Chapter 4 - Vision and High-Level Goals - Background and strategic issues
The next LECP (2022-2028) for Limerick City and County will be important to promote sustainable recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and adaptation to new ways of living and working in a world facing the enormous challenge of climate change. These priorities are reflected in Ireland’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan (2021) which incorporates NextGenerationEU – the European Union’s response “to address the economic and social impact of the pandemic and make European economies and societies more sustainable, resilient and better prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the green and digital transitions”.
The LECP 2022-2028 will need to provide a comprehensive framework identifying strategic priorities and, at the same time, being flexible to respond to new challenges that may emerge. In 2022, the war in Ukraine was an unexpected challenge. It brought an influx of refugees to Ireland, broken supply chains for food products and energy and high energy costs. Increased migration to Ireland from other parts of the world that are also in war situations or facing humanitarian crises are further examples increased challenges. Other factors include faster cycles of economic growth and recession and Ireland’s vulnerability to external shocks, as an open economy and island nation; higher interest rates; demographic change including an ageing population and greater population diversity; and the impact of disruptive technologies which bring opportunities but can also leave some areas and sections of the economy and society behind.
Lessons from the experience of COVID-19 point to the strength of community in Ireland. Our recent experiences showed the functions that can be brought back to local village centres and towns and the possibilities to live and work in the same place. Our experiences also showed the need for quality outdoor space and recreation, and the importance of social interaction to mental health and well-being. The possibilities for education, business, healthcare, culture and arts and social networks opened up by expanding the use of digital technologies and creating the skills and infrastructure to make services available online were clearly demonstrated.
The experience of the last few years showed the vulnerability of certain sectors badly impacted by COVID-19. These include hospitality, tourism, travel, culture and arts, construction and “bricks and mortar” retail. Recovery post-COVID has been more difficult for some sectors and businesses due to labour supply issues, skills shortages and changing consumer patterns and more recently high and escalating energy costs. COVID-19 also accelerated pre-existing trends - in particular the shift of retail to online shopping. These trends together with shifts to remote working have impacted on footfall / business activity and prospects for regeneration of city centres based on the “old model” of thinking.
Changes have also had adverse impact on certain groups in society such as children, young persons and families and older persons without the equipment and skills to access services such as education, healthcare, banking and other services on line; women and children affected by domestic violence; people experiencing rural isolation; people seeking asylum / in or leaving Direct Provision; and vulnerable people and families with complex social problems, suffering from addiction, with mental health problems, lacking own accommodation or homeless. Other sections of the population are known to be at higher risk of exclusion including people with disabilities, Traveller families, people with chronic health conditions, people in the criminal justice system and facing challenges such as discrimination.
Certain sectors and section of the population will face greater challenges linked to climate change including agriculture and farm families, transport and people highly reliant on the car for everyday needs, lower income households and older people dependent on older energy systems and living in energy inefficient housing.
Local authority services, in recent years, have been required to respond to severe weather events including flooding in cooperation with other emergency services. Flood defences have been strengthened in areas where there are risks. This is an on-going programme of works, adapting to climate change. Local authority services are actively engaged in other areas of climate change mitigation and adaptation in cooperation with other services – e.g., dealing with invasive species, bio-diversity loss, water quality and river catchment area management. Local authorities have led out on local services coordination and support for community responses to COVID-19. Currently, the local authority is leading coordination of the local services response and accommodation needs in the Ukrainian refugee crisis.
At the same time, Ireland is developing its role, its reach and influence in an international setting. Internationalisation, building links with institutions, places, business and people abroad has a local dimension. Such links are important to our identity, our reputation and can bring tangible benefits to local areas and communities.