Sunday 20 January 2019

Varadkar's €116bn masterplan revealed: Four new Luas lines, an 'Atlantic Corridor', and 500,000 new homes

  • Today the Government will unveil a €116bn masterplan for the future of Ireland
  • Some 25,000 to 35,000 new homes annually 
  • €2bn for the regeneration of the country's five main cities
  • Aim is for no new diesel or petrol cars to be sold after 2030
Sligo, where the plan is being launched, gets special status as a ‘regional centre’
Sligo, where the plan is being launched, gets special status as a ‘regional centre’

Kevin Doyle and Louise Hogan

FOUR new Luas lines feature in Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's €116bn masterplan for the future of Ireland.

Project Ireland 2040 will see the construction of 500,000 new homes over the next two decades and includes €2bn for the regeneration of the country's five main cities.

The plan has undergone radical reworking when compared with a draft version that was released last year. Among the major changes is the loosening of rules which would have effectively ended a so-called `bungalow blitz' in the countryside.

It was planned to curtail farmers' sons and daughters from building on their land unless there was an "economic need" - but planners will now also be able to factor in a social dimension.

Rural Affairs Minister Michael Ring is also to get a 1bn fund targeted at regenerating towns with fewer than 10,000 people. can reveal other key elements of Project Ireland 2040 include: 

*25,000 to 35,000 new homes annually. 

*Luas extensions to Bray, Lucan, Finglas and Poolbeg. 

*Refurbishment of 30 Garda stations. 

*Upgrades to Mountjoy and Limerick prisons. 

*€1bn for flood defences. 

*€22bn for climate change initiatives. 

*20,000 new school places. 

*Elective-only hospitals in Dublin, Cork and Galway. 

*New ambulance bases in Ardee, Mullingar, Cork, Dublin and Galway. 

*Atlantic road corridor from Donegal to Waterford. 

*M20 from Limerick to Cork. 

*Light rail service for Cork. 

*2,600 new hospital beds.

*€1bn for arts and culture.

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

Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford are designated as the urban centres for expansion, meaning they get extra attention when it comes to infrastructure investment.

Sligo, where the plan is being launched, gets special status as a `regional centre', as does Letterkenny in Co Donegal. Despite complaints from other towns, Athlone is to be the `capital of the midlands'.

This is seen as a win for local Independent Alliance minister Kevin `Boxer' Moran, whose department has also been promised 1bn for flood defences. Ahead of the launch, Mr Varadkar hit out at Opposition parties for trying to create division between different regions.

"Trying to divide us urban and rural and even trying to divide us between who lives Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will unveil the plan today below a line between Dublin and Galway and those who live above that line.

"To me that's not leadership. That's the worst form of old, parochial politics, trying to breed resentment rather than encouraging people to be ambitious about their city or their region or their county and to look to the future," he told a Chamber of Commerce event in Dublin.

According to sources, the areas of housing, health and transport get the bulk of the money. A powerful new body known as the `National Regeneration and Development Agency' is to be established under Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy. It will work with local authorities to free up brownfield sites for new developments, including privately owned locations.

Health Minister Simon Harris will get funding for three new hospitals that will deal exclusively with patients waiting for elective surgeries. The facilities will be based in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

The National Maternity Hospital at St Vincent's features in the plan, as does the National Children's Hospital. The Development Plan allocates 22bn to climate change measures but a lot of the heavy lifting will be done by the ESB and public transport companies. Peat burning is to be removed from all power stations by 2030.

Among the targets is the retrofitting of 45,000 houses and schools built before 2008 to be more energy efficient.

With diesel cars already under the spotlight, it is expected to set out one of its strategic targets that there will be no new diesel or petrol cars after 2030.

And Dublin Bus will be barred from buying diesel-fuelled vehicles after July 2019. An urban regeneration fund worth 2bn will include money for improvements to Waterford's North Quays, Galway city centre and Cork docklands.


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ROADS, trains and planes all feature in the plan, with the M20 motorway and Atlantic Corridor linking Donegal to Sligo and Tuam among the priority projects.

Investment in regional and local roads will rise substantially over the next decade, with a spend totalling €4.5bn.

Dublin Bus will get money for new routes while the long-delayed Metro North will finally ensure a direct rail service from the city centre to the airport.

While works are unlikely to begin within the 10-year timeframe, advanced planning will take place for Luas extensions to Bray, Finglas, Lucan and Poolbeg.

Cork is to get its own light rail system, while Dublin Airport will get a second runway.


University College Cork

IN the region of 20,000 school places will be created over the duration of the National Development Plan.

Sources say at least 23 counties will benefit, but a significant number of the individual schools to get funding were already announced as far back as 2014. 

It is understood the plan does not name further school developments – but these will be identified by the Department of Education over the lifetime of the plan.

The country’s seven universities will share a fund worth more than €2bn.

There will also be a substantial upgrade of ITs as they move towards becoming technological universities.



THE big ticket item in housing is the establishment of a National Regeneration and Development Agency to drive building.

Sources say it will be a Nama-style agency with a focus on freeing up brownfield sites for new developments.

It will primarily target State-owned lands but will also get powers to buy up private lands via compulsory purchase order if it is in the national interest.

Overall the aim is to build an extra 500,000 homes by 2040, with 40pc on brownfield sites.

Some 12,000 social houses will be built annually during the 10 years.

Changes to the rules governing one-off houses in the countryside will make it easier to get planning permission.


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HEALTH is one of the biggest winners today with money for new hospitals, ambulance bases and nursing homes.

Three new hospitals for dealing with elective surgeries will be built in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

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.

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.


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A €500m ‘Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund’ is to be administered by the Department of Business from next year.

It will facilitate a new wave of start-ups. Examples of ‘disruptive technologies’ include artificial intelligence, data analytics, augmented and virtual reality.

Ideas should be aimed at a range of business models including healthcare, financial services, energy and food production, and business services.

The HSE is to get a new ICT system and establish an eHealth product to help interaction with patients.

Garda will finally be in a position to replace the 20-year-old Pulse recording system.

Tusla will get a long-awaited new IT system.


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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.

Sources say there is 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.

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