Regional Studies Association Irish Branch Annual Conference –

New Directions for Regional Development Policy in Ireland 

University College Cork – Friday 4 September

See link for updated Program

http://us9.campaign-archive2.com/?u=3f071b74cce0d09daa76f7bc7&id=08bad2c308&e=cc2deeb5bd

Back at the end of May, Minister Alan Kelly was out flying a kite. His objective was to cautiously test public reaction to proposed new wind energy guidelines which would also see a new 700m mandatory minimum setback distance introduced between new wind turbines and private dwellings. The current guidelines, which include an advisory 500m setback, have been the subject to sustained and vociferous criticism by a plethora of wind ‘information’ and ‘awareness’ groups across the country. A public consultation on the revised guidelines launched in early 2014 attracted an unprecedented 7,500 submissions. Despite repeated pledges that the new rules would be published imminently, they have yet to emerge, it is suspected due to an internal row between Minister Kelly and Minister Alex White’s Department of Energy, Communications and Natural Resources; who are trenchantly opposed to mandatory setbacks. In the run up to next year’s general election, the battle lines have been firmly drawn with local protests becoming ever more heated. Not for the first time, Minister Kelly appears to have found himself at the epicentre of a political debacle and raised public expectations for a policy which he cannot deliver.

Mirror Picture 22.07.15

The reason of-course is spatial. Ireland has a fast-approaching legal obligation to achieve 16% share of energy consumption (electricity, heat and transport) from renewable sources by 2020.  It is estimated that any shortfall could cost the state up to €600 million. On heat and transport, progress has been abysmal. In customary fashion, government focus has therefore remained squarely on stimulating supply-side solutions in electricity generation. In reality, onshore wind energy is currently the only realistic available technology capable of attracting sufficient private capital investment within the rapidly shortening time frame (a trend not unique to Ireland). However, by 2020, Ireland would need to achieve annual wind power growth significantly higher than anything historically achieved to date i.e. an absolute doubling of installed capacity. A very tall order, given current planning and grid connection delays. It is therefore little wonder that DECNR have firmly set their face against further setback restrictions. Such is the geographical distribution of ‘one-off’ houses in Ireland that a mandatory 700m setback would result in less than 15% of the entire landmass of the state being available for development. However, as illustrated in Map 1 below, the vast majority of this available land is located in European designated Natura 2000 sites i.e. increasingly ‘no-go’ locations for wind farms due to strict new legal requirements and risk of planning failure . In contrast, as illustrated in Map 2, the current 500m guideline setback allows for a much wider range of locations as potentially available for development.

WW22

Map 1 & 2: 700m and 500m setback distances (Source: AIRO – Click on map for larger image)

When all is said and done, and after all the rancor, delays, expense and wasted political capital, even if we were to achieve targets, a paltry 16% of our total energy demand will be met from renewable sources. Beyond 2020, Ireland will be required to achieve ambitious new targets on a rapid trajectory towards a complete decarbonisation of our energy systems by 2050 i.e. tomorrow in energy planning terms. We will need all of the renewable technologies available to us (and more) to achieve this, including of-course an important role for wind energy. However, what these maps clearly bring into sharp relief is that Ireland is a contested and congested space and the conflicting land-use implications of renewable energy networks must be included as centrally germane to considerations on national energy policies and technology choices, including in the forthcoming White Paper on Energy to be published next month (see Andrews et al. 2011 for an interesting analysis of geographical footprint of alternative energy sources). The key flaw in the current National Renewable Energy Plan (NREAP) is that it is dominated by technological and resource considerations. It is therefore ‘spatially blind’ and does not factor in the socio-cultural and environmental contextual conditions into which these technologies will be inserted. Instead these considerations are very much relegated to secondary, exogenous and downstream issues with the planning system simply tasked with swiftly removing barriers to deployment.

Moreover, it is inescapable that if we are ever hope to deal in any fundamental way with the required renewable energy transition, the debate must be urgently repoliticised away from an exclusive focus on supply-side fixes towards analogous solutions on the social side. For example, transport (overwhelmingly by private car) accounts for one-third of Ireland’s energy demand, and growing rapidly, yet barely ever registers in the energy debate (See Figure 1). In fact, instead of transport demand growth being seen as an area of concern, government actually encourages it and then trumpets it as evidence of a recovering economy!

WW Graph

Figure 1: Total Energy Flow in Ireland, 2013 (Source: SEAI)

There is no scenario for an equitable shift away from fossil fuels which does not represent a radical departure at every level from the reigning business-as-usual neoliberal orthodoxy i.e. a strategic state and an active role for government in long-term national planning. That means intensive demand-side efforts supported by resource taxes and public investment; cheap public transport accessible to all; affordable, energy-efficient housing along transport lines; cities, towns and villages planned for higher-density living; land management that discourages sprawl; urban design that clusters essential services like schools and healthcare along transport corridors etc. It also implies a much stronger role for public sector utilities in developing renewable energy and to give communities the power to develop local distributed energy solutions. In short, as persuasively argued by Naomi Klein, it means changing absolutely everything about how we think about the economy. However, as I have previously blogged, even at this late stage we are failing to recognise this self-evident reality. We will therefore continue to pay a massive procrastination penalty for our legacy of decades of poor spatial and building control policies which have locked-in high fossil fuel energy demand and which will now be extremely difficult and costly to unwind.

Gavin Daly

gavin.daly@nuim.ie

See also the AIRO Wind Energy Strategies Webtool 

 

A short animated film about rural Irish towns, directed and produced by Orla Murphy and Orla Mc Hardy in 2012

An excellent short animated film about the planning of rural Irish towns, directed and produced by Orla Murphy and Orla McHardy (2012), and presented at the recent MacGill Summer School session on ‘The Future of Rural Ireland – What Needs to be Done?’

Gavin Daly

Below is the text of the talk delivered at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Donegal by Lorcan Sirr as part of a panel on the future of housing policy in Ireland.

