WDC Submission on Draft RSES for Northern & Western Region 

Last week the WDC made a submission to the public consultation being held by the Northern & Western Regional Assembly on their Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy.  The submission is available here.

As we’ve provided substantial input previously to the preparation of the Draft RSES, in this submission we mainly comment on the specific text and content of the Draft RSES document and pay particular focus to the 211 Regional Policy Objectives set out.

Some of the general comments contained in our submission include:

A Rural Region

  • Adapting the ‘city-led development’ approach of the National Planning Framework (NPF) to a highly rural region presents a considerable challenge. The RSES for the NWRA Region needs to have flexibility to take an approach more suited to the rural nature of its settlement pattern.
  • Rural areas provide much of the urban workforce and urban demand. Rural-urban interlinkages, including travel to work patterns, need to be given greater consideration.
  • Job creation in smaller towns, villages and rural areas, as well as remote working, can bring closer alignment of housing and jobs. Building more houses in large urban centres is not the only route to greater alignment.

Implementation

  • Many of the Regional Policy Objectives do not include detail of how they will be implemented, who will be involved in leading or implementing them or the timeframe for implementation.
  • A mechanism is needed to achieve the required alignment of a large array of national, regional, local, sectoral, public and private organisations, policies, priorities and strategies to ensure implementation of the RSES. It needs to be clear what will happen if the priorities of a Government Department or sectoral agency conflict with the RSES.

Growth Ambitions

The Draft RSES is based on a Growth Framework composed of 5 Growth Ambitions: 1) Vibrant Region; 2) Natural Region; 3) Connected Region; 4) Inclusive Region; 5) Enabling our Region.  Some of our key points on these included:

  • The Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC), as an agreed place-based platform for economic growth, should be designated as an Economic Zone in the RSES.
  • Adopting a ‘sector’ approach to economic and enterprise development misses out on many ‘cross-cutting’ themes e.g. digitalisation, AI, finance.
  • There is an urgent need to review national Ports and Aviation policy to move away from the ‘business as usual’ approach which reinforces the dominance of Dublin Port and Airport.
  • Delivering Atlantic Corridor road projects (on the N17/15) should be prioritised to take place earlier (no commitment in current NDP to begin construction before 2027).
  • Some care is needed in focusing on ‘infrastructure corridors’ – this approach will not work in all circumstances and areas distant from such ‘corridors’ risk further disadvantage.
  • RSES should contain a stronger commitment to the extension of the natural gas grid.
  • RSES needs to focus on improving living standards for residents of the Region as a key objective in its own right, rather than simply as a way to attract companies and support business.
  • More reference is needed to the potential impact of Brexit.

The full submission is available here

Following the public consultation (which closed on 8 February) the NWRA will prepare a report on issues raised in submissions/observations and recommend whether the RSES should be made with or without amendments. It may necessary to hold another phase of public consultation before the RSES can be finalised. You can check for updates on the process here.

The Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Southern Regional Assembly  is still open for consultation, with a deadline of 8 March 2019, and a future post will discuss the WDC’s submission to that consultation.

Pauline White