A MAYO Oireachtas member is challenging Mayo County Council's plan to create a linked hub between Castlebar and Westport alone, disregarding Ballina which she says will split the county and cause uproar among the ratepayers of north and east Mayo.
Expressing her disappointment at the strategy which is being developed by team of consultants for Mayo County Council, Senator Mulherin said that the plan is totally counterintuitive to what the local authority should be about and would leave Ballina and its entire hinterland behind and on a different tier of development.
"We do not want a separate plan for north and east Mayo, but rather a plan that pertains to the entire county with an objective for progress throughout the county and in particular recognizing the significance of Ballina to the north and east.
"When the ratepayers of north and east Mayo realize that their commercial rates are being spent in this way they will be up in arms - and rightly so," Senator Mulherin said.
Senator Mulherin said the objective for Mayo should be to grow and promote the three main towns Ballina, Castlebar and Westport in tandem as a linked hub to structurally reinforce Mayo from the point of view of economic and social growth.
"Unless we develop Ballina, Castlebar and Westport together and make it a priority to connect all three towns the county will be split in half with the northern half pulled towards Sligo and the southern part towards Galway."
In a submission to Northern and Western Regional Assembly in Ballaghaderreen on its Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy, Senator Mulherin called for greater transport connectivity between Mayo’s towns.
Senator Mulherin has also called for a plan to counter a downside to the National Planning Framework strategy to develop Sligo town and Galway city as major urban growth centres.
"Look at Galway city for example Ballinrobe one of most southerly town in Mayo is in need of serious regeneration with many people living there simply commuting daily to Galway for work.
"This is a problem also for Ballinsloe which is just outside Galway. So the increased emphasis on and no doubt resources which will be given to Galway and Sligo can undermine the social and economic fabric of Mayo unless we come up with a proper plan to counter this.
Senator Mulherin has also made the case for the upgrading of both the N58 through Straide linking Ballina to Castlebar and the N26 Swinford-Castlebar road in order to develop east-west connectivity in the county.
"Over 4,000 workers commute daily to and from our three major towns, Ballina, Castlebar and Westport to work in multi-national companies alone. Also freight traffic is taken from Castlebar by road to the freight train in Ballina. People from Ballina travel to Castlebar to the hospital and GMIT and other local authority public services. Multi-nationals in Ballina avail of state of the art warehousing facilities provided in Castlebar.
"An upgrade of the road would address that. In fact, as part of the work done to find a new route for the N26 with the yearly funding I secured through TII since Budget 2012, it was identified that a new major road scheme for the N26/N58/N5 would be desirable and now stands as a line on a map to be developed. This should also tie in with access to Ireland West Airport Knock.
“Prioritisation is also needed for the N26 from Swinford to Ballina to bring it to a standard worthy of its categorisation as a national primary route on the national roads network.
"Progress on the road has been seriously impeded by environmental designation and constraints pursuant to the Habitats and Birds Directives although the recent decision by An Bord Pleanala to grant planning permission for a new bridge at Cloongullane on the N26 is most welcome and a long awaited step in the right direction," added Senator Mulherin.