Population growth impacts on services

Laois may have the fastest growing county in the State, but public representatives are concerned at the knock on effect this will have on local services and infrastructure.

Laois may have the fastest growing county in the State, but public representatives are concerned at the knock on effect this will have on local services and infrastructure.

The population in Laois has soared by one fifth in the last five years, jumping from 67,059 in 2006 to a massive 80,559, last April.

This massive increase in population also has implications for the constituency of Laois/Offaly which has the highest number of people per public representatives at 30,565.

And while the county might not be seeing great results on the football and hurling pitches at the minute, the county topped more than one table when the Census 2011 results were released last week.

Census 2011 also revealed that Laois has the highest ratio of men to women in the country, but before all the single ladies rush to grab a man, this statistic applies to men over the age of 75.

Just over half of all the residents in Laois, last April were single, while 30,382 were married. Over 2,000 people were classified as separated with 1,425 people divorced and 2,979 people widowed.

Laois also recorded the highest increase in the number of occupied flats and apartments in purpose built blocks, more than double the 451 in 2006.

There was also an increase of 84% in the number of people renting in Laois.

The county recorded 668 Travellers living in the county in April of last year, reflecting the national trend almost all of these Travellers lived in private houses.

Reacting, Labour Senator John Whelan said planning fiascos, cronyism and shoddy building standards of the past decade must never be repeated.

“Places like Portlaoise have seen rural farms turned into concrete jungles; houses and flats in this boomtown built Legoland-like on top of each other; very often on the side of the main roads with scant regard for privacy or provision of basic amenities for residents and young families.”

But he said there was light at the end of the tunnel for Portlaoise.

“Portlaoise is now turning the corner with the provision of vital social, sporting and recreational amenities and the local authority deserve full credit in this regard. Good news too that Education Minister, Ruairi Quinn has acknowledged the population boom, particularly of young children, the highest increase in the country up to the age of 4, up over 37%, and on merit has recently sanctioned seven long overdue primary schools for Portlaoise.”

Fine Gael TD, Charlie Flanagan, said while he was aware that the county’s population was growing, he was surpised to learn it was more than twice the rate for the State as a whole. He said the 20% population increase since the last census in 2006 has important ramifications for services and infrastructure in the county.

He claimed that the previous government did not make enough provisions for the population growth in Laois.

“It is evident that the previous administration did not make sufficient provisions for the population explosion in Laois when it came to hospitals and schools. The most recent census figures make it clear that Laois as a county needs to retain its current services, which in certain areas may even need to be enhanced to cope with the rapidly expanding population.”

Deputy Flanagan said he welcomed the recent announcement on new schools in Laois, but said it was essential that we see bricks and mortar on these projects.

“The latest census figures show that Co. Laois needs a strong educational infrastructure in place to meet the needs of the large population. I have consistently called for extra Garda resources to police our expanding towns and villages in Laois.”

He continued: “It is essential that we have an active 24 hour A&E department in Portlaoise hospital. The new maternity unit in the hospital must also be considered a priority when you consider the fact that nearly 200 babies were born in the hospital every month over the last 4 years.”

The FG Deputy said improved services in the areas of Health, Education and Justice must remain a priority for this Government, but he said he would continue to remain in close contact with the relevant Ministers to ensure that services in Laois are retained and enhanced where possible.