Friday 25 January 2008

National Spatial Strategy should be scrapped, conference told

The National Spatial Strategy is not working and should be replaced by policies that favour growth in the area around Dublin, a conference was told yesterday.

The radical proposals were unveiled yesterday by the Futures Academy at Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT). The academy, a group of academic staff and researchers based at DIT, has warned that no proper planning is in place to deal with the most likely scenario that counties in the eastern half of the State will continue to grow faster than other counties.

The DIT warned that the spatial strategy, which envisages balanced growth, could be planning for a future that will never happen. It is proposing a transport network running in an east-west direction directly linking cities like Sligo and Dundalk and Tralee and Waterford, along with a high-speed rail link from Belfast to Waterford.

The academy's draft report, commissioned by the Urban Forum (which consists of groups representing engineers and planners), points out that regional cities, with the exception of Galway, grew slower than the national average in the last decade, and that the largest growth was concentrated in the counties around Dublin.

It warned that planning policies that attempt to fight the trends of where people actually live are doomed to failure and support for shifting resources from east to west may not be there in the future as the voter base becomes increasingly urban.

The report envisages that by 2030 the portion of the population living in Dublin and the 10 nearest counties will increase from 53 per cent to 60 per cent, with 3.8 million people out of a population of 5.3 million living within 25km (15.5 miles) of the east coast. This will happen irrespective of the spatial strategy, the academy says.

The plan was presented yesterday to the Dublin Chamber of Commerce seminar, The Future of Dublin - Imagine Dublin 2020. The chamber has endorsed the proposals.

The plan's recommendations are in direct contrast to the Government's spatial strategy of balancing regional development.

The strategy, which began in 2002, envisages developing nine gateway cities: Dublin, Cork, Limerick/Shannon, Galway, Waterford, Dundalk, Sligo, Letterkenny/Derry and the midlands towns of Athlone/ Tullamore/Mullingar, along with nine medium-sized hubs.

The strategy, which runs until 2020, envisages that regional towns and cities would be twice the size they are now, providing a counterbalance to Dublin.

The Irish Times

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