chapter  4
30 Pages

SPACE AND PLACE IN THE NATIONAL SPATIAL STRATEGY FOR THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND

WithJAMES A. WALSH

The publication of The National Spatial Strategy 2002-2020 (NSS) in December 2002 with the subtitle People, Places and Potential was a significant milestone in the history of planning in Ireland. Just over fifteen years previously the Minister for the Environment had abolished the National Institute for Physical Planning and Construction Research (An Foras Forbartha) and also the nine Regional Development Organisations that had since the early 1970s been responsible for the preparation of regional development strategies. Even more remarkable is the fact that just four years after the publication of the NSS it became a cornerstone for the National Development Plan 2007-2013 with the subtitle Transforming Ireland: A Better Quality of Life for All (Government of Ireland 2007). In his Foreword to the National Development Plan the Minister for Finance provides an unequivocal endorsement of the NSS:

our spatial strategy . . . is crucial to managing the challenges of the future and the potential for growth and development . . . spatial objectives are integrated within the goals of economic, social and environmental sustainability and our national and international responsibilities under these headings. (GoI 2007: 13)

The NSS was formulated against a background of unprecedented economic transformation in the Republic of Ireland. Over a relatively short period the country had moved from a position of very low levels of economic development compared with the core regions of western Europe, to becoming the state with the second highest level of per capita gross domestic product (GDP). The experience of economic convergence was, however, accompanied by increasing tendencies towards regional divergence within Ireland (Walsh 2000). The reality of unbalanced regional development in the context of increasing national prosperity was a major catalyst for producing the National Spatial Strategy. The goal of balanced

regional development was itself problematic in definition and brought to the fore some deeply ingrained conceptions of the distinctiveness and expectations of the residents of certain places in Ireland.