The late lamented National Spatial Strategy must be replaced and subject to Strategic Environmental Assessment
13th February 2013: An Taisce, The National Trust for Ireland, welcomes the announcement by the Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan TD, that the National Spatial Strategy (NSS) is to be reviewed. As detailed in our ‘State of the Nation: A Review of Ireland’s Planning System 2001-2011’ Report last year, An Taisce has long argued that the NSS was never implemented and a complete failure. This was confirmed in the results of Census 2011 and we welcome the government’s belated acknowledgement of this fact.
The NSS was brought down at the first fence. Introduced in 2002 it was immediately ignored by the McCreevy decentralisation programme. The lack of any adherence to the NSS by county councils over the past decade led to property speculation, over-zoning, urban sprawl, ghost estates, environmental destruction and unbearably long commutes for citizens. In fact, the current financial crisis can be traced in large part to the failure of the NSS.
In an era of much reduced financial resources and major challenges such as climate change and energy insecurity, a revised NSS underpinned by statute and backed-up by proper independent regulation measures is more critical than ever. We must have learned the lessons of developer led planning. A revised NSS is needed to ensure, among other things, that infrastructure investment and development is targeted where it will support job creation but also ensure that people are able to live in areas with good community facilities and good public transport. This requires that the NSS and the National Development Plan (NDP) be merged.
As Ireland’s foremost environmental charity involved in the planning process, An Taisce plans to fully involve itself in the review process. We urge the Minister that the most important initiative that he can take is to place the NSS and NDP on a statutory footing in the forthcoming Planning Bill 2013. This will ensure that both plans are subject to Strategic Environmental Assessment and Habitats Directive Assessment, which will allow for a mature public and political debate – including an analysis of alternative future scenarios – about the future of our country which is desperately needed.
SEA – Strategic Environmental Assessment – see http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eia/sea-legalcontext.htm
An SEA is mandatory for plans/programmes which are:
are prepared for agriculture, forestry, fisheries, energy, industry, transport, waste/ water management, telecommunications, tourism, town & country planning or land use and which set the framework for future development consent of projects listed in the EIA Directive.
have been determined to require an assessment under the Habitats Directive.