City to develop in a sustainable manner. The South East region needs Waterford to be a strong, vibrant, central hub and we need to work together as counties, as communities and through this new, joint body to support this vision,” Minister Phelan concluded.