Ireland 2040: Planners criticise ‘focus on politics rather than reforms’

Planners have questioned the validity of the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 plan, saying while its promises are welcome, it appears to be focussed on politics instead of focussed on reforms.

Ireland 2040: Planners criticise ‘focus on politics rather than reforms’

Brendan McCormack, IT Sligo president, and Una Parsons, head of engineering school, IT Sligo, present Leo Varadkar with an Annie West caricature of the Cabinet, as junior

education minister Mary Michell O’Connor, and Sligo-Leitrim TD Tony McLoughlin look on. Picture: James Connolly

The Irish Planning Institute made the claim after the publication of the report by Leo Varadkar yesterday, saying the document raises as many questions as it answers.

In a statement responding to the plan alongside more positive responses from Engineers Ireland and regional organisations, the Irish Planning Institute’s president Joe Corr said while a two-decade infrastructure strategy was a “mature step”, there are still serious gaps in the document which must be addressed.

Warning the framework is about “politics following politics rather than politics following planning”, he said for planners, it remains unclear whether the lofty promises will ever be acted upon.

“While the Government’s decision to put a framework in place side-by-side with investment is a positive and mature step for our nation, today’s announcement raises more questions than gives answers about our ability to learn from our past.

“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.

“It presents as a framework for politics following politics rather than politics following planning,” Mr Corr said.

Engineers Ireland was more positive saying the plan “provides confidence for the engineering sector” and is “central to enabling prosperity, well-being and long-term growth” in all parts of the country.

“A new national regeneration and development agency will be the centre of expertise in strategic land development, and the construction sector working group will ensure dialogue between Government the construction sector,” the group’s director general Caroline Spillane said.

Both Cork and Dublin’s chambers of commerce also welcomed the Government plans, with Cork Chamber’s president Bill O’Connell particularly hopeful of the changes that have been promised.

“Today, we have a historic vote of confidence in Cork’s future economic and social significance to Ireland.

“We have repeatedly emphasised that Cork has the ambition and capacity to develop into a real complementary centre of growth to Dublin.

“Today, Government has bought into this vision, with the focus on Cork also aligned in the €116bn national development plan,” he said.

However, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association criticised the document, with its president Pat McCormack saying ultimately the report will be judged by how many of its promises ever come to pass.

“The €1bn rural regeneration fund is a real step in the right direction but looked at over a 10-year period, will that sum be sufficient given the massive need for investment in rural areas?

“We note too that only half of the fund is specifically dedicated to rural areas.

“In relation to funding for climate change initiatives, there is a very real opportunity for the Government not only to reduce carbon emissions through renewables but also to develop a vibrant rural-based renewable energy sector based on a family farm and community enterprises that would really boost rural economies rather than the industrial model which will have little if any benefit for rural areas,” he said.

“It is important the plan has at least acknowledged that investment in rural areas has fallen behind and did outline a number of positive initiatives, but judgement will await actual implementation.”

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