ESRI: More investment needed in second-tier cities to spread growth

The gap in prosperity between Dublin and the rest of the country is only going to become more pronounced if more is not done to stop the current pattern of growth which is so concentrated around the capital.

The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), in research to be published later today, has found there must be more investment in the “second-tier” cities so as to spread economic growth beyond Dublin and the mid-east region.

Edgar Morgenroth, the ESRI’s associate research professor, has made projections for regions and counties across Ireland up to the year 2040, examining what will happen if current spatial planning patterns continue.

He found that if current trends continue, population growth, employment growth and jobs growth will be concentrated in Dublin and the mid-east of Ireland — the population of the area will grow from 1.91m to 2.35m by 2040, meaning it will grow from 40% to 41.7% of the national population.

“If the current pattern of growth continues, it will lead to a further gap in prosperity between Dublin and the rest of the country,” said Prof Morgenroth. “In Dublin, it will lead to additional housing demand and increased long-distance commuting.”

He said the urban system is dominated by the scale of Dublin relative to other centres, meaning second-tier cities are unable to provide the range of functions to their hinterland seen in cities of similar rank in other countries.

“This reinforces the dominance of Dublin and limits the development potential of the other regions,” he said.

However, he is not advocating that growth be completely stunted in Dublin and the mid-east to allow for growth in the other regions. He said that such dramatic changes in the spatial patterns are unlikely to be feasible and would have undesirable implications.

“A more modest redistribution of growth is feasible, such as that envisaged under the scenario where growth is roughly equally split between the east and midland region and the rest of the country,” he said.

“This scenario would reduce some of the pressure on the greater Dublin region and while still allowing this to grow significantly.”

Prof Morgenroth said scaling up second-tier cities would provide a greater range of functions in nearby areas, but it is necessary to develop the necessary infrastructure, such as water and wastewater, urban public transport, schools etc, in those cities.

“It is essential that affordable housing and other amenities are provided in cities in order to attract people to live there and to avoid further sprawl,” he said. “The increased scale of the second-tier cities would allow them and their wider hinterland to generate more start-up firms and attract more FDI.”

Overall the ESRI predicts that, by 2040, the population will have grown by 900,000 to 5.64m people which, Prof Morgenroth said, implies a growth of 500,000 in the number of households.

“As the increase in households is particularly concentrated in Dublin and the mid-east as well as Cork and Galway, which are areas that have already been identified as having housing shortages, housing completions in these areas need to grow significantly,” he said.


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