NPF coalition demands meeting with minister and blueprint authors

The National Planning Framework Coalition has demanded a meeting with Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy and the authors of the ‘Ireland 2040’ blueprint.

The coalition – formed in response to serious concerns that the National Planning Framework (NPF) could “fail” to deliver a balanced national economy – insists it will not relent in its opposition to the process until it is “fully satisfied” that the plan meets “what the nation needs”.

It will not, the group said, be placated by the “piecemeal, panicked response” of the Cabinet on Monday night (February 5) to widespread fears over “shortcomings” in the draft plan.

Eamon O Cuiv, Fianna Fail’s regional development and rural affairs spokesperson, said: “The panicked response of Government to a nation that has begun calling it out in relation to the incompetence of the NPF draft, and its absolute indifference to the regions in that draft, is not going to allay our concerns in the slightest.

We’ve seen a release of selective planned projects under the NPF; but, the soundings suggest that nothing material has changed and we are not going to let Government away with that.

“The devil is going to be in the detail and we are asking Minister Murphy to arrange an urgent meeting with his officials for us so we can drive it home to them that we demand more for Ireland and are not going away until we get it.”

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice said: “The past week since we launched our campaign has been enlightening for us as it has confirmed everything we thought with regard to the NPF.

We knew once we put this on the national agenda properly, something that Government clearly wanted to avoid, it would lead to the wide public anger – across the regions and, indeed, in Dublin.

“It has had a galvanising effect and led to a loud statement that it’s simply not good enough,” the TD said.

“We are also not at all surprised by the knee-jerk reaction to this by Government in rushing out with a hastily-convened press briefing. That was, as much as anything, a tacit admission of the draft plan’s failure.

“Our confidence in the process, and the people who are presiding over this, is all but gone so we insist that the plan is re-engineered and with a much greater degree of oversight,” he said.

Earlier this week Taoiseach Leo Varadkar stated to the media that the NPF needs to be “realistic”.

“A plan that is not realistic is not of any use to anyone. When I hear people talking about turning every town into a city and every village into a town, and railways to everywhere, that would not be viable and would require massive subvention at the expense of our health budget and our education budget.

“We do not need that plan, we have had that before. It needs to be realistic; but, it also needs to do exactly what we want it to do, which is rebalance development away from Dublin and building up our other cities,” he said.

Public meetings

Last Monday (February 5), up to 300 rural dwellers gathered for the first in a series of nationwide public meetings aimed at addressing concerns over draft plans for the NPF.

The official plan – which will inform infrastructure and strategic planning investments countrywide over the next 20 years – is expected to be voted on in Leinster House over the coming weeks.

However, a new coalition group of cross-party and independent TDs with a united passion for rural development – including: Michael Fitzmaurice (independent); Eamon O Cuiv (Fianna Fail); Alan Kelly (Labour); and Martin Kenny (Sinn Fein) – has laid down a marker that it will not support the plan in its current format.

The next meeting is expected to take place in Limerick over the coming days.