The issue is under the spotlight as part of the National Planning Framework
The new National Planning Framework can be a ‘huge opportunity’ for the south-east to address a lot of ongoing issues, a local councillor has said.
Cllr Tomas Breathnach was speaking after the publication of the framework’s draft plan last week, following months of preparation and consultation. South Kilkenny councillors have had a particular interest in its publication, given any potential impact it may have on the ongoing ‘boundary issue’ with Waterford.
Perhaps most significantly for that issue, the draft sets out to introduce ‘strategic and co-ordinated’ planning of cities and large towns across local authority boundaries via statutorily-backed ‘Metropolitan Area Strategic Plans’ in the five cities of Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford.
At last week’s meeting of the Piltown Municipal District,director of services for Kilkenny County Council Mary Mulholland told members the draft plan runs to 151 pages.
“I propose we take a bit of time to go through it,” she said.
“It is substantial — it’s very strategic, overarching, and how it deals with [the Waterford boundary issue] may be open to interpretation.”
Ms Mulholland said she thought there was a role for the planning SPC to perhaps have a day for dealing with the NPF. She said she was happy to go through it and provide a summary, but would need maybe a week with staff in planning.
Cllr Pat Dunphy said that for many years, Kilkenny had no meetings with their Waterford counterparts, but had recently had one. He said putting such meetings on a statutory footings would be welcome.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” he said.
Ms Mulholland said there is a need for balanced regional development, and in the south-east, Waterford is the city, with Kilkenny recognising the need for a strong regional driver.
Cllr Melissa O’ Neill, however, was sceptical.
“I think it’s very evident that our administrative power will more than likely not be there in future,” she said, adding there appeared to be a ‘sugarcoating’ of the fact that ‘the area will be out of our hands’.
Ms Mulholland said she did not agree with this assessment and took exception to the term ‘sugarcoating’. She said there were many layers to the planning hierarchy, and the process was ‘quite open’.
She said there were other relevant processes such as the National Spatial Strategy, and it was quite appropriate there would be a National Planning Framework.
“We have regional planning guidelines in place for quite some time,” she added.
Cllr Ger Frisby said it was hard to comment on the document when they had not yet read it, and there needed to be further clarity as to what exactly a ‘Metropolitan Area Strategic Plan' is. He said while he still had concerns, the draft was a step forward as it opened communication, and was a chance for the neighbouring local authorities ‘to work together for the betterment of the area’.
Cllr Tomas Breathnach said it was the start of the process, and not the end of it. He called on people to engage with the process:
“This is a huge opportunity for the south-east,” he said.
“It’s not just a Kilkenny issue or a boundary issue.”