1. Economics and Investment

Closed28 Sep, 2020, 1:00pm - 26 Oct, 2020, 5:00pm

Population Growth and Density 

The population of Carlow Town increased from 23,030 in 2011 to 24,272 in 2016, meaning that almost 43% of the population of the entire County reside within the Town. Should this level of population growth continue in the period to 2030, the population of the Town would reach approximately 28,000 people. 

While there was an overall increase in population during the intercensal period to 2016 this was not universal across all age cohorts with the population of those aged between 20-34 declining by almost 900 people. Given that this group is of working age, it will be critical for Carlow to retain a greater proportion of this age group. 

On the other hand there was an increase of almost1,300 people in the 35-64 age cohort. This may indicate that people who had moved away in their 20’s may be returning later in life. It is also notable that Carlow has a higher proportion of younger people than other urban areas such as Kilkenny. In terms of the proportion of people in Carlow who are at work, the settlement of Carlow has a rate of 48% while the County has a rate of 50% (this figure counts all people in the geographic area, not just those of working age/ability). By comparison, the settlement of Kilkenny has a rate of 54%, with Kilkenny County having 53% at work, both in line with the National figure of 53%. As expected for a capital city, Dublin has a slightly higher rate of 56%. Based on both the national figure and those for Kilkenny, Carlow Town would benefit from an improved employment offer. 

Greater employment opportunities will also be required if the Town is to retain more of its young people. 

Of those who are at work, 47% work in the categories of commerce & trade (24%) and professional services (23%) in 2016. This represents a decrease of 3% in those working in commerce and trade since 2011, while professional services have remained largely unchanged. The manufacturing industries category also employs a significant proportion of the working population in 2016 at 11%. This is also down slightly from 12% from the 2011 census. 

The map opposite indicates the population densities around Carlow as recorded in the 2016 Census. As shown on the mapping, population densities vary around the Town, from approximately 1,250 people per square kilometre in the Town Centre, the focus of commercial activity, up to approximately 7,000 people or more per square kilometre in residential areas outside of the Town Centre, where the boundaries of the ‘Small Area Population Statistics’ are tightly drawn. The average figure for Carlow is approximately 2,100 persons per square kilometre. 

Carlow population

Carlow Population

Notable from the population density mapping is the presence of the ‘doughnut’ effect, whereby population densities are generally higher in the areas surrounding the core Town Centre than in the Centre itself. However, an increase in population within the Town Centre by promoting and supporting Town Centre living, would have a range of benefits, including: 

  • Increased footfall for businesses within the Town Centre. 
  • Ability to access work, social, retail and recreational facilities on foot or by bicycle. 
  • A broader pool of local workers within the Town from which employers can recruit 
  • Potential for greater exchange of ideas and information for new businesses locating in the Town Centre 
  • Delivery of day and night time activity in the Town Centre and higher levels of passive surveillance 

The RSES for the Southern Region sets out population projections for each County in the Region up to 2031. By 2026, the RSES anticipates that the population of the County will grow to 62,000 - 63,000, or an uplift of 5,000 - 6,000 people. By 2031, the projection is that the population will increase to 64,000 - 65,500 people. 

Given that over 40% of the population of the County currently reside in Carlow Town (based on 2016 Census figures), this would indicate an increase of between 2,130 and 2,560 people by 2026 and between 2,985 and 3,625 by 2031. 

The higher end of these projections, + 3,625 people by 2031, would result in Carlow Town having a population of 27,897 by 2031. This is marginally lower than would be indicated by the growth that occurred during the last intercensal period, a continuation of which would result in a population of 28,000 in the Town in 2013. The lower end of the range presented in the RSES would result in a population growth that is significantly lower than historical trends would support. 

While an analysis of recent growth patterns, in combination with the RSES projections, provide a sound basis for understanding population growth, other external factors will also impact the level of future growth. Such factors include the delivery of initiatives in relation to employment and quality of life. One of the key issues affecting population growth in Carlow is the Town’s capacity to retain its younger population. An expanded third level offer combined with improved career prospects within the Town will help Carlow to compete with other locations. The comparatively low cost of housing should also act as an attractor in this regard. 

Should the recommendations of this Strategy be fully implemented, it is anticipated that the resultant improvements in the local economy and quality of life will support increased population growth, and retention in the 20-34 age cohort, above those experienced previously or projected by the RSES. 

