As part of its ongoing commitment to economic development, Wicklow County Council hosted the 2020 Breakfast Briefing attended by leading local and national business people. The theme of this year’s event was: “Endless Opportunities for Living, Leisure and Business in County Wicklow.”
Guest speaker at the event was Mr Mike Seaton, Director of Development for SSE Renewables.
In a keynote address, Wicklow County Council Chief Executive, Mr Frank Curran, detailed various developments and projects which the Council had completed over the past year or is involved in for the future.
One of these, he said, was the creation of a state-of-the-art Customer Care Innovation Hub at County buildings. This would lead the process of major organisational change and improvement in how the Council delivers its services to the people of Wicklow.
Supported by a Customer Relations Management (CRM) system and a highly trained customer care team, the Hub will greatly improve communication and engagement with the public as well as achieving efficiencies in service delivery.
“It will help ensure there is clear, consistent and appropriate communications and service delivery between Wicklow County Council, the citizens of County Wicklow and other stakeholders”, stated Mr Curran.
He also highlighted the drafting of the new County Development Plan 2021-2027 which was at an initial stage. This would set out future development across all areas such as economic development, settlement strategy, tourism and retail strategy, climate change, green infrastructure, sustainable transport, town planning and many other important issues.
Mr Curran pointed to the Council’s policy on Climate Change saying that Wicklow had the potential to play an important role in the renewable energy market, particularly in the area of offshore wind energy.
Cathaoirleach of Wicklow County Council, Cllr Irene Winters, said the Council used the occasion to update the business community on the various activities carried out by the Council, with particular emphasis on enterprise and economic development. “It is also your opportunity to network, to share your views and to provide us with feedback,” she said.
The input of the business community was invaluable, she said adding: “Over the years many of you have participated on committees of Wicklow County Council including the County Wicklow Economic Think Tank, Local Community Development Committee or Strategic Policy Committees, or indeed the Business Advisory Council. These groups are essential to Wicklow County Council and help to identify actions and priorities aimed at driving economic activity and increasing employment in County Wicklow.”
One area of particular importance, Cllr Winters added, was the County Development Plan 2021 to 2027. The Forward Planning Team was currently assessing the submissions received in response to the Issues Paper, to assist the Chief Executive in the preparation of his report to the elected members.
This was due in the coming months while the Draft County Development Plan would be published later this year when a further round of public consultation will be announced. “I would encourage you continue to engage with us, as the plan is developed and to play your role in shaping the future of the County,” she said.
Mr Seaton from SSE dealt with Ireland’s Climate Change policy and the key role renewable energy would play in that. He said Ireland’s offshore wind resource was vast and significantly under-developed and pointed out that Ireland has just one offshore wind farm, located 13km off Arklow.
SSE has long held plans to develop Arklow Wind Park Phase two and are close to delivering on those and added that “this project holds significant socio-economic benefits for the county of Wicklow and the East Coast. Depending on the final design of the wind farm, we expect to invest between €1 billion and €2 billion developing the next stage of the Arklow Bank.”
While they had yet to announce the location of the O&M base for the Arklow Wind Park, he said this had taken longer than hoped because of land, property and legal agreements. They hoped to be in a position to announce the location with the next month.
Mr Seaton said offshore wind energy could be an enabler to unlock new infrastructure investment in Ireland’s ports and maritime businesses and create local sustainable jobs. “We have seen this at firsthand on other projects across Ireland and the UK. Already we rely on the existing local supply chain in Co Wicklow”.
A number of local companies with considerable offshore wind expertise have already been retained to support the operation, he said, including two Co Wicklow firms, Gavin & Doherty Geosolutions and AlphaMarine Services. “We intend to rely further on the support of local firms, they will be critical in the years ahead as we progress the project.”
MC for the event was Alan Shortt.