The draft National Planning Framework (NPF) not only fails to deliver the much heralded move away from ‘business as usual’ but will, in fact, entrench the existing economic imbalance on the island.
That’s according to Shannon Group Chairman Rose Hynes who said “this must change.”
Addressing the Shannon International Leasing Conference in Limerick at the weekend – on the day for final submissions to the first draft of the NPF – Ms Hynes said that the plan as it currently stands threatens to undermine the potential for Shannon and the Mid-West to become a major global aerospace cntre.
She said that widespread hopes that regional centres could flourish as second-tier cities under the plan are worryingly absent from the first draft of the NPF. But she emphasised that if the broad outcry of adverse reaction from the regions is heeded, Government has the opportunity to correct this by the time the plan is finalised.
“If Ireland as a whole is to grow and flourish in the decades ahead, it’s not enough for government policy to focus only on Dublin. Of course Dublin can and should grow – it’s our capital and our main business city. However, there’s widespread recognition that development has been unbalanced.
“Regional centres such as Limerick and the Midwest, or Cork, or Galway, should complement Dublin, not compete with it. We should be aiming to grow these city regions, focusing on distinct industries – including aerospace here – to create flourishing and growing second-tier cities offering great quality of life and increasing the prosperity of Ireland as a whole.
“We thought that’s what the government’s draft National Planning Framework was going to do. We were wrong. The draft Framework is Dublin-centric and lacks vision. The much heralded move away from ‘business as usual’ has just not materialised,” she said.
Continuing, Ms Hynes stated: “It disappointingly proposes to entrench the existing imbalance, by constraining the rest of the country not to grow faster than Dublin. There is a strong adverse reaction from stakeholders in the regions outside of Dublin. But this also condemns Dubliners to worsening congestion, longer commutes and higher costs of living.
“I would urge the government to pay attention to the response to the Framework that they going to receive and to fundamentally change their position. If we really want regions outside of Dublin to realise their potential, then the Framework must recognise the need to utilise their assets fully – this is in the national interest, and ultimately is good for Dublin too.”
In terms of the aviation sector, she said: “Shannon Airport is critical in attracting FDI and Tourism to the Mid–West. All 16 new FDI announcements in the region in the last year specifically noted Shannon Airport as a key factor in their investment decision. Over 40% of existing US FDI in Ireland is within the catchment of Shannon Airport.”
The local authority rates burden on hangars makes it harder for Ireland to compete with other countries for MRO business. Ms Hynes called for this burden to be lessened and also for the IDA to be mandated to target aerospace FDI in the same way that it successfully attracts FDI in other sectors.
“The aerospace industry can grow considerably here if Government policy is supportive and finds ways to accelerate and make things happen. We can bring more growth and more jobs – and make things happen now. But we need enlightened government policy, and more regional balance, in all our interests. Current normal thinking won’t work.”