In addition, there are agglomeration benefits for Carlow Town should it grow as a settlement. In this regard larger settlements will often have a competitive advantage in attracting knowledge intensive businesses due to the availability of qualified workforce, knowledge sharing opportunities and closeness of supply chain which in turn enables them to attract private investment. A larger population, in itself, also creates demands for education, health services, transport and other general community infrastructure as well as local amenities. The availability and quality of these assets also affect the location decisions of businesses, particularly in the service industry. 

Population Structure 

An analysis of the change in age structure between the 2011 and 2016 Census shows an ageing of the population, with a reduction in the number of people aged 20 to 34 and an increase in the number of people aged 35 and above. 

Overall, the total population in Carlow has increased from 23,030 in 2011 to 24,272 in 2016, an increase of 1,242 persons or 1.06% on average per annum. This would result in a future population of around 28,118 by 2030 which is considered reasonable. 

This increase between 2011 and 2016 is distributed as follows: 

  • The number of people aged 0-14 (children) has increased by 358 people, representing c. 30% of the population increase. 
  • The number of people in the 15-19 age cohort has also increased, by 150, making a c. 12% contribution to the change in population number. 
  • The 20-34 age group, or young professionals, decreased by nearly 900 individuals, a -77% contribution towards the population change. 
  • The 35-64 increased by 1,293 individuals accounting for 104% of the change. 
  • People in age of retirement, 65 and above, increased by 318 individuals, 26% of the total change. 

An examination of neighbouring Kilkenny, shows that there are major differences between the two settlements in terms of population distribution. The population of Carlow is relatively younger than Kilkenny, with a higher proportion of children (14 and under) and young professionals (20-24). The high proportion of young persons in Carlow may be attributable to the presence of two third-level educational institutions (Institute of Technology Carlow, Carlow College) or lower housing prices, both sale prices or rental prices, making the area more affordable for students, young professionals and young families. 

New residential units to support growing Town Centre population.

Education and Training 

According to the 2016 Census, 50.4% of the population aged 15 and over had a low level of education, upper secondary or below. This is relatively high compared to other settlements such as Kilkenny, 46.3% or Dublin, 43.8% and is above the State average, 48.6%. 

The proportion of university graduates, bachelor, postgraduate, doctorate, at 25.1% was also low compared to other settlements such as Kilkenny with 32.1% and Dublin with 40.3%. It is however, notable higher than the State average of 19.8%. 

The proportion of the population in Carlow with an intermediate level of education, technical/advanced/ higher certificate, at 24.5% is greater than in other settlements such as Kilkenny with 21.6% and Dublin with 15.8%. It is also higher than the State figure of 21%. 

Carlow Institute is located in the Town and is a specialist college in South Leinster, and the largest provider in the region. With over thirty years’ experience, Carlow Institute supports people to develop their talents, with many progressing to Further or Higher Education. The two major third level providers in Carlow are Carlow College and the Institute of Technology, Carlow. Carlow College offers a range of undergraduate, postgraduate and evening courses, focused on arts, humanities, and social, political and community studies. The Institute of Technology accommodates a faculty of engineering, a faculty of science, and a faculty of business and humanities with science, technology, engineering and maths courses making up 75% of the prospectus. Given the existing educational profile identified above, enhancement of tertiary education sector in the Town must be actively supported. 

The level of education in an area is a determinant factor for some business when assessing new locations for their operations. Whilst some business activities will require access to a manual workforce, and therefore have a preference for areas with high proportion of the population with technical qualifications, knowledge based industries require access to a highly educated workforce. In the case of Carlow, the relatively lower level of educational qualification achieved by the population, both in the settlement and the County, may affect the attractiveness of the area for such businesses. 

The short term solution to this issue is to focus on industries that match the current skill set of the population. However, in order to grow Carlow’s employment base and build in resilience to external shocks there must be a drive to upskill. Given the changing economy and technological disruption and advancement, upskilling is necessary for a number of reasons, as discussed further below. 

Encouragingly, the 2016 Census indicates that the number of people with a low level of education has tended to decrease, whilst the number of people with a high level of education has increased. 

Technological University for the South- East (TUSE) 

The proposal for a technological university for the South- East would involve the amalgamation of Waterford IT and IT Carlow to create a multi-campus facility. The development of the programme would see Carlow IT become a campus of TUSE, with other campuses located in Waterford, Wexford, and Kilkenny. 

The RSES recognises the need for a Technological University in the South-East, stating that: 

“The lack of a competitive and internationally recognised university in the South-East puts that SPA at a disadvantage and hinders the potential for new business formation. Therefore, the project of the Technological University of the South-East (TUSE) is critical to the future economic performance of the South East SPA within the Southern Region”. 

