Infrastructure

Review to Renew: NDP under review

In November 2020, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath TD brought forward and launched Review to Renew, the midterm review of the National Development Plan 2018–2027 (NDP). The public consultation of the review closed on 19 February 2021.

Upon its formation, the Government committed to bringing forward a review of the NDP in order to better align with the priorities of the Programme for Government (PfG). The new NDP will establish a new capital investment framework until 2030.

Review to Renew, the public consultation phase of the NDP was launched on 3 November 2020 and the final review is timetabled for completion in summer 2021. The consultation was open to all stakeholders, from industry experts to infrastructure users.

The core objectives of Review to Renew are:

  • ensuring a sufficient overall level of capital investment planned for the future;
  • testing that the proposed allocations to departments and agencies are correct; and
  • ‘sense-checking’ to meet infrastructure challenges and more quickly fulfil PfG priorities.

However, Review to Renew will not consider the merit of individual projects or sectoral policy strategies. Individual departments and agencies establish their own strategies and objectives which then inform the selection of specific projects. As such, government departments are currently, or will soon be, conducting public consultations on the infrastructure within their remit.

The National Development Plan is the Government’s 10-year (2018–2027) programme of public capital investment, intended to upgrade the national infrastructure, enhance economic competitiveness, and deliver balanced regional development.

Alongside the National Planning Framework (NPF), a spatial strategy for the next 20 years, the NDP is one of the dual pillars of Project Ireland 2040. Project Ireland 2040 is intended to align capital investment decisions within a defined strategy.

There are 10 strategic investment priorities in the current NDP.

  1. Housing and sustainable urban development: As a top priority, the NDP aims to support the delivery of units to meet housing demand, while underpinning compact development and higher-density cities and towns.
  2. National road network: The objective of the NDP is to ensure that that every region and major urban area is linked to Dublin via a high-quality road network.
  3. Rural development: Regional balance is a key strand of Project Ireland 2040 and public capital investment is crucial in supporting job growth and unlocking socioeconomic potential.
  4. Environmentally sustainable public transport: The NDP is intended to deliver a public transport network that incorporates high-quality passenger interchange points, ensuring convenience and efficiency in transfer.
  5. Enterprise, skills, and innovation capacity: The NDP aims to support job creation across Ireland’s regions through the development of “deeply rooted sectoral clustering” delivered through collaboration and investment in higher education and further education and training.
  6. Airports and ports: Investment in Ireland’s ports and airports, consistent with national policy, will contribute to international connectivity, which is central to economic competitiveness.
  7. Culture, heritage, and sport: Culture, heritage and sport make significant contributions to the liveability of communities and investment here can complement enhanced investment in public transport. This investment is conducive to social cohesion and sustainable economic growth.
  8. Climate action: Recognising Ireland’s enhanced climate ambition as outlined in the Programme for Government, coherent cross-sectoral public capital investment must support the creation of a
    low-carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy and society.
  9. Water infrastructure: Investment in water is essential to ensuring both public health and the environment.
  10. Education, health and childcare: Demographic need necessitates increased investment in the delivery of additional permanent school places.

At the launch of the review, Minister McGrath stated: “This review of the NDP provides an opportunity to ensure delivery of more infrastructure to more people, including public transport, broadband, housing and a broad range of social, cultural and community services. Led by the National Investment Office in DPER, the review will also ensure alignment between the NDP and the priorities identified in the Programme for Government, including climate action, housing policy, transport policy, implementation of Sláintecare and balanced regional development.”

“All the evidence shows that the greatest impact on improving project outcomes comes from careful project preparation. The recent update to the Public Spending Code strengthens existing guidance to better reflect the realities of project delivery…”

Minister of State Ossian Smyth TD

Emphasising the importance of integrating climate change adaptation and mitigation into the NDP, McGrath said: “Ireland cannot continue with ‘development as usual’ without giving due consideration to climate associated risks. We need to ensure that we have the capacity to adapt and we must take an integrated approach, including climate change adaptation at every stage in our development plan.

“This will make development more resilient by reducing climate impacts and make for a better future for the people of Ireland and I am particularly anxious to hear the views of the public on this matter.”

Minister of State Ossian Smyth TD added: “All the evidence shows that the greatest impact on improving project outcomes comes from careful project preparation. The recent update to the Public Spending Code strengthens existing guidance to better reflect the realities of project delivery, with a particular focus on financial appraisal, cost estimation and risk management. Rigorous application of the updated code is supporting public bodies in gaining a more developed view of costs, risks and timeframes before committing to a project.”

Speaking ahead of the publication of the revised NDP in summer 2021, Minister McGrath affirmed: “All submissions will be reviewed by officials in my department and I look forward to seeing the views of the people of Ireland reflected in the new National Development Plan.” The revised plan, he added, will be “the blueprint for the development of our infrastructure”, establishing the overall capital investment envelope for the current decade up until 2030 and will incorporate five-year rolling departmental capital ceilings and priorities.

The Review to Renew public consultation posed seven questions for stakeholders:

  1. Is the overall level of public spending on capital investment correct?
  2. What should the capital budget be spend on?
  3. What types of capital investment should be prioritised?
  4. How can the management and governance of public investment be improved?
  5. How is the NDP affecting your region?
  6. What is your feedback on the Project Ireland 2040 communications?
  7. Is there anything else you would like to add?
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