INTRODUCTION

At a zinc bar in Granada, I pondered how I would reply to Dr Mulholland’s invitation to speak here. As I did, the barman was playing Led Zeppelin on the stereo, a song called ‘What Is and What Should Never Be’, and from this of all things I got my cue about how to discuss Irish housing policy.

I’ve taken the liberty of changing it slightly as can be seen: what is, what should, and will never be.

WHAT IS

Ireland’s housing policy as it currently stands is a four page pdf document from June 2011 and one of those pages is a cover. It is called the ‘Housing Policy Statement’, a rather ambiguous title leading to confusion over whether it is actually policy or a statement about policy. Or indeed, just a statement.

The Housing Policy Statement is notable for three things.

Firstly, it reads as a form of mea culpa; an admission – if not quite an apology – of wrongdoing and a thinly veiled blaming of the previous administration’s approach.

Secondly, through its analysis of the role of housing in the crash, it is a detailed checklist of what not to do in housing.

Thirdly, it is more significant in being ignored and contradicted than implemented, which is somewhat ironic given its analysis of what went wrong.

The most positive aspect of the policy is the idea of basing the future of the housing sector on the concept of equity across tenures. Sensibly, it also proposes that the housing sector should make an appropriate contribution to the economy, rather than be a driver of it. There are subsequent strategies of course, but these should emanate from the policy, so it’s policy that’s crucial.

WHAT SHOULD BE

Although the economic role of housing (in job creation and asset wealth generation) is important, housing plays many more roles in Irish life. You wouldn’t know it from politicians, but housing is of critical importance in areas of health (and particularly mental health), in education, in human rights, in ageing, in quality of life and in general well-being. It is also deeply embedded with the concept of human dignity.

We now have a good handle on the issues that we face, and which a housing policy should provide guidance in tackling.

In terms of HOUSING, thanks to data from bodies like the Housing Agency, we know exactly how many houses we need and what locations we need them in. For example, we know that from 2014-2018 Clonmel will need 480; and the Dublin region will need 37,581 in the same period. This is significant step forward compared to previous housing practices where housing was provided with little or no regard to where housing was actually needed – the results of this crazy Late Late Show ‘one for everybody in the audience’ methodology can be seen in the ghost estates littering the country.

We know that supply of land isn’t the total problem – there is plenty of land ready to be built upon – the issue is an ability and willingness to build. We know we need to achieve housing affordability, but not necessarily at the expense of standards – there is a concerted attempt to reduce standards mostly from people who ignore other costs, especially social costs.

Our new-found ability to unearth uncomfortable evidence demonstrates that we have both an ageing population and a population with far more diverse household sizes (by 2018, nearly 60% of Dublin households will be one or two person, for example). So we know we need housing for people at difference stages of life and different household compositions: one-size fits all three- and four-bed semi D’s should no longer be the default position but yet are exactly what the industry is determined to build.

Connecting all this of course is the issue of increasing the supply of both private and social housing for both sale and rent. And in addressing issues of supply, of course, we also address issues of affordability, which should be the key component of any housing policy. Relying on traditional methods of housing supply, construction and location will not bring affordability, however, but this is what we are doing. And Einstein had a quote for that: doing the same thing twice but expecting a different result is the definition of ‘not quite being at the top of the class’, to put it politely.

Regarding the PRIVATE RENTED SECTOR, a housing policy should recognise the new importance of the PRS in Irish society.

In a very short space of time, the private rented sector has sprung from obscurity as a refuge for students, immigrants and separated fathers, to occupy a prominent position and role in Irish housing. In 2015, just under 20% of households currently rent their accommodation. The PRS still provides refuge for students, immigrants and separated fathers, but its function and importance has expanded in line with issues surrounding access to credit, new work practices, affordability and the availability of social housing.

The PRS additionally houses two new cohorts of renters: there are those who are actively choosing to rent, usually for reasons of quality of life. And then there are the multi-lingual, highly-educated, largely international workers in high-tech service industries such as Facebook, Oracle, AirBnB and, of course, Google. Affordability in the rental sector is now of economic importance because when rents rise one of two things happen: these bright young things will choose to go elsewhere to work, thus depriving Ireland of their potential taxable income; or if already here, their first concern is a pay rise to compensate for their expensive living costs (i.e. rent). The PRS therefore affects our ability to be competitive in a global marketplace.

By implementing things like the long-awaited deposit retention scheme for tenants (20 years plus waiting), full mortgage interest relief for landlords (or at least incremental in line with the length of time a tenant has been in situ), secure occupancy (governments seem to think that a long lease equates to security of tenure; it doesn’t – unless reasons for termination are addressed then the length of a lease is meaningless); by creating the conditions for viable long-term renting; and generally treating being a landlord like a business, we can make renting an attractive prospect for both sides of the economic supply and demand equation – that is, landlord and tenant.

There are OTHER ISSUES too, far too many to mention, but here are a few:

We know we need to have and maintain high building standards, although when the self-build lobby jumped up and down the floor in the minister’s office reverberated and the government reacted immediately by proposing reducing standards which given our history of poor construction is a very irresponsible thing to do.

There is no point in having standards if there is no inspection, however, and self certification causes more problems than it solves. Housing needs state building inspectors. We have more dog wardens than local authority building inspectors in Ireland, and given national and international building tragedies, we should not be attempting to scrimp on this (but we are…). The UK residential inspection rate is 100%; at our best we managed about 3%.

We know we need to exercise more financial prudence with lending. However, the government’s first – and unfortunately predictable – reaction to the Central Bank’s lending restrictions earlier this year was to criticise them, and then try to help purchasers circumvent them. It begs the question: why have a Central Bank if this is what government does?

Then there is also homelessness, asset-based welfare, and social housing delivery to be considered.

Everything I’ve mentioned we can do, and we have lots of GOOD IDEAS to supplement these facts.

The old hands-off leave-it-to-the-market ways no longer work. Methods of housing delivery, housing finance and housing typologies have moved on considerably since housing was last a driver of the Irish economy, and it is important not to revert to the laziest, lowest common denominator solution of a construction free-for-all which is currently what we’re heading for.

