Project 2040 choices send mixed messages about evidence-based planning
- Effective evidence-based planning only possible if supported by legislation and regulation
- Commitment to brownfield development welcome but resource plan is misaligned
“While Government’s decision to put a National Planning Framework (NPF) in place side by side with investment in key infrastructure is a positive and mature step for our nation as it enters its second century of independence, today’s announcement raises more questions than gives answers about our ability to learn from our past”
Mr. Joe Corr, President of the Irish Planning Institute (IPI), the professional body representing planners in Ireland, was speaking as the IPI responded to publication today (Friday, 16 February, 2018) of ‘Ireland 2040’. “Good planning is evidence based” he said. “The framework proposed today sets out four cities and five towns outside Dublin as growth centres. That is one more than the eight gateway cities in the Spatial Strategy of 2002. The evidence of the past 15 years is that this didn’t work.”
“We recognise fully the imperative, and indeed responsibility, of public representatives to address citizens’ concerns. From a professional planning perspective however, ‘Ireland 2040’ is not following the evidence as we hoped it would in order to become a robust enabling tool to shape and enable future investment in the growth of our society and its economy by both public and private sectors. It presents as a framework for politics following politics rather development following planning.”
Mr Corr called for a priority in the commitment to an independent Office for Planning Regulation with legislative backing. “A national framework is only one part of a series of connected measures to guide planning with Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (RSESs) and local area development plans to follow. The biggest danger here is that the grip on evidence as a basis for planning loosens even further as those further measures are rolled out. Legislation to control delivery is essential and requires the political and related stakeholder support to develop and implement sustainable solutions”
Developing on brown rather than green fields
Looking at the detail of the Framework, Mr Corr said that the IPI welcomes the NPF emphasis on reusing previously developed ‘brownfield’ land in both an urban and a rural context “Establishing some priority for brownfield over greenfield use is a positive way to addresses challenges to both economic and environmental sustainability. It serves to reduce sprawl, to increase the efficiency of land use and enables a more focused and efficient investment in infrastructure”
However, he said, the IPI questioned the balance in the proposed funding support given the requirement to five metropolitan plans where land values are significantly greater than in rural areas. “Where is the evidence to back up these figures? We would also like to see assurances that funds for rural area development go to regeneration of essential physical and social infrastructure in villages and small towns and not on rural roads which encourages further one-off housing, for example”.
The specific direction of the NPF is of course also critical as a means of enabling Ireland respond effectively to the challenges of climate change. It provides a frame for guiding balanced growth and for informed and cohesive decision making in the future.
Mr Corr said that the IPI and its members look forward now to having an active role at regional and local level in bring the NPF to life. “We welcome and endorse the leadership which the NPF provides. As a framework it leaves ample scope for addressing local needs in an active and informed way. We believe as a community, in both the private and the public sectors that we have a lot of insight available to support implementation and will be advocating strongly for a continued commitment to this thinking from all stakeholders towards 2040”