CITIES SUCH as Cork, Limerick and Galway should focus on their distinctiveness and not on attracting people as a counter to the burgeoning east coast, according to a research paper commissioned by the Urban Forum.
However, the paper's findings have already been challenged by the Irish Planning Institute.
These so-called "gateway" cities should try to complement the eastern corridor rather than concentrate solely on population growth as outlined in the National Spatial Strategy (NSS), the report urged.
Urban Forum chairman Henk van der Kamp said the report, Twice the Size? Imagining the Future of Irish Gateways, was aimed at stimulating debate on planning for an island with population projections of eight million people in 25 years' time and 12 million by 2058.
"The population growth in the gateways between 2002 and 2006 has been rather modest compared to the State's average. Only two gateways, Galway and Letterkenny, which are not in Dublin's sphere of influence, achieved a growth rate higher than the State's average.
"It is unlikely that the gateways outside Dublin's sphere of influence will achieve high rates of population growth in the future, as projected in the NSS, without robust implementation of specific growth policies," said Mr van der Kamp.
The research paper, prepared by the Futures Academy of the Dublin Institute of Technology, emphasises the economic case for concentrating population growth in the eastern corridor, stretching from Waterford city through Dublin up to Belfast.
Mr van der Kamp instanced the report's recommendations regarding Cork capitalising on its distinctiveness as "a city of water" and exploiting the amenities and resources of the River Lee, Cork harbour and its docklands.
The Urban Forum consists of Engineers Ireland, the Irish Landscape Institute, the Irish Planning Institute (IPI), the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland and the Society of Chartered Surveyors.
However, IPI president Andrew Hind took issue with the report, saying that while the IPI acknowledged its purpose was to stimulate debate on national planning issues, it did not support its recommendations.
"We also support . . . efforts . . . to secure the growth of a second major conurbation of international significance centred on Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford," said Mr Hind.
The Irish Times