Instead, by delivering housing by bundling parcels of land where 500-1000 private and social housing units are needed at a time, we can tender across the EU for housing construction using a body like the National Development Finance Agency who manage all state accommodation works, to control the specifications and delivery, and thus we can control affordability. Building 50-100 housing units at a time has its place in Ireland, but will make little inroads into real housing supply needs.

And we’re not even thinking about new tenures such as temporal ownership whereby a property is bought via cash or a mortgage and ‘owned’ for a specified period of time (say ten years). Access to this housing tenure is easier and repayments more affordable than rent; and there is total secure occupancy for the purchaser.

There are also things like community land trusts, and we could do with land zoned exclusively for long-term rental.
So will this happen? Will we get a housing policy that addresses the real needs of housing in Ireland for the next half century, rather than the needs of those with access to the ministers?

I’m not so sure.

WHAT WILL NEVER BE

There are several reasons why I think we’ll struggle to produce a decent housing policy. Some of these are readily identifiable, and some are more obscure.

The factors that are readily identifiable, I call ‘waves’.

Examples of these barriers to a decent housing policy include:
* the power of, and a reverence for, the construction sector in all its forms from the CIF to self-builders;
* an essentially conservative civil service, especially at policy-formation level;
* the challenge of evidence-led policies versus evidence-free politics;
* the influence of a dominant rural ideology on political thinking and housing policy – as with 90 years ago, rural

Ireland’s housing issues are first to be solved – in 1914, rural Ireland was the best housed region in Europe as Dublin lived in slums; this ideology is also in total conflict with Ireland’s rapid rate of urbanisation;

* a preference for light-touch regulation in finance and building standards;
* the constant preferable treatment given to home-ownership and the reliance on the house as a welfare asset;
* a lack of creativity leading to a constant reversion to outdated but familiar practices;
* a Dáil where parochial canniness too frequently passes for political debate;
* a fear of cities and a reluctance to countenance real urbanisation as evidenced in the poorly thought out National Spatial Strategy;
* the individualisation of housing and the consequent reliance on family patrimony to house people through land or deposits; and
* a preponderance of poorly educated politicians compared to our European neighbours – at any one time c.30% of EU prime ministers will have a PhD: we have had one, ever.

This is the easy stuff.

Then there are the ‘undercurrents’ – or influential systemic issues – which flow beneath these waves.

And here it’s interesting in that Ireland has more in common with southern Europe than northern Europe. For both southern Europe and Ireland the driving impetus has always been to protect, facilitate and extend home ownership. For example, the Housing Policy Statements’s drive for equity across tenures is ignored when the ability to buy a property is potentially curtailed by the Central Bank – the first response is to reach for the state cheque book to provide assistance. Like much of southern Europe, we have also managed to muddle along so far to meet housing needs without developing a strong social housing sector or especially a strong private rental sector.

Most importantly, has been the strong conservative presence of the church.

Across southern Europe and also in Ireland, particularly in the last century the church has been an advocate of the withdrawal of the state from collective provision, including housing, thus promoting reliance on the family or the church’s charities – for housing this has meant the provision of accommodation whilst saving for housing, the supply of land on which to build and the donation of finance to assist building or purchase. The responsibility allocated to the family and other charitable institutions in safeguarding individuals against social exclusion is significant. Assets from – and dependence on – the family are, in fact, a major source in filling gaps in the welfare and housing system (see childcare in Ireland for example). It has also meant a reliance on ‘patrimony’ – the distribution of wealth, often property – through family structures.

The church has also been a strong advocate of home ownership (more for reasons of morality and preventing socialist tendencies than for improving housing stability), and an opposer of urbanisation and planning. And over many decades it has been a significant player in retarding the development of the welfare state since it viewed it as a competitor against its own welfare institutions.

A lot of this translated itself into housing reality through the individualisation of housing – transferring the obligation and risk for housing people onto individuals and away from the state. But this isn’t really workable any more, so now Ireland faces several housing challenges. These challenges are:

1) Accessing housing that is affordable (limited supply of private accommodation and social housing, growing demand, partly driven by…)

2) Changing family structures (divorces, children outside marriage etc.) are challenging traditional patrimony. Separation in particular increases demand for housing but with lowered financial resources. An economic crisis also reduces individual means with which to afford housing.

3) The state remains at one remove from supporting those in need (individualisation of housing provision), especially regarding social housing leading to a lack of supply, and driving people into an under-developed rental sector.

In effect, Ireland’s ‘spiritual’ home is with the other peripheral countries in southern Europe such as Spain, Malta, Italy and Greece, but its neighbours and recent ‘economic advisors’ are north European. And north European means high taxes for state provided services such as health, childcare, and education, and significant state involvement in housing provision, especially social housing. It also means a large functioning PRS and urbanisation. Housing in northern Europe frequently means the romanticisation of rural areas, which they do through protecting the countryside from development – definitely not conducive to one-off housing. There is less individualisation in most north European countries, less home ownership, less asset-based welfare and there is more social expenditure.

So there is an ideological conflict between doing what our geographical and economic neighbours and occasional masters do, and doing what has been traditional in the Irish system. This traditional approach is now severely out of date though. With effectively two ministers for building and no minister for housing, the government is listening to those who shout the loudest rather than to those with most to say, and what has resulted to date is housing policy stasis.

CONCLUSION

So, the obvious question is of course, what should be in a housing policy?

A housing policy needs to be a plan for say 100 years (as in Portugal) centred around three principles – for example, affordability…delivered by efficiency, creating accessibility – with goals and targets. It needs to anticipate where and in what properties the average Irish person will be living in thirty years, how much of their salary they will be paying for housing, and the security they will have, whether renting or owning.

Specifically, housing must be looked at as part of a broader, integrated national social and economic ecosystem: when was the last time you heard a minister for housing or the environment discuss housing in relation to education, mental health and welfare, childcare or road safety? Direct access to rural roads is a contributory factor in 15% of serious road collisions and fatalities, but you’ll never hear a minister for housing mention this because: a) they probably don’t know it; and b) even if they do, it doesn’t suit the narrative.

