It is understood the National Development Plan will see an investment of €115 billion in the country’s infrastructure over the next ten years. The plan was discussed in detail at a Cabinet meeting last week.
It will be backed by Exchequer funding to the tune of €90bn and a further €25bn will come from commercial State-owned enterprises. The projects set to benefit include a second runway at Dublin Airport, the building of the M20 motorway to connect Cork and Limerick and the expansion of the DART.
There will also be investment in regional airports and school buildings across the country. Priorities in health include the building of a new National Children’s Hospital and a National Maternity Hospital. There will also be a Rural Regeneration and Development Fund to increase investment for projects in rural towns.
New communications technology for gardaí is also a priority, as is funding to help Ireland reach its climate change goals. The Government is understood to be focusing this plan on social objectives rather than hard economic targets.
The Government also held a special Cabinet meeting about the new National Planning Framework intended to inform all planning, infrastructure, and spatial strategies over the next 25 years. The document is to be published alongside the Government’s ten-year capital investment plan in the coming weeks.
Over the next 25 years, Ireland is expected to have an additional one million people, to need an extra 600,000 jobs, and half a million homes, while the number of people aged over 65 will double.
How to accommodate all of that while coping with social, economic, cultural and environmental change in a balanced and coherent way is what the NPF is supposed to be about.
The plan, however, has been accused of being too city-based because it gives very specific focus to the largest towns, but is much more vague about the rest of the country.
For instance, it targets that Dublin will grow by 25% with an extra 265,000 people, while Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford will be primed to grow by 50% to 60%.
Against this, just 16% of the population growth is earmarked for large towns, which is defined as those with more than 10,000 people.
Many in rural Ireland are fearful that the focus on cities in the new strategy will result in smaller towns, villages and rural communities being overlooked for infrastructural improvements and public investment over the next 25 years while larger cities continue to flourish.
Arriving at the meeting, several representatives of farming groups were strongly critical of lack of consideration for the regions in the first draft of the documents published before Christmas.
Some people also expressed the view that the meeting should have been deferred to allow consideration of the latest draft of the strategy that was under consideration at the cabinet meeting.