Pre-Draft Submission for the National Planning Framework Consultation

31st March 2017
Submission Summary

A new National Planning Framework entitled, ‘Ireland 2040’, is currently being developed by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government. This is intended to succeed the National Spatial Strategy. It will provide a framework for national planning, pulling together relevant Government policies and investment on national and regional development. The focus will be on economic development and investment in housing, water services, transport, communications, energy, health and education infrastructure. An Taisce has made a pre-draft submission to the consultation, the mains points of which are outlined below.

An Taisce’s Vision

Because of its overriding interest in sustainable development, An Taisce almost uniquely strives to represent the long-term public interest and in equal measure social, environmental and economic agendas, in planning. Driven by the imperatives of sustainable development, An Taisce favours balanced regional development. Essentially that involves a shift in development from Dublin to Cities (particularly) and towns and villages outside Greater Dublin. The principal driver of the National Planning Framework (NPF) should be properly planned investment in, and expansion of, the four Regional cities of Cork, Limerick, Waterford, and Galway. In particular, development of sprawl from Dublin in Meath Wicklow and Kildare, and beyond, and of one-off housing that is not for those living and working on the land need to be curtailed because they are unsustainable and because they undermine more sustainable and balanced region growth. There is a serious danger that over-emphasis on the economic agenda will lead national government to favour development of Dublin. Sustainable societies aim to give people the option of remaining in the area where they grew up.

Challenges

There are numerous challenges, but the greatest is that of implementation. Irish planning has been marked, historically, by successive implementation failures of plans and strategies. Enforcement is the key to the success of the NPF and as such failure of resolve to enforce is the biggest obstacle to achieving the goals of any policy. The NPF will provide the strategic spatial policy context for decisions and actions by our Government and planning authorities. An Taisce considers planning imperatives and all documents within the planning hierarchy should be prescriptive. It is the onus of the government to ensure that every document in this hierarchy, including planning permissions, implements the national planning framework.

The NPF should address Ireland in its wider context and the major challenges and changes facing society both currently and in the coming decades, including our current settlement patterns, revitalising our rural communities, mitigation and adaptation for Climate Change (including limiting transport generated emissions), catering for a demographic shifts, catering for unpredictable growth scenarios and providing for effective regional development that would provide counter magnets for Dublin without undermining the key role played by Dublin. The NPF should be reflective of Ireland’s diverse and unique places. The key planning outcomes of the NPF should encourage sustainable growth; promote inward investment through the identification of specific opportunities for urban and rural locations based on the resources and demographics for a given area; create sustainable places for all; protect and improve our environment and ensure a low carbon future.

A priority of the NPF should be to strengthen the quality of life for current and future generations in Ireland. Society’s health and well-being should play an integral role in this. Our current settlement pattern and expected shift in Ireland’s demographics is and will continue to contribute to serious health issues. The negative health impacts being experienced can be associated with our current development pattern, our urban design and high car dependency. Such health impacts include obesity, cardiovascular disease and asthma. The way we shape our built environment can influence our everyday lifestyle choices that affect our own personal health. The NPF must ensure to address this at its core. Green infrastructure must also play a central role, particularly for the purpose of health and well-being of citizens, but also of maintaining critical ecosystem services and resources provided by nature to our society and our economy.

Smart growth and spatial planning that supports economic, social and environmental sustainability should be the key focus of the NPF. Spatial development and land use that reduces our car dependency will not only have clear environmental impacts through emission reductions and improved air quality but would also have measured benefits for the health and well-being of Irish society.

Read the full submission below.