The process for designation as a Technological University consists of four stages and requires the merger of two or more institutes of technology. Given the rigour of the application requirements, it is perhaps unsurprising that the process has suffered some setbacks and will require a delicate programme of engagement and negotiation. However, the benefits of the creation of TUSE are likely to be substantial to Carlow and a key driver of regional development. 

It is envisaged that the creation of TUSE will have the following benefits to IT Carlow: 

  • Broader and more diverse programmes of study; 
  • Enhancement of the expertise in the faculty and administrative support; 
  • Increased ability to compete for students, i.e. more students from Carlow may choose to study at TUSE than at IT Carlow given increased perceptions about the value of qualifications; 
  • Enhanced image/brand and name recognition nationally and internationally; 
  • New opportunities for expansion and development and for partnerships with other national and international institutions; 
  • Improved and expanded research capacity; and 
  • Enhanced student experience. 

Taken together, the above benefits are likely to result in an increase in student numbers, as the profile of the institution increases and its range of courses expands. It will also offer the opportunity to service the ever evolving needs of the working market for convenient lifelong learning opportunities that can be developed with industry to meet their needs. 

Report on the TU Research Network (TURN): Connectedness & Collaboration through Connectivity - October 2019 

The TURN high level working group recently , November 2019, presented their report on Technological Universities, outlining the importance of the sector going forward and put forward a strategy to create additional TU’s and enhance and progress existing TU’s. The Report identifies three main themes: 

  • Reforming the policy and funding framework for TUs; 
  • Investing in digital infrastructure; and 
  • Building and strengthening research capacity. 

The vision is one of interconnected campuses where high quality education can be delivered regardless of geographic location. 

Civic Spine - people walking between wooden buildings and trees

New Civic Spine: VISUAL and Carlow College Campus. 

The Report further highlights the pivotal role that TU’s can play in regional development, enabling deep collaboration between employers and the tertiary education sector, with a particular focus on innovation, technology and SMEs. It also acknowledges that the form that TUs take will be shaped by the unique character, environment and skills requirement of the region, with the TU serving as an anchor institution in its development and advancement. 

The Government views TU’s as having a vital role to play in delivering Project Ireland 2040 as key regional drivers of change and growth. Budget 2020 set aside €90 million over a three year period for this purpose. 

Construction and Manufacturing 

The construction and manufacturing industries in Carlow Town employs approximately 1,400 people out of the working population of the Town. As identified in the table below, many of the key employers in the Town are in these sectors. 

Given its existing base, Carlow Town is well positioned to diversify its offer in the area and attract an increasing number of businesses operating in the expanding field of building innovation. There is also growing demand in the area of construction material development and manufacture, particularly in the context of sustainable development and nearly zero energy buildings. 

Carlow Town already posses a range of assets that support further expansion in the area of building innovative such as: 

  • A high concentration of environmental service businesses; 
  • IT Carlow which provides courses in engineering, computing, business and the built environment; and 
  • A high concentration of building solution developers and manufacturers, such as filtering systems, ventilation systems, telecom and IT networks. 

Working with these assets and supporting and facilitating the creation of synergies between the third level institutes and the existing manufacturing related companies, Carlow Town can develop niche technologies and create a centre of excellence in the field of emerging construction technologies. This, in combination with investment in the development of high value manufacturing, such as home technology solutions, presents Carlow Town with the opportunity to be at the forefront of the building innovation sector. 




Manufacturing of hydraulic cylinders and rams 

Merck & Co. 

Manufacturing of pharmaceutical products 


Manufacturing of prefabricated modules 

Thermo Air 

Design and manufacturing of bespoke Air Handling Units and innovative air movement solutions 

Optical Sciences 

Provision of environmental monitoring services and filtering systems 

AGK Limited 

Design and manufacturing of parking and display solutions 


Telecoms Infrastructure Design, Supply, Construction and Management Specialists 

REL Group 

Engineering in mechanical solutions and in the installation and maintenance of air conditioning, refrigeration, ventilation, heating, plumbing and all forms of dispense systems 


Provision of IT Products and Services to businesses, government bodies, health and educational organisations 

Pembroke District Opportunity Site

Pembroke District Opportunity Site

Opportunity Areas: Vacancy/Dereliction/Underutilisation  

In recent years vacancy levels and the number of underutilised/vacant sites within Carlow Town have increased. These include the terrace of currently vacant houses on Barrack Street, the former Bank of Ireland site close to the Civic buildings on the Athy Road and the adjacent lands along the Barrow Track, the former cash & carry site on Kennedy Street, the cultural quarter around Carlow College, the Pembroke area, as well as the core Town Centre blocks. 

