I propose to take Questions Nos. 54, 71, 712, 715 and 734 together.
The National Planning Framework (NPF), published together with the National Development Plan (NDP) as part of Project Ireland 2040 on 16 February 2018, sets out an ambitious high-level national vision for Ireland for 2040 and provides the framework and principles to manage future population and economic growth over the next 20 years, catering for around 1 million extra people, 660,000 extra jobs and 550,000 extra homes.
The NPF and the NDP principles will also shape the three Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (RSESs), being prepared by the Regional Assemblies over the course of 2018, which will link strategic planning and investment at the national level with the physical planning and local economic and community development functions of local authorities.
A key component of the RSESs, already being prepared, is the preparation of initial Metropolitan Area Strategic Plans (MASPs). In this regard, the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly, working with the relevant local authorities across the Greater Dublin Area, will co-ordinate a strategic metropolitan plan for the Dublin area. Engagement with each of the four Dublin local authorities will be undertaken as part of preparing the MASP, through the RSES process.
The MASPs will inform each local authority development plan, focusing on high-level issues that affect each city as a whole across local authority boundaries, as well as setting investment priorities, ranging from planning for transport, housing and economic development to major regeneration areas and projects. Plans for the future development of individual areas will be a matter for the relevant local authority to pursue through the relevant development plan, in line with the overarching planning policy objectives of the NPF.
Implementation of the NPF will be supported by an investment of €2 billion for urban regeneration and development purposes, focusing on cities and towns in excess of 10,000 in population, and complemented by a similar €1 billion fund for regeneration of smaller towns and villages which is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Rural and Community Development.
The Urban Regeneration and Development Fund will be a competitive bid-based fund, operated in line with criteria that my Department is in the process of drawing up in consultation with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The funding for urban regeneration and development, which will become available from 2019, is additional to the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF) and at this preliminary stage, it would be expected that urban regeneration initiatives leveraged by the funding being made available would include the provision of the homes required in the cores of our cities and towns.
The overall purpose of the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund is therefore to achieve sustainable growth in Ireland’s five cities and other larger urban centres, complementing the similar focus of the rural regeneration and development fund being developed by the Department of Rural and Community Development.
Given that Project Ireland 2040's significant policy shift towards securing more compact and sustainable urban and rural development will require significantly more effective land management in key development areas, it is proposed to establish a National Regeneration and Development Agency to assist in ensuring a more effective approach to strategic land management, particularly in terms of publicly owned land. The Agency will act as a national centre of expertise, working with and supporting local authorities, public bodies and other interests, to harness public lands as catalysts to stimulate regeneration and wider investment and to achieve compact, sustainable growth, with a particular emphasis on complex regeneration projects.
The detailed arrangements in relation to the establishment, location, staffing and powers of the Agency will be finalised as quickly as possible. At this point, however, I envisage that the Agency would be tightly focused and would seek to work primarily through the statutory powers of the stakeholders it is being established to assist, such as the local authorities who already have extensive powers to acquire, compulsorily if necessary, lands for development and to deliver infrastructure.