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Minister English's speech at the launch of the 2018 Annual Progress Report on Project Ireland 2040

Published on Thursday, 02 May 2019
Aire Stáit Damien English TD

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Intro

  • Ladies, Gentlemen, an Taoiseach, Cabinet colleagues, University representatives and students.  I am delighted to join you today in marking a significant milestone in the implementation and monitoring of Project Ireland 2040 – the publication of the first Annual Progress Report since the launch of PI2040 in 2018.

  • As outlined in the report and by my colleagues here today, we have seen tremendous progress under Project Ireland 2040, which comprises a unique, joined-up approach between planning (the National Planning Framework) and investment (the National Development Plan), which will ensure that the right development is happening at the right time and in the right place, with the support of focused and tailored investment to achieve this.

  • My Department has responsibility for the implementation of the NPF, which has seen significant progress in the roll-out over the past year.

  • Given our location and our surroundings today, I think it’s only right to highlight the considerable ambition for Limerick that is set out in the NPF – to grow by at least half/50% by 2040, to become a city of nearly 150,000 people.

  • This is hugely positive for Limerick, and indicates a level of growth that would be unprecedented in the City’s history.  It is a key part of the PI2040 strategy to underpin regional development in both the mid-west and more generally across the country beyond Dublin, and to provide real and significant alternative attractors based on accessibility, learning and research that will lead to jobs, growth and investment.

  • This is particularly significant today, as we mark this milestone under PI2040 in the University of Limerick, because the educating, training and skill-sets of our younger population will play a crucial role in ensuring growth, as well as success, in the years to come.

National Planning Framework

  • Priorities for my Department (i.e. the Department of Housing) in progressing  implementation of the NPF in 2018 included overseeing progress on the preparation of three Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (RSESs), establishing the Land Development Agency (LDA), and also the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR), and rolling out the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF).

Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies

  • A key tool in the regional implementation of the NPF is the formulation of the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (RSESs) for the three Regional areas.  These give the NPF further and more detailed expression at the regional level and are prepared by the three Regional Assemblies.

  • The RSESs set out regional planning and investment priorities and the drafting process formally commenced last year.  I am happy to report that the development of the three strategies is on schedule, with adoption of the Eastern & Midland RSES envisaged before the summer and adoption of the Northern & Western strategy by end-2019.

  • The RSES for the Southern Region, which of course includes Limerick, was published in draft format for a period of public consultation, which ran until 8th March.  The Material Amendments to the draft Strategy will be published over the summer months, and will be  subsequently determined by the incoming Assembly members and finalised in early Autumn.

  • The finalisation of these regional strategies in the first half of 2019 will in turn prompt reviews and updates of individual county and city development plans to ensure strategic co-ordination and consistency between national, regional and local levels.

  • The RSESs must include Metropolitan Area Strategic Plans (MASPs) for each of the five city-regions in Ireland and plebiscites will be held for directly elected mayors in the three cities of Cork, Limerick and Waterford on the 24th May 2019, in tandem with the European Parliament and Local Elections.

The Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR)

  • The first year of Project Ireland 2040 also saw the establishment by my Department of the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR).  This is a key landmark body in terms of our planning system and is a first by international standards.

  • The independent Regulator will ensure that planning authorities are operating with the highest standards of integrity and best practice, ensuring that important planning decisions are taken in line with national policy as set out in the National Planning Framework.

  • Ireland is the first country in the world with an independent planning regulator to:

    • Independently assess statutory plans to ensure legislative and policy requirements have been applied;

    • Conduct examinations and reviews of local authority and An Bord Pleanála planning functions as regards their effectiveness and efficiency and probity; and

    • Drive a national programme of research and evidence gathering and training and public awareness in relation to planning. 

  • The Regulator will also have the power to advise the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government on whether a plan made by a local authority conflicts with national planning policy and to recommend that the Minister make directions where any plan is not in compliance with national policy.  These recommendations will be published.

Land Development Agency

  • The Land Development Agency (LDA) was established as a commercial State body and national centre of expertise on an interim basis in September 2018, pending enactment of primary legislation to underpin the Agency in 2019. 

  • The LDA will work with local authorities, public bodies and other interests, to use public lands as catalysts to stimulate regeneration and wider investment and to achieve compact, sustainable growth, with a particular emphasis on complex regeneration projects and the provision of affordable housing. 

  • On establishment, the Agency had access to an initial tranche of eight sites that have near term delivery potential for 3,000 new homes. 

  • Significant preparatory work was initiated in 2018 in relation to these sites, with feasibility, planning and other preparatory works underway.

  • This is a game-changer in terms of how we manage publicly owned land for future use and, indeed, to contribute to the sustainable development of strategic sites in key urban areas.

Urban Regeneration and Development Fund

  • The first call for proposals under the URDF was launched by my Department in July 2018 as part of the four PI2040 enabling funds.

  • The purpose of the URDF is to support the compact growth and sustainable development of Ireland’s five cities, regional drivers and other large urban centres. 

  • My Department received almost 200 bids for funding under the first call and, in November 2018, 88 successful proposals were announced.

  • You will be pleased to know that this includes several successful proposals for the Limerick City-Shannon area, which amounts to approval in principle of €6.2 million in 2019 alone and signifies a commitment to much more in the coming years.  I expect final approval to issue in the coming weeks.

Housing Supply

  • There were more than 18,000 new homes built in 2018, which is a 25% increase on 2017.  In addition, more than 2,500 homes were brought out of long-term vacancy, and almost 800 dwellings in unfinished housing developments were completed. 

  • This means that the number of homes becoming available for use in the full year 2018 was 21,458. This represents an 18% increase on the full year 2017 (18,209). 

  • These figures are in addition to the 3,742 bed spaces completed in the student sector in 2018.

Social Housing

  • In particular, we are facing extremely challenging issues around housing and homelessness, which we are tackling on every front through the Government’s action programme, Rebuilding Ireland.

  • 27,103 new households had their social housing need met in 2018, through a combination of new builds, acquisitions, voids and leasing programmes in 2018, as well as HAP and RAS housing assistance schemes.

  • Construction figures from December 2018 show almost 5,000 new social housing homes were being built across 291 sites. The social housing programme was facilitated by over €2 billion of exchequer investment, up 47% on 2017. This will increase by a further 17% to €2.4bn in 2019.

Conclusion

  • In conclusion, I am delighted to be here today to showcase the hard work that has been carried out across the board in terms of implementing what is a truly ambitious, wide-reaching, and innovative approach to planning and investment in Ireland.

  • I look forward to continued engagement with my colleagues across Government, as well as the local authorities, key agencies and wider stakeholders in the private and non-governmental sectors.

  • Finally, I would like to wish the students at University of Limerick all the best in their studies.  You are our future and I believe that, through the continued implementation of PI2040, we are doing our very best to plan for your future.

Note to Editors

Further information on the launch is available here