While this increase has negatively impacted the Town in terms of vitality and vibrancy, permeability and the lack of a sense of a core, it also presents opportunities. Many of the existing underutilised/vacant sites are strategically located within the Town Centre, with their development providing the opportunity to not only deliver new uses, such as employment, community, and innovative forms of residential, but to enhance permeability within the Town, link uses and space and create a definable Town Core. 

There are also a number of opportunity sites outside of the Town Centre including the former Braun electric site on the N80. These sites have the scale and potential to facilitate significant employment generators for the South- East Region. 

Approaches to reducing vacancy levels, dereliction and underutilisation include the identification of suitable empty or unused space above existing ground level shops in the Town Centre and their conversion into residential accommodation. Opportunities may be created for a mix of social housing, rental tenancy or private ownership that will serve to increase the vibrancy of the Town Centre. This overall approach can add to the drive towards providing increased levels of housing within the Town Centre in accordance with national policy objectives. 

Vacant and underutilised buildings can be brought forward for alternative uses such as business start-ups, temporary workspaces or pop-up shops that will draw people back to the Town Centre in the short-term, while future development proposals for these buildings can then be explored and formulated in the medium to longer terms. 

Publicly accessible and up-to-date information regarding available funding and grants through Government and local initiatives/incentives for the refurbishment of buildings should be promoted and made available to property owners. 

Pembroke District Indicative Future Development

Pembroke District Indicative Future Development

Outcomes and Actions 

A set of Outcomes have been derived and formulated in relation to the Economic and Investment Core Theme. An associated Action accompanies each that provides a clear direction for the delivery of the Outcome. 


Enhancing the vitality and viability of the Town Centre is at the core of this Strategy. Through the delivery of the public realm enhancements, improved accessibility, new uses and public spaces detailed in the Intervention Areas, people will be attracted back into the Town Centre, to work, live and visit.





* Supports an increased population in 2030

* Enhanced retail activity at Town Centre locations

* Resultant increase in footfall will support retail activity, related enterprises and attract new business

* Support family owner and operated businesses, that currently account for a large proportion of the Town’s retail offer


Deliver the public realm enhancements, improved accessibility, new uses and public spaces detailed in the Carlow College Intervention.





* Enhanced connectivity between existing educational institutes and the Town Core

* Greater access to amenity spaces.

* Generates retail prosperity

* Attract new industries


Carlow Town has been identified as a key town within the Metropolitan Area Strategic Plan for Waterford, as part of the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Southern Region. Initiatives that enhance this role and function, such as the Technological University for the South-East (TUSE), and that further strengthen Carlow’s position within the South-East, should be actively pursued and supported.





* Greater connectivity with the Waterford Metropolitan Area

* Enhanced role within the South-East Region

* Supports balanced Regional development


The regeneration of the Town Centre as part of this Strategy is focused on 6 Interventions sites. The delivery of these sites needs to be actively pursued by the Local Authority through funding opportunities, public and private partnerships and incentives.





* Supports both Town Centre and wider Town regeneration benefits extending to the County and Region

* Development of Intervention sites will deliver new uses and operators to the Town

* Enhanced permeability within the Town

* Links uses and space and create a definable Town Core


Develop the Town Centre sites in the ownership of the Local Authority in line with the Interventions outlined in this Strategy. The process of leveraging this Strategy to secure funding under the URDF to realise the implementation of some of these Interventions has already commenced. Remaining Interventions should be advanced in line with this Strategy to position the Local Authority to make applications under the next round of URDF funding.





* Utilisation of Local Authority assets (e.g. land)

* Provides the justification for access to funding sources (e.g. URDF)

* Supports the implementation of this Strategy.


Support and encourage both IT Carlow and Carlow College to work directly with local construction and manufacturing industries to identify emerging technologies and areas of innovation and provide courses and research focused specifically in this field.





* A further expansion of the third-level education offer in Carlow Town

* Greater collaboration between third level institutes with a more diverse range of courses

* Builds synergies with local industries to develop niche technologies

* An opportunity for a centre of excellence in the field of emerging construction technologies.


Provide business support through the Local Authority’s Enterprise Office and available funding streams, for the expansion and diversification of existing manufacturing and construction businesses.





* Diversification of the construction and manufacturing industries

* Increase the number of businesses operating in the construction sector

* Expansion in the area of building innovation