The WDC recently presented to Galway Chamber (presentation available here), noting some of the work they have recently undertaken and highlighting some policy implications for the Region as well as the city.
Galway – which Galway?!
Galway city and its reach goes well beyond the city boundary, but measuring this is complicated. In part because there are different measures depending on the role performed by the city, for example as a centre of excellence for health it has an extensive regional remit. More recently there is consideration of the Galway Metropolitan Area Spatial Plan (MASP) as part of Ireland 2040 and the National Planning Framework.
Travel to Work Areas
Another way of examining the impact and influence of Galway is examining its labour catchment. The WDC has analysed labour catchments, based on Travel to Work Areas, which in turn are based on the commuting patterns of workers resident in the Western Region. The WDC first undertook this exercise based on Census 2006 data and has completed the same analysis 10 years later with the most recent Census in 2016. This provides useful trend data, which shows a growth in the size of the Galway city labour catchment over the period. The Galway city labour catchment and the extent of commuting to the city highlights the extensive reach of the city across the entire county and beyond into parts of Galway and Mayo.
Highlights from 2016 Census
The recent Census data shows that between 2011 and 2016 the number of people living in Galway city grew by over 4% (4.2%), and by 2.4% in County Galway. Both the city and county had much higher population increases than anywhere else across the Western Region, (Mayo and Donegal recorded slight declines).
When examining the socio-economic profile of residents, the figures for Galway city are generally very similar to the state average, for example, in terms of the employment (53.4%) and unemployment rates (7.9%) and the share not economically active (38%) the Galway city figures and the State are the same.
NPF and RSES
There was a discussion on the National Planning Framework and the Northern & Western Regional Economic and Spatial Plan. While the NPF is to be a move away from ‘business as usual’, from a regional perspective the focus is on the five cities. A concern is implementation and the importance of sectoral policy as an instrument of change for both capital & current spending. Sectoral polices need to be aligned to support the move ‘away from business as usual’. However, there is little evidence of this in the NPF, so for example, policies such as the National Aviation Policy devised well before the NPF now need to be reviewed to support the regional population and employment targets.
On the Northern & Western Regional Economic and Spatial Plan, while the WDC welcomes regional population targets there needs to be more commitments to help deliver. There is much potential in the regional centres but there needs to be better links and investment, however much of this is at the back end of the programme rather than being front loaded. As we know from previous spatial planning exercises (e.g. National Spatial Strategy), implementation is key. What happens if priorities of a Government Department or sectoral agency conflict with RSES?
Policy implications for Galway
Better intra-regional transport links e.g. M18 have extended labour catchments & opened up new opportunities, for example there is now more commuting for work between Galway, Ennis, Shannon and Limerick. This can be a key asset for large employers looking to access the skills they need. The Galway-Ennis-Shannon- Limerick may currently be the most cohesive element of the Atlantic Economic Corridor and it illustrates how good transport links are critical.
Employment and good job opportunities are important in ensuring skilled people will stay in the region and Galway needs to attract new and dynamic enterprises. Employment is very important but Galway as a place to live is equally, if not more important. Place of residence is usually more stable than place of employment, therefore retaining the good quality of life available in Galway and improving on it should also be a policy priority.
Galway City and Chambers city Regions Conference
The idea of the regional cities working together more cohesively was a key theme discussed at the conference on urban development hosted by the Chambers of Commerce in the five cities – Cork, Dublin, Galway, Limerick and Waterford, held in NUI Galway on 28th March. The conference, entitled ‘Ireland’s Cities – Powerhouses of Regional Growth’, explored how Ireland’s five cities can fulfill the goals of economic development for their regions set out in the National Planning Framework (NPF) and Project Ireland 2040.
The Minster for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy TD, opened the conference and welcomed the initiative, pointing to the opportunities for urban growth and regeneration without urban sprawl. John Moran, Chair of the Land Development Agency pointed to the opportunities for the four regional cities to work together to create a counterbalance to the East and to combine capacities to create more opportunities. Other speakers included Anne Graham, CEO of the National Transport Authority. John O’Regan, Director of AECOM discussed the results of their Survey on Our Cities’ Infrastructure Needs and Dr. Patrick Collins from NUI Galway discussed a Vision for Galway as an example of urban regeneration highlighting issues and opportunities. The presentations will be made available on the Galway Chamber website shortly.