Secondly, housing should be regarded as a critical part of the country’s infrastructure to ensure control of quality and location and to assess how it fits into the state’s other infrastructure. Right now there’s little control over this crucial aspect of our lives, with developers deciding what should be built and where – and they’re qualified to do neither.

Finally, as we head for 2016 and the 2020s, it seems that Ireland’s housing policy is more akin to that of 1916 and the 1920s with overt political interference, an innate fear of urbanisation/densification and cities, and the continued dominance of a fundamentally rural ideology. We know the issues, we know the solutions – the question is do we have the political bottle to develop a housing policy that will last longer than five years and will efficiently deliver affordable and accessible housing for Ireland for the next hundred years.

Dr Lorcan Sirr

Universitat Rovira I Virgili, Tarragona, Spain
Lecturer in Housing, Dublin Institute of Technology

Below is the text of the talk delivered at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Donegal by Rob Kitchin as part of a panel on the National Spatial Strategy and where next for spatial planning in Ireland.

 

The National Spatial Strategy was launched in December 2002 by Minister Martin Cullen. In the foreword, An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern TD, states that the NSS was:

“a 20-year strategy designed to enable every place in the country to reach its potential, no matter what its size or location. It recognises that the various regions of the country have different roles. It seeks to organise and co-ordinate these roles in a complementary, win win way. It is about making regions competitive according to their strengths and not against one another; about ensuring a high quality urban environment, as well as vibrant rural areas.

In order to achieve more balanced regional development, a greater share of economic activity must take place outside the Greater Dublin Area. To achieve that the National Spatial Strategy sets out a framework for gateways, hubs and other urban and rural areas to act together. This framework will open up new opportunities in the regions and give people greater choice in relation to where they work and live.

The National Spatial Strategy will enable all sectors of the economy to plan future investment in a better-informed way. This more coherent planning will benefit all of us. The Government will ensure that its own policies are implemented in a manner that is consistent with the National Spatial Strategy.”

I’ve highlighted three phrases as I want to return to them again. In short, the NSS divided up the country into five zones and identified 18 gateways and hubs.

The five zones were:

  • consolidating the Greater Dublin Area
  • strengthening the South, South East, West and North West to complement Dublin
  • revitalising the West and South West
  • reinforcing central parts of Ireland and the South East
  • co-operating in an all-island context.

The 9 Gateways were: Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford, Dundalk, Sligo, Letterkenny/Derry, Athlone/Tullamore/Mullingar. Gateways were to have populations >100,000 providing “critical mass necessary to sustain strong levels of job growth in the regions.”

The 9 Hubs were: Cavan, Ennis, Kilkenny, Mallow, Monaghan, Tuam, Wexford, Ballina/Castlebar and Tralee/Killarney. Hubs were to have populations of 20-40,000 and provide localised critical mass and “link the capabilities of the gateways to other areas.”

NSS

The best way to get a sense of the thinking behind the NSS and why it failed to deliver on its promise and potential is to chart the history leading up to it, its rollout and demise, and to note the various agents involved.

A brief history of the National Spatial Strategy

The origins of the NSS can be traced back to 1963 and the start of planning in Ireland, but it is also framed by local government reform and economic development policy.

Phase 1: Foundations

1963: Local Government (Planning and Development) Act 1963. Came into force in 1964. Introduced local development plans and planning permissions. Created 87 planning authorities. No higher-level oversight of plans. (DoE)

1986: Urban Renewal Act 1986 published. Introduced tax-incentive-led development for urban areas. (DoF)

1994: 8 regional authorities established (through Local Government Act 1991), which would evolve to have a regional planning function. (DoE)

1997: Sustainable Development – A Strategy for Ireland published, includes policies on spatial planning, urban development and regeneration. (DoE)

Nov 1997: Initiation of producing a National Development Plan (NDP) 2000-2006 announced. (DoF)

March 1998: Finance Act 1998. Enabled the Rural Renewal Scheme for the Upper Shannon Region. Promoted tax incentive-led development (DoF)

1999: European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP) published. Advocated a strategic spatial planning approach across Europe. DEHLG participated in its development. Strategic Planning Guidelines for the GDA were published.

Nov 1999: National Development Plan (NDP) 2000-2006 published: five operational programmes, two regional programmes, plus peace process programme. Called for balanced regional development and identified 5 gateway cities: Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford. (DoF)

2000: Planning and Development Act 2000. Set up the basis for hierarchical spatial planning, with local and county plans having due regard for forthcoming regional planning guidelines. (DEHLG)

Sept 2001: Regional Development Strategy for Northern Ireland 2025 published. (DRD)

Phase 2: Rollout and floundering

Dec 2002: The National Spatial Strategy (NSS) 2002 – 2020 published. (DEHLG)

Dec 2002: Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2002 published. Exempted zoning in local area plans from Ministerial oversight.

Dec 2003: government Decentralization Programme announced. Move 48 government depts and state agencies (>10k public servants) to 58 locations in 25 local authorities. (DoF)

Mid 2004: Regional Planning Guidelines (RPGs) published.  Designed to translate the overall national approach of the NSS into policies at regional and local level and assist planning authorities in framing County, City and Local Area Development Plans. (DEHLG)

2006: National Development Plan (NDP) 2007-2013 launched, aligned with the NSS, with new funding mechanisms such as the Gateways Initiative Fund. (DoF)

2008: Ireland enters crisis. Gateways Initiative Fund first thing cut in DEHLG as a cost saving measure. (DEHLG)

July 2010: Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2010 published, includes ‘core strategy’ requirement that obliges planning authorities to comply with NSS and RPGs rather than have ‘due regard’ (DEHLG)

Oct 2010: NSS Update and Outlook published. Reaffirms aims and approach of NSS. (DEHLG)

Phase 3: Disintegration

Late 2010: NDP 2007-2013 terminated and succeeded by a National Recovery Plan 2011-2014 (DPER)

