Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

National Spatial Strategy

National Spatial Strategy

Gateways and Hubs
Regional Planning Guidelines
National Development Plan
Gateway Innovation Fund (GIF)
Contact Details

The National Spatial Strategy 2002-2020 (published on 28th November 2002) is a 20-year coherent national planning framework for Ireland.  It aims to achieve a better balance of social, economic and physical development across Ireland, supported by more effective and integrated planning. The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government leads the Strategy's implementation. The commitment to prepare the NSS was included in the National Development Plan 2000 – 2006.

National Spatial Strategy (NSS) website (external link)

Gateways and Hubs

In order to drive development in the regions, the NSS requires that areas of sufficient scale and critical mass be built up through a network of gateways and hubs. While the National Development Plan 2000-2006 identified Dublin, Cork, Limerick/Shannon, Galway and Waterford as existing gateways, the NSS designated four new national level gateways - the towns of Dundalk and Sligo and the linked gateways of Letterkenny/(Derry) and the Midland towns of Athlone/Tullamore/Mullingar

Gateways and Hubs - Map2 (external link)

In addition, the NSS identified nine, strategically located, medium-sized "hubs" which will support, and be supported by, the gateways and will link out to wider rural areas. The hubs are Cavan, Ennis, Kilkenny, Mallow, Monaghan, Tuam and Wexford, along with the linked hubs of Ballina/Castlebar and Tralee/Killarney, working together to promote regional development in their areas.  The role of the gateways acting at the national level, together with the hubs acting at the regional and county levels, needs to be partnered by the county towns and other larger towns as a focus for business, residential, service and amenity functions. The NSS also identifies an important need to support the role of smaller towns, villages and rural areas at the local level.

The NSS is being implemented through the translation of its strategic policies into regional and local planning by regional and local authorities and the uptake of its approach into national plans and the plans and programmes of Government Departments and agencies, particularly in their investment and other plans as they relate to regional development, for example, in Transport 21.  

Regional Planning Guidelines

The NSS sets out the policies on spatial planning adopted by the Government at national level.  At regional level, a key policy bridge between national development priorities and local planning has been put in place with the adoption in mid 2004 of Regional Planning Guidelines (RPGs).   RPGs put in place policies to translate the overall national approach of the NSS into policies at regional and local level.  While working within the national framework of gateways, hubs, other towns, villages and rural areas, the RPGs provide more detailed regional level guidance, assisting planning authorities in framing County, City and Local Area Development Plans.  As well as overseeing the implementation of RPGs, the Department monitors the preparation of County, City and Local Area Development Plans to ensure that they are consistent with the objectives of the NSS. The RPGs , which are statutorily valid for a period of 6 years, are currently under review and Guidelines for the period 2010-2022 are due for adoption later this year.

National Development Plan

The National Development Plan (NDP) 2007-2013 aligns the NSS centrally within it through a specific horizontal chapter on balanced regional development.  This Government commitment to aligning the regional development dimension of the NDP 2007-2013 with the NSS objectives and the prioritisation of capital investment in line with the NSS establishes the Strategy as a viable and practical policy measure to encourage more balanced regional development.   This places the NSS at the heart of our capital infrastructure decisions over the next seven years.

Gateway Innovation Fund (GIF)

A 300 million euro Gateway Innovation Fund (GIF) was put in place for the years 2008-2010 as part of the National Development Plan (NDP) 2007-2013, as a strategic targeted intervention to stimulate Gateway development in the context of the National Spatial Strategy and thereby further the NDP cross-cutting objective for more balanced regional development.

The GIF is designed to incentivise joined-up planning and delivery of development initiatives in the NSS-designated Gateway cities and towns, in conjunction with the private sector and complementing other NDP investment, that will release untapped development potential within the Gateways and that in turn will lift overall regional performance.

Following a Call for Proposals for funding from GIF issued to Gateway Lead Authorities (the main local authority in each Gateway) in June 2007, proposals were received from all nine gateways by the closing date in November 2007.  These proposals, which cumulatively are seeking some 720 million euro in total funding under the GIF, were evaluated by a GIF Management Committee (comprising Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Department of Finance representatives) with the assistance of economic consultants and other Departments and agencies.  Goodbody Economic Consultants were also commissioned to assist in the evaluation process.

The Department is conscious of the strategic importance of the Fund in driving and facilitating development and in building on the local momentum in the Gateways.  Notwithstanding the implications in the short-term of the recent decisions regarding cost savings in 2008 and 2009, this Department remains committed to the GIF and will be pursuing options to reschedule the necessary decision making and re-phase payments under the Fund over a revised time-period in the interests of necessary flexibility in the current constrained economic situation.  

 See Gateway Innovation Fund 2008-2018 (external link)

The importance of other plans and programmes and their relevance to achieving the aims of the NSS are also recognised. In addressing spatial issues for the island of Ireland as a whole and strengthening cross-border co-operation, the NSS acknowledges the importance of Shaping Our Future, the Regional Development Strategy for Northern Ireland .The NSS in the South and the Regional Development Strategy in the North are becoming more embedded in policy-making on both sides of the border.  A framework of collaboration on spatial policy between North and South is being progressed in order to create enhanced, globally competitive and dynamic economic conditions on the island of Ireland by providing strategic, forward-looking planning frameworks which will assist in targeting appropriate investment in infrastructure and lead to better co-ordination of public services improving the quality of life on both sides of the border.

For more information on EU Spatial Strategy Development click on the link below:

Text of the European Spatial Development Perspective (external link).

Further publications are available on the Planning Guidance page.

Contact Details

For further information, please contact: 

Planning System and Spatial Policy,
Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government,
Custom House,
Dublin 1,

Tel:   +353 (0)1 888 2715
Fax:  +353 (0)1 888 2286
Locall:  1890 202021
(Note that the rates charged for the use of 1890(LoCall) numbers may vary among different service providers)