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Explainer: What is the National Planning Framework 2040?

Plans for how Ireland will be developed over the next two decades are already under fire.

Galway
Galway
Image: Shutterstock/Luca Fabbian

MINISTERS DON’T USUALLY meet on a Monday, but they’re in Leinster House today for a special Cabinet meeting on the National Planning Framework.

What’s it all about? Well, let’s take a look.

What is the National Planning Framework?

What will Ireland look like in 2040? That is essentially what the National Planning Framework (due to be published in the coming weeks) plans to set out.

Basically, it is the government’s long-term plan for what Ireland should be like in about twenty years time.

It seeks to answer questions like: Where will we live? Where will we work? And how will we get around?

Between now and 2040, the government wants to pull together all its action plans to ensure that it has national and regional strategies in place as Ireland’s population grows and as challenges such as Brexit land on our doorstep.

The special Cabinet meeting being held today will discuss the plan, which will set out a framework to inform planning and infrastructure decisions for the next 20 years.

Cabinet won’t make any major decisions on the plan today, it’s really just an opportunity for ministers to set out their stalls and discuss the revised version of the plan.

What kind of things does it look at and why do we need one? 

The government will be looking at what mix of physical and social infrastructure is needed – how many schools, roads, health centres, sports, arts facilities and so on…?

It will also set out some of the large-scale infrastructure plans this government, and future governments, should roll out.

Ireland’s population is set to grow by a million people in the next 20 years, an extra 550,000 homes will be needed and we’re going to need about 660,000 more jobs.

Ministers say long-term planning is needed to make sure we aren’t playing catch-up.

Can I make a submission or give my two cents? 

The government accepted written submissions from the public from September until November of last year.

It also rolled out 10 forums to hear from members of the public about what they would like their town or area to look like in the years to come. A meeting on the plan – of a coalition of people who are against the draft version – is also taking place in Athlone this evening.

Why are some people not happy with the draft plan?

A number of TDs and senators believe the plan is leaving rural Ireland behind, and is putting too many resources towards the capital.

Sinn Féin Seanad group leader, Senator Rose Conway-Walsh said she does not sense at all that the Taoiseach understands how rural Ireland is being left behind.

“I stressed to him that I am not trying to portray rural Ireland as all doom and gloom, rather I wanted to point out the opportunities that are being lost day and daily due to the terrible state of infrastructure,” she said.

But it’s not just politicians that have concerns. The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) environment chairman Thomas Cooney has described the draft framework as “Dublin-centric and lacking ambition for rural Ireland”.

“The government’s aspiration to develop a planning framework out to 2040 in a balanced and coherent way fails rural Ireland, particularly in the addressing following four areas: the decline of rural towns and villages; the need to rebalance development towards the regions; the need for rural housing; and, supporting community based renewable energy development,” he said.

Minister for Rural and Community Development said the document being discussed at Cabinet today is just a draft document, admitting that there were some aspects of it he is unhappy with.

“What we need to do is start taking people out of the cities and into the towns. We need the growth towns,” the Mayo TD told RTÉ’s Sean O’Rourke this morning.

There have been calls on the government to ensure that Dáil vote is held on the final draft.

“As this document will be placed on a statutory footing, it is imperative that the Dáil gets a vote on the content of the final document,” said Sinn Féin’s Eoin O’Broin.

Read: What will Ireland look like in 2040? The government wants your thoughts>

Read: Ireland will need 550,000 more homes and 660,000 more jobs for extra 1 million people by 2040>

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