Drogheda should get city status, argues planning expert

Lobby group says Co Louth town now has larger population than Waterford

The Drogheda City Status lobby group has warned against committing the “sins of the past”. Photograph: iStock

The Drogheda City Status lobby group has warned against committing the “sins of the past”. Photograph: iStock

 

Drogheda should be granted city status as the population of the country’s largest town and the surrounding area has topped 83,000 and exceeds the size of Waterford, a planning expert has argued.

A report by Dr Brian Hughes, a lecturer in urban economics, backs Drogheda and the fast-growing nearby towns of Laytown, Bettystown and Mornington in east Meath becoming the country’s newest city. The area has the State’s fifth largest population, more than Waterford, the country’s fifth city.

Commissioned by the Drogheda City Status lobby group, the report says that the population of the municipal borough of Drogheda, along with the neighbouring rural areas of Louth and Meath, has increased by almost 80 per cent over two decades, rising from 46,451 to 83,042 in the 2016 census.

‘Nightmare’

The lobby group has been campaigning for more than a decade for an end to what it calls the “nightmare” dual administration of the town and its rapidly expanding satellite communities.

According to last year’s census, Drogheda had a population of 40,956, an increase of 6.2 per cent since 2011, but the surrounding area – part of the Dublin commuter belt – pushes that population to more than 80,000. That includes the east Meath towns of Laytown, Bettystown and Mornington that have a population of 10,000 people each and are expected to reach 15,000 or more by the next census in 2021.

Waterford city and suburbs had a population of 53,504 in 2016, up almost 4 per cent on 2011.

Dr Hughes argues that the greater Drogheda area, twice the size of Co Longford, meets the criteria of the EU Commission and the OECD for city status because of population density per kilometre and exceeds numbers in excess of 50,000 people.

The report, which reached near-identical conclusions to a similar study written by Dr Hughes more than five years ago, has been submitted to the Government for inclusion in the national planning framework that will guide planning decisions across the country up to 2040.

“The Belfast-Dublin economic corridor is growing at a major pace. Drogheda, thanks to its air, motorway, sea and rail links, is growing faster than anywhere else along this corridor,” said Dr Hughes.

Urban districts

“But we look like we are going to repeat the sins of the past by not providing practical, administrative urban districts. What worries me is the published draft framework proposal ignored Drogheda’s city status request. This is despite the fact that in seeking submissions, the Government said the final policy would be based on evidence. They have the evidence in his report. They need to act and act now.”

Chairman of Drogheda City Status group Vincent Hoey denied that they were attempting “some of a county land grab” but that they believe an urban density of the size of the greater Drogheda area “requires a city administration to make the place work”.

“We are living in an urban conglomeration of over 80,000 people but we have no effective joined-up thinking to plan sensibly for the future because out local government is divided between Co Meath and Co Louth,” he said.

“Drogheda lost its town council and we urgently need to be given city status so that we can have a city council that can best plan for the sustainable future growth of the region, provide housing, create jobs and nurture business.”