‘Population boom will require thousands of homes and jobs’

Derek Hussey, UUP, Strabane Council
Derek Hussey, UUP, Strabane Council

A total of 9,000 new homes and up to 4,000 new jobs will have to be created to cope with an expected population boom in Derry and Strabane over the next 15 years, it has emerged.

Concerns however have now been raised over the future of the different towns and village settlements across Derry and Strabane ahead of a new regional development plan, which was discussed by the new supercouncil this week.

Several councillors from towns and villages said it was vital that they were properly catered for under the 2030 plan, which is expected to be launched next year.

The matter was raised at the Derry City & Strabane District Council’s Planning Committee meeting on Thursday.

Presenting a 40-page draft ‘Profile of the Population’ to the council, Proinsias McCaughey, Principal Planning Officer with the Deparmtent of the Environment (DoE) said the new profile was one of four studies being undertaken to assist the new councils and ensure they could “hit the ground running” when they become fully operational next April.

He said that this council area was going for growth over the period to 2030, adding: “We hope that the councils can start towards the issues involved in setting a settlement strategy to accommodate that growth.”

He said among the key findings were that the current 148,000 people living in Strabane would leap to 162,000 by 2030.

Among the current population, a significant number were young- one in five people is aged under 16. 
“That is quite high in Northern Ireland terms”, Mr McCaughey said.

He added that people are living longer, with an increase in the number of single people and smaller households.

“Almost 20% of the population suffer from some form of limiting illness”, he said, adding: “That is relatively high compared to the Northern Ireland average.”

He added that the current settlement “hierarchy” was appropriate, with key difference between the existing Derry Area Plan, which has Derry as the city and a number of villages but no towns, while Strabane’s has itself and three other towns- Castlederg, Newtonstewart and Sion Mills.

UUP CouncillorDerek pointed out that in contrast to the smaller Tyorne towns, Derry’s Culmore, Claudy, Eglinton, Newbuildings and Strathfoyle areas were considered villages, although the popoulations were similar.

Mr McCaughey said there was a revised government classification study on this due to concluded shortly.