Opposition coalition wants draft national plan ‘completely altered’

TDs to hold public meetings to force changes to ‘anti-rural’ draft ‘Ireland 2040’ plan

Labour TD Alan Kelly has  joined with Fianna Fáil’s Éamon Ó Cuív, Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin and Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice to raise objections to the draft framework. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Labour TD Alan Kelly has joined with Fianna Fáil’s Éamon Ó Cuív, Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin and Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice to raise objections to the draft framework. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

A coalition of opposition TDs has warned that the National Planning Framework will not pass the Oireachtas, claiming that the 20-year development plan for the country is “unbalanced” in favour of Dublin and will “kill rural Ireland”.

Labour TD Alan Kelly, who launched the plan as minister for the environment in late 2015, joined with Fianna Fáil’s Éamon Ó Cuív, Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin and Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice to raise objections to the draft framework, arguing that it was “unsupportable” in its current format.

The group, styling itself as the Coalition Against the National Planning Framework, plans to run a national campaign, including public meetings starting in Athlone, Co Westmeath next Monday, to push for the framework to be “completely altered”, said Mr Kelly.

Their opposition raises the prospect of a clash with Government and a risk to Fianna Fáil’s confidence-and-supply agreement with the Fine Gael-led coalition as their objections represent the views of their parties.

Fianna Fáil had “huge concerns” for the rural implications of this plan, said Mr Ó Cuív, and the party was pressing for changes to the draft framework.

“Everything in politics is about negotiation,” said the Galway West TD.

‘Pretty seismic’

Mr Kelly warned that the draft plan for “Ireland 2040”, which had – unlike previous national spatial plans – to be put on a statutory footing, would not pass the Oireachtas. He warned that this would have “pretty seismic” consequences for subsequent budgetary plans on capital expenditure to finance the programme.

“We don’t believe that this plan can get through those houses across the road,” the Tipperary TD told a press conference in Buswells Hotel across from Leinster House in Dublin.

He said that the draft plan was “generic” and lacked ambition, would create an imbalance in the country by concentrating investment too heavily on Dublin and would “choke” the capital city.

Mr Ó Broin, the Dublin Mid-West TD, said that Sinn Féin was “very concerned” about the consultation process given that only 750 submissions were received on the initial document.

The framework would still create “chronic over-concentration” on Dublin and the surrounding region, he said, and suggested greater focus on the cross-Border Letterkenny-Derry and Dublin-Belfast corridors.

Mr Ó Cuív described the plan as “anti-rural” and said that it was based on “late 20th century” rather than 21st century planning by failing to account for how much more people work remotely now.

“There is a huge presumption here against protecting the right of people to live within the townlands that they came from,” he said.