Previous plan failed to deliver
This isn't the first time that a government has attempted to implement a long-term strategy to properly plan for future growth.
In 2002, the National Spatial Strategy (NSS) was launched which sought to achieve a better balance of development across the State, identifying nine 'gateways' of 12 towns and cities and nine 'hubs' of 11 towns earmarked for growth.
They were to be built up with a critical scale and mass to allow for balanced regional development. It was not a success, and wasn't helped by the December 2003 announcement by the-then Fianna Fáil government of its plan to decentralise 10,300 civil servants from Dublin to 53 centres across the country. They were not solely destined for the gateways and hubs, but dispersed across almost all counties.
The economic downturn played a major role in the plan's demise. So too did failure to deliver a €300m 'Gateway Innovation Fund' announced in 2007, earmarked to fund release of land for development, deliver transport connections between the hubs and gateways, invest in cultural and sporting facilities and green transport initiatives.
The NSS was criticised for designating too many centres, which created a perception of 'winners and losers', and for not being supported by the political system. A relaxation of planning controls on one-off rural housing also played a role. 'Ireland 2040' noted that not one of the 22 fastest growing towns in Ireland between 2002 and 2016 were gateways or hubs.