Hubs and gateways made simple


The National Spatial Strategy defines nine economic "gateways" and a similar number of smaller economic "hubs", writes Tim O'Brien.

The gateways are existing urban centres which have a critical mass of population which could sustain third level educational centres, public transport, housing and leisure facilities, the criteria necessary for further economic expansion.

The State's five main cities have already been identified as gateways and yesterday the towns of Dundalk, Sligo, and Letterkenny were added. The towns of Athlone, Mullingar and Tullamore will act as a "linked" gateway.

The nine "hubs" are strategically located medium-sized towns whose population can be drawn on to support the economic activity of the gateways. In this way, economic development would spread through the gateways to the hubs. The gateway/hub arrangement is required to offer possibilities for employment, training and quality of life.

But for anyone living in a designated hub or gateway, there will be no immediate changes. The strategy is a 20-year framework aimed at integrating future developments by planning and transport authorities. The strategy will influence other plans but has no budget of its own. It does not even have the force of law.

The strategy proposes that some hubs be made up of two towns which would be linked together to promote development in their areas. The hubs identified include Cavan, Ennis, Kilkenny, Mallow, Monaghan, Tuam and Wexford. The linked hubs are Ballina/Castlebar; and Tralee/Killarney.

Possible development scenarios must take account of the different base populations from which they are starting.