Wednesday, 24 January 2007


What do you think? Here's the Dept of Environment's press release:

"Environmental sustainability and balanced regional development are cornerstones of the National Development Plan" said Mr. Dick Roche, T.D., Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government following today's (23rd January 2007) publication of the National Development Plan 2007-2013 which includes investment of over €32 billion on measures for which his Department is responsible.

Environmental Sustainability
"The Government is convinced that economic growth and progressive environmental policies can, and must, go hand in hand. Sound environmental management is now an accepted prerequisite for all of Ireland's key industries and will create further economic opportunity. Environmental protection and economic progress are increasingly being viewed as mutually reinforcing.

Because of this the National Development Plan has been constructed around principles that are as environmentally robust as possible. The NDP does not simply list out some environmental projects on which money is to be spent: it analyses the principal environmental issues facing our country and it sets out the action to be taken to address them. Some of these actions require direct investment and some require other responses on our part. It adds up to a clear, rational and consistent approach which will generate results, just like the Plan as a whole" he said.

The Minister pointed out that some €25 billion will be invested in programmes generating an environmental dividend. The include, but are not limited to, public transport, water and waste water services, waste management, climate change, sustainable energy, natural and built heritage and research into environmental technologies. "All these programmes will give rise to real benefits for our environment. Better public transport systems will encourage people to switch from private to public transport and this is a win-win solution. It will enable people to travel for work or for pleasure more sustainably and quickly. It will see reductions in vehicle emissions and assist in meeting our Kyoto targets for greenhouse gases" said the Minister.

He also said that the Plan would continue to provide resources for drinking water quality, effluent disposal and waste management, all of which would build upon the rapid progress made in these services in recent years.

Achievements of NDP 2000-2006
"This National Development Plan is being launched from a very solid base" said the Minister "with huge investment made and real and lasting outputs achieved under the NDP 2000-2006 which positions us well for the next phase of the development of our economy and society". For example, under NDP 2000-2006:

· 337 water and wastewater projects were completed (up to the middle of 2006) with an investment of €3.2 billion over the period of the Plan. The increase in wastewater treatment capacity since 2000 is the equivalent to the needs of a population of 3.1 million. Irish wastewater discharges rose from 25% compliance with the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive in 2000 to over 90% today.

· 39,000 Local Authority and Voluntary Housing units and 12,400 Affordable Housing units were provided with an investment of over €10 billion;

· spending on non-national roads reached over €3.1 billion – 30% ahead of target. Over 51,000 kilometres of non-national roads were improved/restored between 2000 and the end of 2005;

· the 2013 national recycling target was achieved in 2005, 8 years ahead of schedule.

National Spatial Strategy/Gateways Innovation Fund
"The National Spatial Strategy has already been a driving force behind infrastructure decisions taken by Government since it was launched in 2002" said the Minister. "For example, it was a key influence in determining the scale and priority of investment under Transport 21. It has led to a reorientation of investment under my Department's water and sewerage services investment programme and had led to the introduction of a scheme to support development of Strategic Non-National Roads for NSS gateway areas. This new NDP allows us systematically thread the NSS through our investment policy."

Continued and accelerated implementation of the National Spatial Strategy (NSS) is the Government's main policy instrument for achieving more balanced regional development over the period of the NDP.

Under the NDP, investment in the regions, particularly infrastructure investment, will be based on the regional planning roadmap set out in the NSS and which has already been translated into regional planning guidelines which set the strategic policy agenda for local authority development plans at city and county level. These guidelines will be the template to secure good alignment between public investment plans at national level and physical planning at regional and local levels.

The Minister particularly welcomed the establishment of a dedicated Gateways Innovation Fund with an initial Exchequer allocation of €300 million to cover its operations over the period 2008-2010; this will be reviewed as part of the NDP Mid-term Review foreseen for 2010. In welcoming the Fund, Minister Roche said, "The Fund is evidence of the Government's commitment to the NSS. It will provide tangible support to the development of the nine Gateway cities and towns designated under the NSS allowing them to provide a competitive and vibrant environment for enterprise, and a high quality of life that attracts people to live in them. Strong Gateways will be drivers for the development of their wider regions, including surrounding towns, villages and rural areas ".

The Minister highlighted the interrelationship between environmental quality and the National Spatial Strategy. "This Plan is a good example of joined up thinking," he said. "Better spatial planning reduces our environmental footprint. It enables us to avoid long commuting distances, and to live close to the infrastructure and amenities on which a modern society depends. It will give rise to the critical mass of development that will repay investment in public transport. Everyone benefits. A better quality of life and a better environment can, and will, go hand in hand".

National Development Plan 2007-2013
"We have committed very significant resources under NDP 2007-2013 so that we can decisively tackle the remaining priority infrastructural challenges" said the Minister. He pointed to:

· a proposed investment of over €21 billion, of which about €15.5 billion, will come from the Exchequer, on housing measures that will address the accommodation needs of 140,000 households;

· an investment of €4.7 billion on Water Services, to facilitate economic, housing, and other development while ensuring that environmental sustainability objectives are achieved. Meeting the development needs of NSS gateways and hubs while be a key priority.

· a total of €4.3 billion being invested in non-national roads aimed at improvement of and maintenance of the non-national road network and on strategic non-national roads with a particular focus on roads in NSS gateway areas;

· waste management remaining a key priority with total investment of some €750 million by the public and private sectors. The main aim of this investment is to address the problems associated with legacy landfills, support, through private investment, the development of thermal treatment plants to reduce landfill usage and continue to promote recycling and recovery;

· the Government's commitment to achieving it's Kyoto protocol targets with a provision of up to €270 million for the purchase of carbon credits through the Carbon Fund which is to be established through legislation this year;

· investment of €895 million on community infrastructure, which includes €476 million for urban and village renewal, public libraries and fire services:

o The Urban and Village Renewal programme will support projects aimed at enhancing the public realm such as streetscapes, public buildings, squares, parks and riverfronts, cycling and pedestrian facilities.

o Investment under the libraries programme will be aimed at further improvement and expansion of the public library service through library infrastructure provision, ICT provision, improvements in the range and quality of the stock and improvements in service provision. This will build on the major programme of improvements introduced since 1998 with the publication of the Government's "Branching Out – a New Public Library Service". Since then, 51 new libraries have been opened including 9 in 2006.

o Investment in Fire Services will support the further development of this key service which has benefited from the completion of 37 new fire stations since 1999.

· significant investment being made across a range of other programmes including Built and Natural Heritage (€540 million) and Environmental Research (€93 million).

"The key challenge now is delivery and doing so in a way that secures cost certainty and value for money. A flexible construction industry, a well resourced local authority system, new fixed price contracts and new streamlined planning processes introduced under the Strategic Infrastructure Act are important parts of the armoury that will allow us achieve these objectives" concluded the Minister.

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