Statement by Labour Party spokesperson on Housing and Local Government, Jan O’Sullivan TD on the National Planning Framework

21 February 2018

Dáil Éireann, February 21st, 2018


Page 16 of the 177-page-long National Planning Framework has a section entitled Learning from the Past and it refers to the 2002 National Planning Strategy as being “not a statutory plan with legislative backing”

It then refers to the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016 as providing a legislative basis for the new National Planning Framework.

The problem is that that Bill is not yet law.

I quote from p 44 of the Bill, under the heading Matters to be Addressed in National Planning Framework: “Any document, published after the commencement of this Chapter, that amends of replaces the NSS or thereafter revises the NPF shall address matters set out in subsection (2) and it goes on to list the matters to be addressed. It is clear that the NPF was supposed to come after the commencement of the Act.

I can’t see any way around this except to bring it back to the Houses of the Oireachtas after the enactment of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016 (note: it is a Bill whose date of publication is January 2016 so waiting another month or so after 2 years plus would not seem too excessive).

This is the crux of the problem of the legitimacy of this whole exercise and it can’t be glossed over by Government.

Last Friday, in Sligo, we got a non-statutory, ad hoc publication delivered with all the razzamatazz of a vaudeville production.

I’m not sure what W.B. Yeats, that great Sligo poet, playwright and member of the Oireachtas would have made of it but “fumble in the greasy till” comes to mind when it comes to the amount of money that must have gone into the lavish production, not to mention the advertisements on 2 page spreads in selected local papers, on Twitter, Facebook and even in the cinema.

Of course we welcome the work that has been done in drafting the Plan, the widespread consultation, to which we contributed at each stage by way of written submissions, and the spending programme of €116 billion. The Labour Party favours public investment on projects that benefit the public and we also favour good, strategic planning.

However, we don’t believe it is radical enough in addressing inequality, in protecting our environment, in developing sustainable transport and in achieving regional balance.

In my portion of the time allotted I want to talk about regional imbalance.  I have no doubt that the country will still be unhealthily balanced with an even more sprawling greater Dublin area by 2040.  I say this after looking at the spending plans rather than buying the grand aspirations expressed.

I say it also in the context of the growth figures in the plan: for Dublin, for the other cities and for towns and smaller urban centres and rural areas.  I will speak in particular about the cities.

The draft plan clearly stated that the cities of Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford would be the major growth centres but there are limits set on their growth.  There was a submission from my region made to the draft Plan, agreed by the 3 local authorities, chambers of commerce, the Shannon Airport Authority and supported by me and other public reps expressing greater ambition for Limerick but it is not reflected in the final document.  Limerick is more ambitious for itself than the Government is for Limerick. Others have confidence in us too; Limerick was recently named European City of the Future by the Financial Times in its population category.  We intend to grow and prosper and this plan will constrain us.

I particularly reject the implication in the analysis of Edgar Morgenroth that you have to choose between investing in cities and connecting them to each other.  He said “if you want growth in these places the investment has to go into them and not between them.”  It should not be either/or; the linking of Galway, Limerick and Cork with a decent road network is essential if we are to not have all roads leading to Dublin. It is needed to create the Atlantic Corridor to counterbalance the Eastern corridor and it should go on to Waterford.  At a maximum cost of €900,000 million it hardly matches the €3 billion for metro link and the €2 billion for DART expansion, €1 billion plus to bring water to the East…I could go on.

I am not saying that public transport in Dublin shouldn’t have investment, it should. But, if you do the sums, investment in the other cities does not compare.

 It seems that the evidence-based, comprehensive submission with strong support from stakeholders in the Mid-West, found no favour in the final document and I wonder was it pushed aside by the last minute scramble to keep all members of the cabinet happy and to ease the anxiety of Fine Gael backbenchers.

I believe this is only the start of the next phase of the debate.  To have a statutorily-based plan, there will have to be a parliamentary process after the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill is enacted.



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