Mr. Batt O'Keeffe, T.D., Minister of State Minister for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas has welcomed the high-level of engagement and firm support he has received from the NSS Gateway and Hub City and County Managers, when he met them to outline his plans for his broadened portfolio on Developing Areas.
In outlining the aim of the Developing Areas brief, the Minister highlighted - "the need to better position Government at both central and local level to co-ordinate development in fast-growing strategic locations throughout the country" - and stressed that this is a priority commitment for the Taoiseach and the Government.
He also recognised the need to look beyond the simple provision of housing to consider a more holistic approach to the development of sustainable communities and delivery of both hard and soft infrastructure - such as water and waste water services, roads and public transport, schools and sports and community facilities.
To drive forward the Developing Areas agenda, the Minister is focusing initially on those areas within the nine Gateways and nine Hubs - designated under the National Spatial Strategy - which are experiencing huge growth and development pressure and where the timely provision of the necessary infrastructure and supporting services needs to be addressed.
It is planned to concentrate on discrete developing areas where, for example, there is development potential of more than 1,000 new housing units and the Minister is engaging with the Managers to quickly identify these areas.
The Minister emphasised the need for his Department to lead by example. "I've set up a dedicated Developing Areas Team, overseen by a top-level steering group within my Department, to drive this work programme. I want this Team - in close partnership with the planning authorities, agencies and other Departments - to identity and help to resolve critical blockages in the co-ordinated delivery of infrastructure and services, necessary to create vibrant, sustainable communities."
The Minister also noted the progress that is already being made in ensuring delivery of schools' infrastructure and schools' places in key developing areas for September 2008 and beyond. "Both Minister Gormley and myself have met recently with Minister Mary Hanafin to discuss how we can assist in this regard and officials in my Department have been engaging in intensive joint discussions between the Department of Education and local authorities to progress the priority school sites in key locations where pressures are most acute."