Chapter 7: Infrastructure
Chapter 7: Infrastructure
This chapter seeks to advance the Strategic Vision of the Draft Plan established in Chapter 1: Introduction, Vision and Strategic Overview as informed by the NPF and RSES, through the provision of the necessary infrastructure. The Draft Plan recognises the potential of Limerick in terms of sustainable economic prosperity, improving quality of life and well-being for Limerick’s citizens. However, Limerick’s infrastructure must keep pace with modern demands. In this regard, the provision of high quality infrastructure, energy networks and environmental services is fundamental to ensuring the long-term physical, environmental, social and economic prosperity for Limerick City and County.
The location of future development, including the zoning of land and the associated objectives of the Draft Plan and the Council’s assessment of planning applications, is informed by the capacity and availability of infrastructure. The Planning Authority will require the timely provision of infrastructure for the sustainable development of all lands.
Policy IN P1 – Strategic Infrastructure - It is a policy of the Council to:
a) Secure investment in the necessary infrastructure (including digital technology, ICT, telecommunications networks, water services, surface water management, waste management, energy networks), which will allow Limerick to grow and realise its full potential.
b) Fulfil Limerick’s ambition as a contemporary City and County in which to live, work, invest and visit, with supporting infrastructure, whilst complying with the relevant EU Directives and national legislation, including the protection of the environment.
7.2 National and Regional Policy Context
7.2.1 National Planning Framework
The National Planning Framework has identified Limerick for significant additional growth by 2040. This additional population will have a significant demand on existing and proposed infrastructure and will require the coordination of growth and place-making with investment in world-class infrastructure. This will include telecommunications infrastructure, water services, energy networks and waste management infrastructure. Alongside the NPF there are a number of European and National Strategic Plans, directives and guidelines that will inform the provision and development of these infrastructure networks, across the City and County over the lifetime of the Draft Plan. These include:
- Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (2012) Government Policy Statement on the Strategic Importance of Transmission and Other Energy Infrastructure A New Circular Economy Action Plan for a Cleaner More Competitive Europe 2020;
- Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (2015) White Paper on Energy;
- Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (2019) Climate Action Plan;
- Department of Environment, Climate and Communications National Policy Framework: Alternative Fuels Infrastructure for Transport in Ireland 2017 to 2030;
- Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (2019) Draft National Marine Planning Framework;
- Directive on the disposal of polychlorinated biphenyls and polychlorinated terpheyls known as the PCB/PCT Directive (96/59/EC);
- Directive on the incineration of waste (Directive 2000/76/EC);
- Draft Water Services Guidelines for Planning Authorities DHPLG 2018;
- Eirgrid Grid Development Strategy – Your Grid, Your Tomorrow (2017);
- Electrical and Electronic Waste (WEEE) Directive (2012/19/EU);
- End-of-Life Vehicles Directive (Directive 2000/53/EC);
- EPA Code of Practice for Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems 2021;
- EPA National Hazardous Waste Management Plan 2014-2020;
- EPA Waste Management (Certification of Historic Waste Disposal and Recovery Activity) Regulations 2008;
- EPA Wastewater Treatment Manual (Treatment Systems for Small Communities, Business, Leisure Centres and Hotels);
- EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy – Closing the Loop 2015;
- Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive (1996/61/EC);
- Ireland’s Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future 2015-2030;
- Irish Waters Capital Investment Plan 2020-2024;
- Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC);
- National Hazardous Waste Plan (NHWMP) 2014-2020;
- National River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2018-2021(DHPLG);
- National Wastewater Sludge Management Plan;
- National Water Resources Plan;
- Nitrates Directive, Good Agricultural Practise for the Protection of Waters;
- Packaging Waste Directive (Directive 94/62/EC);
- Realising Our Rural Potential – Action Plan for Rural Development, 2017;
- Resource Opportunity – Waste Management Policy (DECLG) 2012;
- Sewage Sludge Directive (86/278/EEC);
- The National Broadband Plan;
- The National Digital Strategy 2018-2027;
- Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy – Ireland’s National Waste Policy 2020-2025 (DECC) 2020;
- Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC).
7.2.2 Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy
The Regional Planning Objectives (RPOs) of the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) for the Southern Region supports the growth of Limerick, in line with existing and proposed capacity within the infrastructural networks. Through the RPOs, support is given to develop Limerick as a Smart City, incorporating smart infrastructures, to act as an engine for a Smart Region - both urban and rural. It also seeks investment in broadband, fibre technologies, wireless networks and integrated digital infrastructures. Recognition of the importance of the implementation of Irish Water’s Investment Plan and the alignment of the supply of water services with the settlement strategy of the Draft Plan, is clearly set out and supported. The RSES also seeks the targeting of measures for the prevention and management of waste and policy support is provided for the objectives of the Southern Regional Waste Management Plan. The significance of protecting and developing the energy grid across the region is also identified as critical to meeting infrastructural demands over the lifetime of the Draft Plan.
7.2.3 Limerick’s Digital Strategy - Building Ireland’s First Digital City – Smart Limerick
Building Ireland’s First Digital City – Smart Limerick Roadmap 2017 – 2020 aims to ensure that Limerick can better respond to economic, social and environmental needs, through the use of innovative smart technology. The Strategy focuses on six Smart Limerick Domains. These domains represent areas where innovative solutions, ICT enabled and digital services will have a positive impact on Limerick’s economic, social and physical environment, benefiting all citizens across the Smart Limerick Region.
