University of Limerick and Clare County Council have applied to government to designate lands adjoining the north campus of the University as an Economic Strategic Development Zone.
The President of UL Professor Kerstin Mey and Chief Executive of Clare County Council Pat Dowling have formally written to the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien, TD to seek the designation.
The application submitted to government to expand and designate lands on the north campus of the University as a Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) has been made through the UL and Clare Economic Development Agency Designated Activity Company (DAC).
The designation of lands, which are already zoned for university use, is sought in accordance with Section 166 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000 (as amended).
It comes after the elected members of Clare County Council unanimously resolved to formally seek from Government the designation of the University of Limerick – Clare Campus lands as an SDZ.
“The decision to seek the designation of the lands as an SDZ is a culmination of the joint will of both our organisations to facilitate the development of Academies of Learning and Centres of Excellence on the University campus in County Clare,” said UL President Professor Kerstin Mey.
“These Academies are the cornerstone of the most significant revision of the relationship between Higher Education and Enterprise. They are intended to establish Ireland, and in particular the Limerick-Shannon Metropolitan Area, as a Treasury of Talent constituting a vital resource towards securing future employment opportunities, attracting foreign direct investment into the region, sustaining both multinational and indigenous enterprises and the ongoing economic and social development of Ireland,” Professor Mey added.
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage will consult with Limerick City and County Council, residents and other interested parties before making any decision in relation to designation.
If this designation is granted, a two-year consultation will take place with landowners and stakeholders in relation to the development of a masterplan that will be beneficial to UL, Limerick, Clare and the Mid-West region.
It is anticipated that the decision regarding the designation will be made by Government in 2022.
Both parties believe, should the designation be successful, that the site has the capacity to become a game changer both regionally, nationally and internationally.
The designation of the lands as an Economic SDZ will enable the site to generate upwards of 3,500 jobs with additional employment being generated in the construction phase and subsequent spin-off developments.
Foreign and indigenous enterprises will partner with the University in designing and delivering dual, immersive education, advanced research and re- and upskilling.
“Talent is key to attracting Foreign Direct Investment, and creating attractive places is key to attracting talent,” said Clare County Council Chief Executive Pat Dowling.
“The South Clare/UL Economic SDZ will be an environment with high quality placemaking providing for a full range of education, research, living, working, and recreational spaces integrated within the University campus environment.”
Economic forecasts have suggested that the site could generate a gross added value of €1.795 billion annually to the Irish economy.
The project will establish UL as a European Centre of Excellence in dual education, advanced research with industry and knowledge exchange. It will confer a lead status on the University as an institution of international repute in enterprise data stewarding.
The establishment of the site as an Innovation District with enterprise partnerships, immersive academies of learning and necessary amenities will provide a considerable economic, social and cultural boost to the Limerick city region.
“The development of this area with clustering of domains of knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurship will in time cite Limerick on a par with the great centres of knowledge-led social and economic advantage in both Europe and the United States,” said Professor Mey.
The site is unique among Irish higher education institutions in its access to green space and any development would be sensitive to the environment and serve as an exemplar of a decarbonisation approach.
“It is intended that this zone would be accessible and integrated with Limerick city and have sustainable transport links, including the redevelopment of the Errina canal link,” said Professor Mey.
“This is a world class, global location for industry of scale that will allow the University to expand over the next 50 years of its lifetime, and give us more space for student accommodation as well as advanced learning and research spaces.
“We do this hand in glove with our commitments to the city and the recent opening of the UL City Centre Campus is evidence of that. We have great ambition to grow our existing campus footprint and extend further into the city at the same time.
“To make UL the catalyst of change it needs to be to attract students and world class researchers and academics, the city, the future SDZ and the campus expansion are integrated elements of our vision for the future of this University,” Professor Mey added.
Both UL and Clare County Council believe the designation of lands as the South Clare/UL Economic Strategic Development Zone would be a very significant step toward achieving effective regional development, enterprise and investment and would contribute significantly to the achievement of the objectives of the National Planning Framework – Project Ireland 2040 and the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Southern Region.