Nov 2011: Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2012-16 published (DPER)

Feb 2013: NSS 2002-2020 officially scrapped by Minister to be replaced by a new policy in due course. (DEHLG)

Dec 2013: Medium Term Economic Strategy 2014-2020 published. (DoF/DPER)

May 2014: Construction 2020 published, proposes a new National Planning Framework, lots of task forces and reviews re. housing, planning, construction and development (GoI)

May 2014: Local Government Act 1991 (Regional Authorities) (Amendment) Order 2014. Abolishes 8 regional authorities to be replaced with 3 regional assemblies. One of their chief responsibilities is to prepare new ‘Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies’ (DECLG)

June 2014: Local Government Reform Act 2014. Abolishes town and borough councils, merged 3 city/county councils, thus reducing number of planning authorities. (DECLG)

Jan 2015: Planning and Development (No.2) Bill 2014 and the Planning Policy Statement 2015 published. Announces the establishment of the Office for Planning Regulation and a National Planning Framework to replace NSS (DEHLG).

Feb 2015: Framework for the Development of Regional Enterprise Strategies (DJEI) launched.

Why did the NSS fail?

Interestingly, the NSS was initially perceived to be a success. It was the first national spatial strategy in Europe after the publication of the ESDP and was considered best practice by other countries. It sought be inclusive in vision and was underpinned by good intentions and it promoted a planned approach to development. However, it relatively quickly ran into problems that made implementation difficult in practice. In my view there were three core reasons the NSS failed to deliver on its promise and potential.

(1) The strategy was flawed.

(a) It sought to be all things to all people; to create a win-win situation whereby every area was to grow in population and resources.

(b) There were too many gateways and hubs and spread too thinly to provide an effective counterweight to GDA. Plus, there were issues of critical mass: Sligo, Dundalk, Letterkenny had populations substantially less than 100,000, and ATM were quite far apart and had little economic interaction; the hubs chosen were small, with three having a population less than 10,000 (Cavan, Monaghan and Tuam) and none having a population above 21,500.

(c) Political interference in the selection of gateways and hubs.

(d) The linked concept was based on polycentric development that happens around large cities. It was applied to small towns that had little interaction. It should have linked gateways and hubs around a handful of city-regions.

(e) It had some regard but was not fully aligned with RDS in Northern Ireland.

(2) Temporal misalignment

(a) It missed its logical initial resourcing stream, the NDP 2000-06.

(b) It did underpin the NDP 2007-13, but then the crisis hit, the NDP faltered and the resources allocated for NSS initiatives evaporated.

(3) Wilfully undermined and not supported by government, lack of cross-department alignment

(a) Lack of statuary footing for hierarchical planning. In a period of developer-led, laissez faire, localist planning ‘due regard’ was a license to largely ignore the NSS.

(b) Decentralisation programme cut across and ignored the whole NSS policy and seriously undermined its rationale and impetus in implementation. As did other policies such as Upper Shannon Rural Renewal Scheme.

(c) Lack of political support in general for plan-led development, with general culture of clientelist, cronyist, localist planning system and an attitude of ‘any development, in any location and at any time’ by the public and politicians.

(d) DoF and DECLG pursue their own agendas that sometimes have ‘due regard’ to each other, however economists and planners do not share same worldview or approach and the NSS was made to look like joined-up thinking. When the crisis hit economists reverted to type (macro- and sectoral) and spatial planning went out the window.

In combination, what these meant was that the NSS was wounded from the start. It might have recovered through its alignment with NDP 2007-13 and some legislative reforms. However, the crisis was fatal to the NDP, the reforms came too late, and economic, planning and infrastructure policy has fractured into a number of initiatives.

Will the National Planning Framework succeed?

The logic of spatial planning is to align and coordinate sectoral initiatives (such as transport, employment, property, utilities, communications, public services, etc) across territory in order to leverage complementarities, reduce redundancy and duplication, increase competitiveness, and create multiplier effects.  If done well it should facilitate inward investment, stimulate and support indigenous growth, produce sustainable development and create better places. It does this by selectively prioritising areas for different kinds of activities in line with its demographics and local resources, distributing funds suitable to enable targeted investment, and coordinating development across sectors.

At present, local, regional and national development is being driven by five initiatives:

  • 350 County/City and Local development plans, RPGs and legacy of NSS (DECLG)
  • Construction 2020 (DECLG)
  • Medium Term Economic Strategy 2014-2020 (MTES) (DPER)
  • Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2012-16 (DPER)
  • Framework for the Development of Regional Enterprise Strategies (DJEI)

The first will be reconfigured, with the NPF replacing the NSS.

The objective of the National Planning Framework shall be to establish a broad national plan for the Government in relation to the strategic planning of urban and rural areas to secure balanced regional development and overall proper planning and sustainable development and the co-ordination of regional spatial and economic strategies and city and county development plans.”

Whether though the NPF will deliver on its mandate will depend on:

(1) Not trying to be all things to all people and embracing spatial selectivity, including reducing the number of gateways/hubs (with the aim of creating a handful of polycentric city-regions) and planning for population decline in some areas (measure of success in such areas is quality of life and sustainability, not growth).

(2) Recognizing the NPF should be a top-level economic, planning and infrastructure policy that seeks to balance local/regional development with Ireland’s position in the global economy (which requires critical mass and agglomeration – a small town of 6,000 offers neither). This requires alignment of national economic, planning and infrastructure policies (NPF, Con2020, MTES, ICI, RESs), which necessitates joined-up thinking across government departments (i.e. recreating the NDP/NSS conjoining). Also, alignment of other strategies such as housing, health, transport policy with NPF. And an alignment of regional and local policies.

(3) An accompanying implementation plan, with set goals, measures of success, and resourcing mechanisms. Also means proper resourcing of planning in DECLG, local authorities and regional assemblies.

(4) Government not to undermine its own policy either through contra-policies or politicians exercising localism or stroke politics.

(5) Local authorities, regional assemblies, and local politicians rolling with rather than pushing against the NPF and planning in general.

