The National Spatial Strategy

2002 - 2020

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What is the National Spatial Strategy?

The National Spatial Strategy (NSS) Click here to download the National Spatial Strategy Summary Guide in PDF format (420kb) is a coherent national planning framework for Ireland for the next 20 years Click here to download the full text of the National Spatial Strategy in PDF format.(4mbs). The NSS aims to achieve a better balance of social, economic and physical development across Ireland, supported by more effective planning.In order to drive development in the regions, the NSS proposes that areas of sufficient scale and critical mass will be built up through a network of gateways and hubs. It's about people, places and potential. Making the most of our cities, towns and rural places to bring a better spread of opportunities, better quality of life and better places to live in.

While the National Development Plan 2000-2006 identified Dublin, Cork, Limerick/Shannon, Galway and Waterford as existing gateways, the NSS designated four new national level gateways - the towns of Dundalk and Sligo and the linked gateways of Letterkenny/(Derry) and the Midland towns of Athlone/Tullamore/Mullingar (See Map).

In addition, the NSS identified nine, strategically located, medium-sized "hubs" which will support, and be supported by, the gateways and will link out to wider rural areas. The hubs identified are Cavan, Ennis, Kilkenny, Mallow, Monaghan, Tuam and Wexford, along with the linked hubs of Ballina/Castlebar and Tralee/Killarney, working together to promote regional development in their areas. The role of the gateways acting at the national level, together with the hubs acting at the regional and county levels, needs to be partnered by the county towns and other larger towns as a focus for business, residential, service and amenity functions. The NSS also identifies an important need to support the role of smaller towns, villages and rural areas at the local level.

Substantial progress has been made at national level in implementing the Strategy, which is having an increasing influence on policies and programmes across a number of Government Departments and agencies.

  • The National Development Plan (NDP) 2007-2013 aligns the Strategy centrally within it through a specific horizontal chapter on balanced regional development. This Government commitment to aligning the regional development dimension of the NDP 2007-2013 with the NSS objectives and the prioritisation of capital investment in line with the NSS will establish the Strategy as a viable and practical policy measure to encourage more balanced regional development. This will place the NSS at the heart of our capital infrastructure decisions over the next seven years.
  • A Gateway Innovation Fund (GIF) is being provided for in the NDP 2007-2013 which aims to enhance the growth of the 9 gateway cities and towns identified under the NSS.An initial exchequer allocation of Euro300m is being provided through the Fund which will operate initially on a pilot basis for the period 2008-2010. Under the management of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, a detailed scheme for the operation of the new Fund will be finalised shortly.
  • At Regional level, a key policy bridge between national development priorities and local planning has been put in place with the adoption in mid 2004 of Regional Planning Guidelines (RPG's).
  • At County and City level, Integrated Planning Frameworks are in place for almost all gateways.

    The importance of other plans and programmes and their relevance to achieving the aims of the Strategy are also recognised. In addressing spatial issues for the island of Ireland as a whole and strengthening cross-border co-operation, the NSS acknowledges the importance of Shaping Our Future, the Regional Development Strategy for Northern Ireland. The National Spatial Strategy in the South and the Regional Development Strategy in the North are becoming more embedded in policy-making on both sides of the border. A framework of collaboration on spatial policy between North and South is being progressed in order to create enhanced, globally competitive and dynamic economic conditions on the island of Ireland by providing strategic, forward-looking planning frameworks which will assist in targeting appropriate investment in infrastructure and lead to better co-ordination of public services improving the quality of life on both sides of the border.