Efforts to have a key growth area into which major industrial development could be channelled located in Tullamore have failed.
Draft planning guidelines for the midlands region had initially proposed that this regional growth area, known as a strategic development zone, be located "east of Athlone".
Although the planning guidelines prepared by the Midland Regional Authority (MRA) provide only a framework for development, planning applications for any such large projects would need to adhere to the guidelines to obtain Bord Pleanala approval. Fears were, therefore, expressed by Offaly county councillors that the inclusion of a reference to Athlone as location for this strategic development zone would hinder Tullamore's future development prospects.
As a result Offaly County Council made a formal submission to the Midland Regional Authority as part of the public consultation process on the draft guidelines. The submission asked that consideration be given to locating the strategic development zone in proximity to Tullamore.
However, the MRA has declined to alter its stance arguing that the reference to the location of the strategic development zone as east of Athlone had already been included in a report for the creation of the midlands gateway which had been adopted by Offaly local authorities.
The final planning guidelines are now due to be published in the coming months, including the reference to Athlone as the location for the strategic development zone.
It's feared that any plans for major international or national business district in Tullamore might now fall foul of planners and instead be directed to Athlone.
Already, there are proposals for a huge Chinese enterprise hub at Creggan, just east of Athlone, creating up to 10,000 jobs.