A NPF will almost certainly be aided by further consolidation of local authorities to gain efficiencies in service delivery, a wider cadre of skilled staff within each authority, and a wider terrain of development that will reduce back-to-back planning, and some form of devolution of powers to regional assemblies. Local authority sizes in Ireland vary from DCC catering for over 500K people to Leitrim catering for 31K.

Conclusion

The NSS and changes to the planning and development legislation have started to change the culture and thinking of planning authorities away from ‘development at all costs’ to more strategic, hierarchical planning. In the desire to restore Ireland’s economy it is easy, however, to envisage the old mentality reasserting itself. This, I think, would be to the long-term detriment of the country. In other jurisdictions, developers like long-term spatial planning as it provides certainty over where to invest and build and reduces risk; businesses like it because it ensures proper infrastructure and services for them and their workers.

In Ireland, the Celtic Tiger happened without the benefits of strategic spatial planning and it collapsed in part for the same reason, leaving a legacy of overdevelopment in many places. Poor planning was thus seen as one of the causes of the crisis and it has not been promoted as one of the solutions. The National Planning Framework, however, if done properly will help grow the economy, create sustainable development, and improve peoples’ quality of life. And it will provide a brighter, less cyclical future than developer-led, laissez-faire, localist and dispersed planning. The challenge, however, are presently two-fold. First, conjoining existing national policies into a coherent top-level strategy (inter-dept alignment) and reversing the trend to rollout lower-level policy ahead of top-level policy (temporal alignment). Second, for the Government to believe in their own rhetoric and to formulate a coherent NPF with teeth and to implement it.

Rob Kitchin

The planning of Dublin’s transport should be founded on a clear sense of priorities, based on (a) travel patterns and population, (b) the optimum use of resources available eg. street space, land use, finance, (c) investing in sustainability.

One would expect the National Transport Authority (NTA) to pay particular attention to the implications of the data in reports it has commissioned.  However, recent work by the NTA pays scant regard to the public transport needs of those living between the City Centre and Dublin Airport.   Despite NTA evidence, there is still an obsession with a City Centre-Airport rail link and journey times on this corridor.

An NTA report has shown travel demand is greatest inside the M50 during the morning peak ie. 1. between the canals and the M50 – the Inner Suburbs – with 27% of journeys in 2006 and 18% in 2030; 2. inside the canals – between the Inner suburbs and the City Centre – with 13% in 2006 and 15% in 2030. (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Travel Demand in Dublin Morning Peak 2006 and 2030

Figure1

 

Source: National Transport Authority Greater Dublin Area Draft Transport Strategy 2011‐2030 2030 vision April 2012. Chap 4 p.9 (link)

This travel demand reflects activity in Dublin’s Core Economic Area as shown in Figure 2 (prepared by Justin Gleeson, based in Maynooth University).  However, in its do-minimum planning for enhanced public transport, the NTA has not focused on Dublin’s Core Economic area.  The NTA’s current Do-Minimum assumes DART Underground (the Yellow line on the map) as well as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) to link the City Centre with the Airport and Swords.  Neither will enhance public transport within the Core Economic Area, nor enhance access to the Airport from the central business district.

Figure 2: Dublin Core Economic Area, 2011

Map1_DublinEconomicCoreArea-01

DART Underground

This is a proposed 8.6km line from Docklands to Inchicore, mostly tunnelled, costing up to €4bn.  This will add another rail link between the Docklands and Heuston/Inchicore. These areas are already linked by LUAS (Red line in Figure 2). There will be another rail link between these areas when the Phoenix Park rail tunnel (Orange line in Figure 2) is opened for use by commuter trains in 2016.

It is not at all clear this €4bh investment will enhance development potential.  Much of the DART catchment (dotted line along the coast in map) area is coastal.  DART Underground itself will not improve public transport links between the Airport and the Central Business District.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) link City Centre –Drumcondra- Airport-Swords

The NTA also plans to link Dublin Airport/Swords to the City Centre with a BRT service through Drumcondra.  A public consultation on this concluded in November 2014. (see here)

This is puzzling, as a previous NTA report found that this route has forecast demand that greatly exceeds the capacity of BRT in the current 2030 infrastructure scenario and also exceed the 3600 ppdph in the 2030 scenario.  (see Figure 1)  This 2012 report concluded that a BRT solution does not cater for the public transport needs of the northern section of this corridor over the longer term….the Swords to City Centre section was not progressed further within this report. (my emphasis)

Table 1: Bus Rapid Transit Demand Analysis

Table1

Source:  National Transport Authority: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Core Dublin Network.  October 2012. Figure 41  p.53 (link)

An NTA 2014 Route Options Assessment on the Swords/Airport-City Centre BRT shows that, with one exception, passengers forecast exceed the proposed BRT capacity.   This report assumes that the present bus network will still be in place.  This means that regular bus services will still run on the same roads as the two separate BRT services on the Dublin Airport/Sword-Drumcondra-City Centre route.

( see Summary tables 10.5 and 10.6 for the result for the opening year 2018 and the forecast year 2033 for 2 route options. National Transport Authority Swords/Airport to City Centre. Route Options Assessment Volume 1 : Main Report (October 2014) p. 187 (link)

This report also states that It is anticipated that demand will increase following a reorganisation of Dublin Bus routes.

BRT may appear to be a cheap option.  It is nasty on two grounds

  1. it will be overflowing from the day it starts;
  2. being diesel powered, it contributes to air pollution and thus damages human health.

In a recent article (Irish Farmers Journal 30 May 2015), Colm McCarthy pointed out that “…recent studies have been showing that air pollution in European city streets has worsened and the shift to diesel (cars) is being blamed…Diesel engines produce lower levels of carbon dioxide but also emit two other nasties.  These are low-level pollutants in the form of particulate matter (think of soot) and nitrogen dioxide and these do not disappear into the upper atmosphere… He pointed out that “Policy makers have long been aware that high emissions in built-up areas of either particulates or nitrogen dioxide are damaging to human health, aggravating respiratory conditions including asthma

Airport

NTA commissioned yet another study to appraise longer term options for Fingal/North Dublin (NTA AECOM November 2014).  A key criterion in assessing options is the journey time between the Airport and the City Centre.

