Government scraps spatial strategy

Minister for Environment Phil Hogan said the National Spatial Strategy had not worked because no investment was put into the plan. Photograph: The Irish Times

Minister for Environment Phil Hogan said the National Spatial Strategy had not worked because no investment was put into the plan. Photograph: The Irish Times

Tue, Feb 12, 2013, 00:00

The Government is to scrap the National Spatial Strategy, the 20-year economic development plan which designated 18 “gateways” and “hubs” through which employment and investment were to be directed.

The announcement was made this afternoon by Minister for Environment Phil Hogan who said the strategy had failed.

Addressing the Oireachtas committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mr Hogan said the gateway and hub cities and towns never received the resources to ensure their development and “nothing has happened” in the ten years since they were designated.

Mr Hogan said there was no point in having a designation without the resources. He said the strategy, which was launched by his predecessor, former minister Martin Cullen more than a decade ago, would be replaced with new proposals which would would be circulated as part of a public consultation.

Mr Hogan said a replacement of for the strategy was “about a year away”.

Referring to the concurrent reform of local government Mr Hogan said major towns with town councils “will still be the focal point” for rural development after town councils are abolished.

He said his aim was to reorganise community development interests and local authority interests combining them with State employment agencies and create a network of “one stop shops” known as Local Employment Offices or LEOs.

Mr Hogan said there was currently “a plethora of organisations where nobody knows which one to go to”. He told TDs and senators some agencies were not fit for purpose in accounting for their stewardship of public monies. He particularly instanced the local development agency Mayo North East Leader where he said “fraud squad have been sent in”.      

He said the new “one stop” local employment offices would involve contributions from all agencies involved in employment services, but without elimination or duplication.

Mr Hogan said the offices would utilise community enterprise staff who were currently employed by the Department of Enterprise. “It will be Enterprise Ireland funding, Enterprise Ireland staff seconded to local Government”.

“I am facilitating the space. Pay and pension issues won’t arise”, he said.

Under the strategy investment in infrastructure and foreign direct investment were to be directed towards nine gateways and a nine hubs in a bid to counter the dominance of the Dublin region and to promote balanced regional development.

The gateways were Cork; the linked areas of Limerick and Shannon; Galway; Sligo; and the linked areas of Letterkenny and Derry; Dundalk; Dublin; the linked areas of Tullamore and Athlone and Mullingar, known as the millands gateway; and Waterford.

The smaller hubs were the linked areas of Tralee and Killarney; Mallow; Ennis; Tuam; Castlebar and Ballina; Monaghan; Cavan; Kilkenny; Wexford.