After two years of preparation, the Shannonbridge Development Strategy was completed in recent weeks.

Project manager to help make Shannonbridge plan a reality

A project management team to help implement the new Shannonbridge Development Strategy is due to be put in place in the coming months.

Vincent D'Arcy of the Shannonbridge Action Group said it was hoped the full-time position of project manager would be advertised by the beginning of June, and he added that an administrative support role would also be created.

The recently-completed strategy for the area aims to develop Shannonbridge as a significant tourism destination. It also hopes to help facilitate the re-training of locals, support remote working and small enterprises, and improve the living environment locally.

Vincent told the Offaly Independent that the project management team would be tasked with "taking the plan that we have completed, looking at all the various strands of it, chasing down funding opportunities and engaging with all of the various stakeholders, like the OPW, Bord na Móna and Fáilte Ireland."

The hiring of the project management team is due to be financed out of the €405,000 which was allocated to the Shannonbridge Action Group from the Just Transition Fund late last year.

The project manager is due to be based in Shannonbridge, and it's anticipated that the role will be for a three-year period.

The ambitious strategy for the village was designed to provide "a future vision for the community and identify priority actions as a response to the closure of West Offaly Power and the ending of peat harvesting."

Funded by Offaly County Council, the plan noted that the economic impact from the loss of jobs in peat and electricity generation would be "huge" and that "new activities of a similar nature and scale" were not likely to be established in Shannonbridge.

However, the plan identified tourism as a sector with potential for significant growth and development in and around Shannonbridge.

A 'Socio-Economic Profile' of the area which was included in the new strategy found that the population of Shannonbridge was older than the national average.

"It is particularly noticeable that the percentages in the younger age groups, and those in the 30-49 age groups, are lower in the Shannonbridge area," the plan noted.

"While not surprising, this bears the seeds of a worrying longer-term trend where those age groups that are most active both economically and in child-bearing are poorly represented."

It found that the level of educational qualification obtained by locals were "considerably lower" than the national average. The older age of the population and the nature of the employment that had been available in the area were likely to have been factors in this, the plan stated.

"This suggests the changes that are taking pace in the employment profile of the area will have significant implications for the need for re-skilling, re-training and career orientation," it said.

Car ownership was found to be very high in the Shannonbridge area. Just 6% of households in Shannonbridge had no car. Unsurprisingly, the use of peat as a domestic heating source was very high by national standards, with almost 70% of homes in the area fuelled by peat.

Some 17% of the homes in Shannonbridge were vacant when the last census was taken, and the strategy said this could mean there's a potential stock of housing "which might be made available” if positive engagement took place.

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