However, another NTA study of Dublin Airport passengers found that:

  • Three quarters (75%) had a journey time of less than one hour to the Airport, with almost half (46%) having a journey time of less than 30 minutes;
  • Less than one seventh of trips (14%) were business related;
  • Three quarters of all trips were either for holiday/leisure (nearly half) or visiting friends/relatives (over one-quarter);
  • Less than one third of the trips originated in City Centre/South part of Dublin City.

Figure 3: Dublin Airport passengers – Purpose of travel

Figure3

Source:  National Transport Authority Survey at Dublin Airport 2011.Fig. 3.11 p. 22 (link)

This suggests that the vast majority of passengers using Dublin Airport may not be very time-constrained in how they access the Airport. Most passengers are not bound for our capital’s Central Business District. Those passengers who are time-constrained have the option of taxis (which can use bus lanes) and/or using the Dublin Port Tunnel to access Central Business District. Consequently, in assessing options for public transport in north Dublin, travel times between the City Centre and the Airport should not be the sole or even the major criterion.

 

North Dublin city not being provided with enhanced public transport

The NTA is pursuing a do-minimum strategy for that part of Dublin’s Core Economic area between the Royal Canal and the M50.  It seems to be forgotten that more people live in the north part of Dublin city (306,425 in Census 2011) than in either the south city (221,186), Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown (206,261), South Dublin (265,205) or Fingal (273,991).  This has been so over the past 20 years, as is clear from Figure 3.

Figure 4: Population Dublin 1991 – 2011

Figure4

The singular focus on BRT shows that the public authorities have learnt very little from the first LUAS line from Tallaght to Abbey Street.   The late Judge Sean O’Leary was the Inspector appointed by the government to consider for the first LUAS planning applications.  In 1998, he reported that “Having considered the evidence, the Inquiry is satisfied that in order to create similar condition of loading and unloading, ease of access and certainty…. that buses do not represent a viable alternative to the proposal”  (for on-street light rail).

The BRT Core Network Report supports this assessment. A comparison of the passenger carrying capacity of BRT with light rail and metro summarised is shown in Figure 5.  Note that this states that higher capacity BRT is not appropriate for Dublin.

Figure 5: Public Transport Mode Capacities

Figure5

Source:  National Transport Authority: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Core Dublin Network.  October 2012.  Fig.3 p.4 (link)

Comparative investment costs for different public transport modes are indicated in Figure 6.

Figure 6: Comparative Investment costs – buses, BRT, LRT/LUAS, Metro

Figure6

Source:  National Transport Authority: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Core Dublin Network.  October 2012.  Fig.2 p.3 (link)

Neither the proposed BRT nor the single LUAS line on the route now advocated by the Railway Procurement Agency (see Sunday Business Post 3 May 2015) can provide sustainable public transport for this part of Dublin.   This proposed LUAS line goes under Glasnevin Cemetery in a new tunnel.  This adds to the cost of a LUAS line that will not serve the centre of Dublin’s north city core economic area shown in the map.  Moreover, it is well away from important major trip attractors/generators eg.  Mater Hospital, Mountjoy Prison, Croke Park, St. Patrick’s College, Whitehall,  Santry, Beaumont Hospital.

This RPA proposal ignores the results of a 1996 Dept. of Transport report which compared three LUAS lines then being considered.   It is clear from Table 2 that a LUAS from the city centre through Drumcondra to Ballymun had much better potential for passengers than the two LUAS lines which were actually built.  This confirms the results of  recent NTA work which suggests that passenger demand can best be met by an on-street LUAS line for this central route in the north part of Dublin’s Core Economic Area.

Table 2: A Comparative Socio-Economic Evaluation of the Tallaght-Ballymun/Dundrum Light Rail Lines. Final Report 1996. Oscar Faber.

Table2

Source: Department of Transport, Energy & Communications. A Comparative Socio-Economic Evaluation of the Tallaght-Ballymun/Dundrum Light Rail Lines.  Final Report 1996. Oscar Faber.

NTA notes that the higher investment costs of light rail(LUAS) are offset by lower operation costs. (see Figure 7).   Light rail (LUAS) vehicles carry more passengers than buses.  Thus less drivers are needed than for bus-based systems carrying the same number of passengers.  Buses have a shorter life than LUAS vehicles, even if the maintenance costs are higher.  Buses are also less energy efficient and pollute more at point of use.

Figure 7: Public Transport – Investment v Operating Costs

Figure7

Source:  National Transport Authority: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Core Dublin Network.  October 2012.  Fig.21  p.27 (link)

The capital expenditure envisaged for DART Underground and BRT would be much more cost-effective if invested in

  • extending LUAS CrossCity (now under construction) to create a north city LUAS loop (taking in Finglas, Charlestown, Poppintree, Ballymun, Santry, Beaumont, Drumcondra) with spurs to the Airport and to DART at Howth Junction (see Figure 8);
  • A Docklands loop to link the existing Green and Red on-street LUAS lines as put forward by the Dublin Transportation Office in 2002.

Figure 8: Dublin Core Economic Area with proposed north city/Airport-Swords proposed LUAS  lines superimposed (orange line)

Figure8
Our public authorities are still using arbitrary criteria for planning public transport.  The feuding public sector baronies are still stuck in the property development whimsies of the early 2000s.   This is not the evidence-based transport planning which Robert Watt (Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform) claimed as an example of civil service reform.  (Commentary on public service reform is mired in the past Sunday Business Post 22 February 2015).

We deserve better.  To promote competitiveness and social cohesion, Dublin needs integrated and sustainable public transport. Achieving this needs quiet, consistent competence to bring working and living conditions to the levels of well-run European cities.  It would be a start if our public authorities drew the appropriate conclusions from their own reports and invested accordingly.

