I propose to take Questions Nos. 226, 230, 232 and 234 together.
The National Planning Framework 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 National Planning Framework and National Development Plan are also being followed by three Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies, 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.
Project Ireland 2040 signals a significant policy shift towards securing more compact and sustainable urban and rural development which requires significantly more effective land management in key development areas.
Securing compact development will be substantially aided by a more effective approach to strategic land management and particularly so as regards land that is publicly owned and/or controlled. Accordingly, Project Ireland 2040 proposes the establishment of a National Regeneration and Development Agency to enhance overall management of the development potential of State lands to support implementation of the National Planning Framework. It is expected that the Agency will work with local authorities, public bodies and the business community, harnessing public lands as catalysts to stimulate regeneration and wider investment and to achieve compact, sustainable growth.
The primary focus of the Agency will therefore be about capacity building, creating a national centre of expertise to support local authorities and agencies in working with wider community and business stakeholders and aiding the coordination of complex regeneration projects.
The detailed arrangements in relation to the establishment, location of headquarters, staff costs and powers of the Agency have yet to be fully determined. However, at this point it is envisaged that the organisation would be a tightly focused one which would seek to work 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.
Under Project Ireland 2040, my Department has been allocated responsibility for developing the €2 billion Urban Regeneration Fund which will support delivery of the NPF’s growth enablers for cities and other large urban centres of 10,000+ population and complementing the €1 billion Rural Regeneration Fund being targeted at smaller towns and villages below this population threshold.
While specific projects and activities under this Fund have not yet been identified, my Department will be engaging with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and other relevant Departments in the short term in drawing up the outline of and criteria for calls for competitive bids for seed funding that will leverage other public and private investment, based on proposals that meet some or all of the criteria as set out in the NPF.
Twelve officials of my Department, including Advisors, attended the launch in Sligo for briefing and administrative/organisational purposes. Costs associated with their attendance, which have yet to be finalised given the recent timing of the event, will be determined in accordance with Travel and Subsistence rules as set out by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.