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Ibec, the group that represents Irish business, has called for a number of amendments to the Draft National Planning Framework (NPF) ‘Ireland 2040’ for it to be sufficiently robust to deliver the full ambition of the plan.


Addressing businesses in Galway, Ibec West Regional Director John Brennan stated: “The draft NPF reflects a major effort across Government departments and has the potential to be a marked improvement over the last plan, the National Spatial Strategy.  The new focus on quality of life and placemaking is welcome.


“Innovative companies both national and multinational require highly educated workers and graduates. Talent can only be retained if the quality of life remains high. It is imperative that our cities remain attractive for higher education – attracting national and international students who require purpose-built quality affordable accommodation thus freeing properties in the private rental sector. A clear vision for Galway can be created through the Metropolitan Area Strategic Plans (MASP), allowing the city to build on its many strengths while addressing weaknesses.


“However, the national population projections are too conservative and undermine the NPF’s objectives in guiding population distribution, service provision and infrastructure investment. In the Draft, the population is projected to grow by 1 million between 2016 and 2040, with the population of Galway city and suburbs targeted to grow by 45,000 in that period. A more realistic migration scenario would see the population grow by 1.7 million over that period, which should be reflected in a redistribution of growth between Dublin and the regions.


“Delivering key projects including the M6 Galway City Ring Road, M17 Tuam-Sligo and upgrading the N5 Westport-Longford are critical. Improved road connectivity is a key enabler to the overall growth of the entire region and would greatly enhance the capacity of the region to attract and retain FDI. The National Investment Plan 2018-2027 must include an explicit list of projects with expected timeframes.


“To ensure that these can be delivered within the required timeframe, the Government needs to streamline the cumbersome planning consents regime. Decision timelines need to be better defined, especially relating to judicial reviews.


“Education and lifelong learning does not feature strongly enough in the Draft Framework. The lack of attention in the Draft to regional R&D, and indeed enterprise policy more generally, is of particular concern. Ibec recommends that the NPF should clearly articulate a set of strategic outcomes that acknowledge the differences in regional skills profiles and outline how regional workforce planning will be integrated in the Framework and the National Investment Plan. We are also recommending the provision of a framework for the development of a coherent strategy (including the use of PPPs) for capital investment in higher and further education. A Technological University would pave the way for growing the enterprise and economic base of the region and is vital to the future of the entire West region.


“Successful implementation of the NPF is key. Putting the NPF on a statutory footing is vital to ensure that Ireland’s planning system is a plan-based approach. It is essential to ensure strategies are adopted, rolled-out and capable of evolving without being undermined. We need to pay close attention to local and regional performance throughout the lifetime of the NPF to ensure the right conditions exist to allow the entire country to succeed. Formal reviews and performance monitoring metrics will be important.”