Strategy to stop ‘unsustainable’ city growth

Simon Coveney: Government will learn from past 'mistakes'.

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has said a new “city strategy” is needed for Ireland to prevent the type of “unsustainable growth” in the Dublin region which happened over the last 20 years.

Mr Coveney said that there are “very exciting” opportunities ahead for cities like Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Galway and other towns and said the Government wants to hear from people about what they want from their city or town.

“If we don’t plan a new city strategy for Ireland we’re going to see the continued unsustainable growth for Dublin and we’re going to see the extra million people or so, that are going to be added to our population, doughnutted around the capital city which is what’s happened over the last 20 years,” he said in Waterford at the launch of the Southern Regional Consultation of Ireland 2040 — Our Plan.

“We need to create cities that are regional drivers but of course this plan is very much about the revival of rural Ireland as well; vibrant rural towns and villages, encouraging people to live in community settings again rather than one-off housing. I thinks this is going to be a very positive plan for rural Ireland but it will also be a very exciting plan for cities.”

The public can make submissions on the national planning framework until March 16 and a draft plan will then be prepared, for further public consultation during the summer, before a final version is submitted to the Government in the autumn.

The Government will learn from the “mistakes” of the previous National Spatial Strategy, published in 2002, when 23 towns were identified for major growth, he said.

“None of those 23 have been in the top 20 growth towns since then so the last National Spatial Strategy made sense in theory but in practice and in implementation it simply didn’t happen.”

One of the reasons for that was that “every town and every county felt they had to get their fair share and so I think the resources were spread too thinly,” while the arrival of the recession in 2008 also meant the money wasn’t available to spend on the necessary infrastructure.

Meanwhile, there was “no real plan for the development of the hearts of cities” and the population ended up living on the outskirts.

“We simply filled green fields with housing estates all over the country, acres and acres and acres of them. So I think this time we’ll have a much more ambitious plan for cities, from the centre out, and we’ll see higher density but much higher quality design of buildings,” Mr Coveney said.

The minister said the plan will incorporate submissions on the controversy over an independent recommendation to transfer part of south Kilkenny into Waterford City, which has caused outrage in Co Kilkenny.

“My job will be to try and find a solution that is politically acceptable for people in Kilkenny and Waterford but also can facilitate the well-managed growth and expansion of Waterford as a city. We can do both of those things… I know there are very strong feelings of attachment to people’s county, and I understand that coming from Cork, but look I’m confident that we can find a solution here that everyone can live with but at the same time achieve a very ambitious growth story for Waterford as a city, and that’s the core issue.”


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