7.3 Climate Action in Infrastructure Planning
The provision of high quality infrastructure has been identified as fundamental to ensuring the long-term physical, environmental, social and economic prosperity of Limerick. Climate Action has to form a key consideration in the development of any such infrastructure for Limerick City and County. To this end, the Council will apply the following objectives when considering future development proposals concerning infrastructure:
Objective IN O1 - Climate Action in Infrastructure Planning - It is an objective of the Council to:
- Require all infrastructure development, whether above ground or subterranean, to avoid flood risk areas and areas at risk of coastal erosion.
- Require site selection, location, design and materials to have regard to and be resilient to the changing climate (high winds, temperature fluctuations, increased storm intensity and changes in rainfall).
- Collaborate with utility and service providers to ensure their networks are resilient to the impacts of climate change, both in terms of design and ongoing maintenance.
7.4 Digital Connectivity and Limerick’s Digital Strategy
Limerick City and County Council is aware of the need for high quality digital and mobile information communication systems. Digital infrastructure supports the regeneration of urban centres and the diversification of the rural economy, thereby, sustaining urban and rural communities. Advancements in information and communication technologies (ICT) continually evolve and access to quality digital systems is a prerequisite for successful e-commerce, remote working opportunities, distance education, lifelong learning opportunities, digital health services and other opportunities, including cultural experiences offered through digital means and engagement.
Limerick has been to the forefront in terms of digitalisation initiatives by a Local Authority, having published the first Local Authority digital strategy - Building Ireland’s First Digital City – Smart Limerick Roadmap in 2017. A new Digital Strategy will be prepared in 2021. The First Digital Strategy sets out Limerick’s ambition to respond efficiently to economic, social and environmental issues, using innovative smart technology. Smart cities respond to challenges such as climate change, population growth, political or economic instability, by engaging with society, applying collaborative leadership methods, working across disciplines and city systems and using data information and modern technologies. Part of Limerick City Centre is designated a Digital District - a smart city digital test bed, located in the Georgian Innovation District. Features of the Quarter include smart living spaces, smart offices and smart transport.
The strategy supports both national and EU digital programs and the rollout of the National Broadband Plan. As part of the Strategy, Smart Homes and Smart Buildings will have high-speed connections to the internet, while sensors and data will be used for a better, more sustainable use of energy and improved use of clean, renewable energy and more sustainable forms of movement. Examples of initiatives under the strategy include Smart Parking, Smart Transport Patterns for Rural Transport, Open Data for Autonomous Vehicles and the Municipal Data Network. Collecting real-time data by Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, including over 100 air, noise, water and soil quality sensors will also take place throughout the City and County, with footfall counters in the City Centre and Smart CCTV in the settlements. These datasets will be used to foster innovation and support start-up ecosystems such as the Georgian Innovation District.
Key digital growth enablers for Limerick and for the Limerick Shannon Metropolitan Area were identified by the RSES as necessary for the future sustainable development of the Southern Region. The objectives of the Draft Plan in relation to digital connectivity will advance the vision of the RSES for the Southern Region and the role of Limerick therein.
Objective IN O2 - Digital Connectivity - It is an objective of the Council to:
- Develop Limerick’s digital infrastructure, as guided by the settlement strategy as engines for a Smart City and County and drivers of a wider Smart Region including the Limerick Shannon Metropolitan Area, the Limerick Digital District and to progress Limerick’s ambition to be Ireland’s first Digital City.
- Seek opportunities under the All Ireland Smart Cities Forum including funding and partnership opportunities with stakeholders, to implement the programmes of the Limerick Digital Strategy and EU Digital Single Market.
- Encourage the use of good practices, nationally and internationally, through living labs, test beds, innovative research, disruptive technologies and collaborations with other agencies, including third level institutions and the private sector.
- Capitalise on opportunities in partnership with other agencies to deploy innovative, disruptive technologies and smart infrastructure across Limerick City and County, including more peripheral locations to eliminate any disparities on digital connection and reliability of service.
- Explore opportunities to ensure all communities can transition to digitalisation for a better quality of life and eliminate digital inequalities, in terms of access to digital networks for the purposes of business, access to public services including education and contemporary cultural and entertainment experiences.
- Support the development of Smart Homes and Smart Buildings and facilitate the Smart Limerick concept in accordance with the Limerick Digital Strategy 2017 – 2020 and any subsequent plans.
- Support investment in incubation and ICT infrastructure to capitalise on remote working opportunities, enterprise start-ups, e-commerce and up-scaling for businesses across all settlements in the County.
High speed, cost-competitive and reliable broadband underpins economic development and contributes to a good quality of life for Limerick’s communities. The absence of such infrastructure makes it significantly more difficult to retain employment, attract new jobs and limits educational and entrepreneurial opportunities. High-speed, readily available and consistent broadband is crucial for Foreign Direct Investment, indigenous entrepreneurial opportunities and provides better access to global markets, as a means to address the impacts of Brexit and other global events such as the Covid-19 Pandemic.
The implementation of high-speed broadband connectivity falls within the remit of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. In 2012, the Department published Delivering a Connected Society – A National Broadband Plan for Ireland (NBP), to guide the rollout of broadband across Ireland. This national policy document establishes the Government’s ambition to deliver high speed, reliable and cost-effective broadband services, via fibre optic based networks, to all premises in the Country. This policy aims to eliminate disparities between rural and urban areas in terms of access to high-speed broadband. Broadband infrastructure is provided by private investment and State intervention, in areas where private companies have no plans to invest, as it is not economically viable for them to do so. This approach guarantees that rural communities have the same digital opportunities as urban communities.
In Limerick, fourteen public locations in rural communities will benefit from the Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) scheme under the National Broadband Plan (NBP). These locations will receive early (150Mb) high-speed broadband connectivity and public Wi-Fi, through the roll out of the National Broadband Plan.
Figure 7.1: Broadband Connection Points under the National Broadband Programme