Speech by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny T.D at the launch of the National Planning Framework Initial Public Consultation Paper

Speech by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny T.D at the launch of the National Planning Framework Initial Public Consultation Paper
NUI Maynooth
Thursday, 2 February, 2017 at 12 noon


President Nolan,
Ministers,
Members of the Oireachtas and local authorities,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here today in this prestigious venue to launch the consultation for Ireland's new National Planning Framework, “Ireland 2040 – Our Plan”.

Last year we reflected on the events of 1916 and the emergence of our State. We were encouraged to Remember, Reflect and Re-imagine.

Today is most definitely about imagining!

Imagining the type of future we wish to see for Ireland, and especially for the young people studying here in this University today.

When it comes to future planning, this is not an easy task.

It is unavoidable that sometimes in politics the urgent can displace the important.

Planning for the longer term was difficult back in 2011, which, if we are to be honest, was about survival in the aftermath of an economic, banking and financial collapse.

In 2011 commentators were talking of what to do with nearly 3,000 ‘ghost estates’. National recovery and job creation had to be prioritised.

By necessity, infrastructure planning focussed on what could be afforded. In the midst of crisis, we simply lacked the financial scope or breathing space to take a longer-term view.

Today, we face a different set of obstacles, not least those posed by Brexit.

The Government is already working on shorter-term initiatives such as the Action Plan for Jobs, Rebuilding Ireland, and the Action Plan for Rural Development.

But now is the time to think about the longer-term future of all parts of this island – and how to plan for that future.

Ireland 2040 – Our Plan is a discussion about how to secure sustained, long-term and regionally balanced progress –on social, economic and environmental fronts.

This is important and it is why it was part of our Programme for Government.

It is also true that the history of previous plans in the space has not been good. The former National Spatial Strategy was not a success and we need to take that into account in this process.

Having said that there have been notable positives in planning reform after lessons were hard learned after the property crash.

County and City Development Plans and reforms to land planning have improved a lot in recent years. In fact significant progress has been made in addressing the issue of inappropriate and excessive zoning of lands.

However, we now need to develop a National Planning Framework to act as a better guiding hand for counties and the regions.

With the return of economic and social stability there are a number of projections and challenges that are quite likely to be realised that we need to start planning for today.

We are expecting the population of Ireland to grow by about 1 million people over the next 20 years.

Coupled to the growth of the population of Northern Ireland, we can foresee an island population approaching or exceeding the figure of 8 million people – a figure indelibly etched in our psyche given the catastrophe that befell the population of this island in the 1840s.

The number of people aged over 65 will double to comfortably exceed one million. This fact alone, and how we respond to it, will define a generation.

Our increased population will require 500,000 new homes by 2040 and there will be almost 2.5 million working in the economy.

Where will these people live? Where will they work? How will they commute? ... are some of the key questions that this consultation will pose.

Tackling these questions is essential for the future well being of our society. We have already seen at home and abroad the consequences of bad spatial planning that results in long commutes, social isolation, poor health and environmental damage.

We need to unlock the potential of our regions and avoid cyclical boom and bust cycles.

This is about reducing disparities by embracing the development opportunities unique to each region.

This paper is the start of a major consultation process so that we can avoid the mistakes of the past.

Every community and every region needs to have their say. This framework should be seen as a national plan, not a Fine Gael plan or Government plan. This will only have a positive impact if it is accepted and implemented in the coming years.

Crucially this plan will also work in tandem with the review of the capital plan and a new 20 year vision for capital investment in the country that Minister Donohue is getting underway.

There is, I believe, a certain symmetry about the location of today's launch. It was from this University back in the late 1990’s that your recently retired Vice President, Professor Jim Walsh, led the calls for new strategic, long-term thinking about the development of our country.

Jim is here with us today and I want to thank him for his sustained interest in regional and rural development and his help in organising this event today.

I will leave the detail of where the National Planning Framework could bring us to Minister Coveney, who is to be commended for taking on this important but challenging initiative.

Today marks the start of an honest conversation about the potential of our places, urban and rural. We are not coming to you with preset answers. We want to get everyone engaged in the debate.

We want a wide range of views, perspectives and ideas to help us shape an ambitious yet viable Plan for the coming decades.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh.