Tuesday 11 December 2018

The Big Reveal: Five things you need to know about Project Ireland 2040 plan

  • €1bn for regeneration of villages with population of less than 10,000 people
  • Roads budget of €4.5bn has been allocated for regional and local roads
  • Government plans to invest billions in a Metro in Dublin
  • Cork is set for a light rail system and a major redevelopment of the docklands
  • Limerick will finally be connected to Cork by the M20 motorway
  • Three new centres for elective surgeries to be built in Dublin, Cork and Galway
  • Ninety State nursing homes are to receive money for refurbishments
  • No NCTs will be issued for non-zero emission cars post 2045
  • New body to be tasked with driving development on State-owned lands
The Government's €116bn 'Project Ireland 2040' plan has been revealed. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
The Government's €116bn 'Project Ireland 2040' plan has been revealed. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Mary Michell O'Connor, Minister of State at the Department of Education with special responsibility for Higher Education, Tony McLoughlin TD, Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Leo Varadkar is presented with an Annie West caricature of the cabinet by IT Sligo President Brendan McCormack and Una Parsons head of engineering school at IT Sligo, at the Cabinet meeting and launch of Project Ireland 2040 at IT Sligo. Photo: James Connolly
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The Government's €116bn 'Project Ireland 2040' plan has been revealed.

The plan has undergone radical reworking when compared with a draft version that was released last year.

It divides the country into three regions and states 75pc of population growth over the next two decades should occur outside Dublin.

Here are the five key points from today's big reveal:

1. Rural Ireland

A furious battle for rural Ireland has taken place behind the scenes in recent weeks amid uproar that Project Ireland 2040 was too focused on urban centres.

As a result, Rural Affairs Minister Michael Ring has been handed €1bn for regeneration of towns and villages with a population of less than 10,000 people.

The Government has also walked back proposals for a massive clampdown on the so-called ‘bungalow blitz’. A draft version of the plan would have all but banned one-off houses in the countryside but planners can now allow them if the applicant can prove an economic or social need.

A number of regional hubs are also contained in the plan, including Athlone which Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran is calling the "capital of the midlands".

Sligo and Letterkenny also get special status.

A roads budget of €4.5bn has been allocated for regional and local roads.

The plan states: "Develop a programme for ‘new homes in small towns and villages’ with local authorities, public infrastructure agencies such as Irish Water and local communities to provide serviced sites with appropriate infrastructure to attract people to build their own homes and live in small towns and villages."

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Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed TD and Minister for Education Richard Bruton TD arriving for the Cabinet meeting in IT Sligo (Photo: Kyran O'Brien)

2. Urban Ireland

Dublin features heavily in the plan, which is unsurprising given the current housing crisis and traffic gridlock in the city.

The Government plans to tackle these issues by building up rather than out, and investing billions in a Metro.

Project Ireland 2040 states that Dublin should grow primarily within the M50 and as much as possible within the canals. It is estimated that 40pc of new building in the capital will take place on so-called ‘brownfield’ sites.

Around €1bn is set aide for Bus Connects, while the Metro is to finally get the greenlight. It will bring passengers from the city centre to Dublin Airport and on to Swords. It will also stretch south of the city, linking up with DART and Luas services.

Four new Luas lines will enter planning stage during the next decade. They will serve Bray, Finglas, Lucan and Poolbeg.

New park and ride sites are also to be built on the outskirts of the city.

Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford are also described as primary cities in the report.

Among the proposals for Cork is a light rail system and a major redevelopment of the docklands.

Galway city centre will benefit from part of a regeneration fund worth €2bn.

Limerick will finally be connected to Cork by the M20 motorway. And Waterford’s North Quays is to get significant investment.

Each of these cities will see their population grow by up to 50pc over the next two decades.

The plan states: "Dublin is Ireland’s globally competitive city of scale and continues to drive much of the growth of the country as a whole. Cork is emerging as an international centre of scale and is well placed to complement Dublin, but requires significantly accelerated and urban-focused growth to more fully achieve this role."

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Ministers Shane Ross Heather Humphreys and Michael Creed at a briefing in IT Sligo for the launch of Project Ireland 2040. (Photo: Kyran O'Brien)

3. The Big Crises: Health and Housing

The plan put a major focus on the two big crises facing the country: health and housing.

In the region of €10.9bn has been set aside for health spending. This includes initiatives aimed specially at resolving the trolley and waiting list problems.

Three new centres for elective surgeries are to be built in Dublin, Cork and Galway to deal with the public waiting lists.

The recommendations of the Bed Capacity Review are to be met by 2027, including an additional 2,600 acute hospital beds.

Although it has already been announced, the National Children’s Hospital is in the plan.

The ambulance fleet is to be upgraded and new bases established in Ardee, Mullingar, Limerick, Cork and Galway.

Ninety State nursing homes are to receive money for refurbishments.

Meanwhile the Department of Housing is to establish a new body known as the National Regeneration and Development Agency.

It will styled like Nama and tasked with driving development on State-owned lands.

In what is likely to prove controversial the agency will also be given legislative powers to issue compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) for brownfield sites in private ownership if the area is seen as having a distinct housing requirement.

It predicts 25,000 to 35,000 homes will be built every year between now and 2040.

The plan promises: "Provision of primary care centres on a national basis to match population changes including new builds and refurbishments of existing buildings."

It also commits to: "A ‘Housing Need Demand Assessment’ (HNDA) is to be undertaken for each Local Authority Area in order to correlate and accurately align future housing requirements."

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Members of the Cabinet holding a special meeting in the Institute of Technology Sligo, following the meeting the Government will launch Project Ireland 2040; the National Planning Framework and the 10 year National Development Plan

4. The Money

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s planned spending spree amounts to €115.9bn over the next decade. Of this €91bn will come from taxpayers, with the remaining €25bn being put forward by commercial semi-state companies.

Among the big ticket items are:

  • €22bn on Climate Change measures
  • €7.3bn for roads
  • €3bn Dublin Metro
  • €2bn DART Expansion
  • €2bn for a Urban Regeneration Fund (for towns with a population over 10,000)
  • €1bn for a Rural Regeneration Fund (for towns with a population under 10,000)
  • €1bn for Flood Defence
  • €1bn fund for Arts and Heritage projects
  • €500m for a Disruptive Technologies Fund
  • €230m for Dublin Port, €90m for Rinaskiddy in Cork, €27m for Shannon Foynes
  • €2.2bn investment in seven universities
  • €4.8bn for primary and post-primary school buildings

The plan states: "The Development Plan yields clarity and certainty regarding the scale of infrastructure investment over the next 10 years."

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Minister Shane Ross TD at a Briefing in Sligo IT at the launch of Project Ireland 2040. (Photo: Kyran O'Brien)

5. What else stands out?

For the first time, a major government plan has been ‘climate change proofed’.

A total of €22bn has been allocated for creating a "low carbon environment" that will be sustainable by 2050.

There are a series of initiatives aimed directly at the transport sector, agriculture and the built environment.

Up to 45,000 homes are to be retro-fitted each year to bring them up to a BER B energy rating.

Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann will be expected to stop buying buses that run on diesel from July 2019.

It is already known that fossil-fuel cars will no longer be sold after 2030, but this is reinforced in the plan. A target is set for at least 500,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030. No NCTs will be issued for non-zero emission cars post 2045.

Tourism features heavily with specific focus on building a brand for the midlands. There is a National Greenways, Blueways and Peatways Strategy, which prioritises projects on the basis of achieving maximum impact and connectivity at national and regional level.

The troubled National Broadband Plan is mentioned on several occasions.

Plans for ensuring the long term supply of water includes abstracting it from the Shannon for use in Dublin.

Thirty Garda Stations will be refurbished but the plan doesn’t say which ones.

The Defence Forces have funding for three new fix wing utility aircraft.

On the culture side there is €12m for the National Library of Ireland and €15m for the National Museum of Ireland.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: "This marks a significant milestone in our country’s development, the point at which we put a lost decade behind us and move forward into a new decade of expansion.

"This is a plan for all our citizens – the old, the young, and the yet to be born, living in towns, in cities and in the countryside. It follows the spirit of Collins and Lemass, people who always strove to raise the prospects of every Irish citizen.

"It’s about ensuring that all parts of Ireland fulfil their potential. As we approach our 100th anniversary as a sovereign nation, it’s about investing to ensure our country is insulated against any possible challenges like Brexit. It’s a path to a positive, sustainable future."

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