Roscommon rejects elements of boundary review report

Athlone border review finds area west of town may need to be subsumed into Westmeath

Chairman of the Save Roscommon group Tony Ward in Februrary. A proposal to change to boundary with Westmeath has met with fierce opposition in Roscommon. File  photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Chairman of the Save Roscommon group Tony Ward in Februrary. A proposal to change to boundary with Westmeath has met with fierce opposition in Roscommon. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

The Roscommon Boundary Group has forcefully rejected provisions in a report which proposed that a 38sq km area of Roscommon should be subsumed into Westmeath within four years if its recommendations are not met.

The Athlone Boundary Review committee looked at whether the 38sq km of Roscommon west of Athlone should come under the jurisdiction of Westmeath County Council to facilitate the growing town.

In its report last month the committee, set up by the Department of the Environment to investigate the matter, recommended there be no change to the Roscommon/Westmeath border but that local authorities in both counties co-operate in joint initiatives where an expanding Athlone is concerned.

However, should this not happen within a four-year period then the committee recommended “that the boundary be extended in order to achieve coherent sustainable development for Athlone”.

Forcefully rejected

In a terse and brief statement the Roscommon Boundary Group forcefully rejected the latter recommendation. Having completed an initial review of the Athlone Boundary Review committee’s report, it said: “we emphatically reject the final recommendation which stipulates that the boundary change will happen in four years’ time in certain circumstances.”

It called on “the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government [Simon Coveney] to dismiss the report and to respect the publicly expressed wish of 28,000 people that the boundary of Co Roscommon remains intact.” This was a reference to the 27,949 submissions made to the review committee.

The statement went on to assert that “the Roscommon Boundary Group will continue to work to achieve the objective to Save Roscommon.”

The Athlone Boundary Review committee report was prepared by a three-man group including retired Cavan county manager Jack Keyes, retired principal officer at the Department of the Environment Donal Enright, and retired Limerick city and county senior planner Gerry Sheeran.

Last year, the department recommended that the southern part of Roscommon should lose 38sq km to Westmeath, as this would make it easier to manage the needs of Athlone. This was strongly supported by Westmeath County Council.

In June 2015, then minister for the environment Alan Kelly set up the boundary review committee to investigate the matter.

The proposal has met with fierce opposition in Roscommon. A “Save Roscommon” group was set up last September and organised most of the submissions to the review committee as well as a social media campaign which drew on support from the county’s widespread diaspora.