Ireland After Nama Guest blog post by Donal O’Brolchain

Donal O’Brolchain lives in Drumcondra, Dublin 9.  He has been active in residents’ association for the past 25 years. As Secretary of Drumcondra 2005, he led residents’ support for the Dublin Port Tunnel during the 1990s, as part of a set of mutually reinforcing measures to improve transport in Dublin. This included a core light rail/LUAS system in Dublin. This support was to implement a local area plan for Drumcondra district which seven residents’ association commissioned and funded from their own resources. This was launched in 1994.

Article Published in the Irish Examiner, July 4th 2015.

GREECE is being told to follow Ireland’s crisis solution of harsh austerity and acceptance of bank-and-bailout debt. This narrative conveniently ignores that the Irish ‘recovery’ has been built on major human rights violations and the undermining of long-term social and economic development.

There is a dark side to Ireland’s ‘success’ that requires discussion about the most effective responses to financial and fiscal crises.

The eight austerity budgets between 2008 and 2014 involved €18.5bn in public-spending cuts and €12bn in tax-raising (revenue) measures. Key public services, in particular health and housing, have been weakened as a result.

Public service staff have been reduced by 10% (37,500). Health spending has been cut by 27% since 2008, resulting in an 81% increase in the number of patients waiting on trolleys and chairs in emergency departments. One-third of all children admitted to hospital suffering with mental-health difficulties have been put in adult wards and the waiting lists for youth mental-health services have increased to 2,818 people.

Funding for local authority housing was cut from €1.3bn, in 2007, to just €83m, in 2013. This meant a loss of 25,000 social-housing units. This is a major contribution to the homelessness crisis, with 1,000 children and 500 families now living in emergency accommodation in Dublin. Because of the decision to prioritise bank recapitalisation and developer debt write-down, homeowner mortgage arrears have escalated.

There are 37,000 homeowners in mortgage arrears of over 720 days, and legal repossession notices were issued to 50,000 homeowners.

The cuts to welfare have had devastating impacts.Affected areas include lone-parent supports, child benefit, youth payments, fuel, back-to-school clothing and footwear, rent supplement, and disability and carers’ allowance.

But charges were introduced where they did not exist before — putting a further burden on lower-income households. These charges are ‘regressive’, in that they were not tailored to income level. These include water, property, school transport, prescription, A&E and chemotherapy charges. Fees have effectively been reintroduced at third-level (increasing from €1,000 to €3,000). This will have major implications for participation rates from lower-income households.

Funding for local community development, youth organisations, drugs prevention, family support, and to combat rural and urban disadvantage was disproportionally hit. Programme funding was reduced by 50%.

We are likely to see the long-term social impacts of these cuts in the further exclusion from the labour force of youths in disadvantaged areas. Issues of drugs and crime will surely worsen.

An EU report on the impact of austerity showed that the quality of secondary- and primary-level education has also been reduced, with fewer teachers, rationalisation of teacher/student support services, and the abolition of school grants.

The report links early school-leaving to austerity measures, which are highly concentrated in low-income areas. This, along with the cuts in funding to third-level, will seriously damage our education system, the core of the country’s economic development.

Hundreds of thousands of families and children have been pushed into poverty. The child-poverty rate rose from 18%, in 2008, to 29.1%, in 2013.The deprivation rate increased from 26.9%, in 2012, to 30.5%, in 2013, while for lone-parent families it has risen to 63%. Food poverty affects 600,000 (up 13.2%). Austerity has also devastated rural areas and small towns, with unemployment levels remaining much higher in the south-east.

In one of the most disturbing pieces of research into the impact of austerity, UCC and the National Suicide Research Foundation found an increase in self-harm rates of 31% in men, and 22% in women, between 2008 and 2012, while the male suicide rate is 57% higher (that’s 500 additional deaths). They cited a number of factors, including reductions in public expenditure, cuts to welfare, substantial healthcare cuts, falling house prices and personal debt.

Capital expenditure on important public infrastructure, such as hospitals, schools, roads, transport, broadband, water and wastewater was drastically reduced, by 60%, between 2008 and 2014.
Such spending on infrastructure is the bedrock of sustainable and competitive economies, and the lost decade of investment in these will leave Ireland’s economy much more vulnerable into the future.
Don’t forget, also, €17bn of our national pension reserve — which was available to fund infrastructure development and future pensions — was put into the bailout.

The commitment by Irish governments to pay all the bank- and crisis-related debt will damage our long-term social and economic development, and result in ongoing crises in health, housing, and mental health, and in rising poverty and inequality. This is because funding that should be going to these much-needed public services will, instead, be going on debt interest payments. Debt interest payments rose from €2bn (3.4% of tax revenue), in 2007, to a staggering €7.5bn, or 18% of all tax revenue, in 2014. These interest payments will enforce a form of permanent austerity in the coming decade.
Then, there is the often-forgotten issue of forced emigration. Almost 10% of Irish young people emigrated during the recession and emigration worsened as austerity intensified. It rose from 20,000, in 2009, to 50,000, in 2013. Without emigration, the unemployment rate would be 20%.

Finally, almost half of Ireland’s dramatic increase in GDP is from multinational activity, which does not take place in Ireland.

Thus, much of Ireland’s growth is based on facilitating some of the most profitable global corporations and financial services in reducing the tax they otherwise would have to pay to countries across the world. This is an unethical, unfair, and ultimately unsustainable form of economic activity.

It is clear, as highlighted by a recent assessment by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, that austerity hit the most vulnerable and marginalised the hardest in Ireland. But there was, and remains, a choice about how countries such as Ireland and Greece, and the Troika, respond to debt and financial crises. Debt relief is an important option, as is taxing the wealthy, financial services or higher incomes, rather than taking it from public services, the poor and middle-income earners. The Troika and Irish governments favoured the latter and we can see the human misery and economic damage caused, as a result.

The Irish austerity-and-recovery model is being misrepresented on the international stage and should not be followed by Greece or other crises countries.

The Irish case actually points to the human and economic necessity of debt relief and alternative approaches to fiscal crises.

Rory Hearne

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