Brief for Minister for Community & Rural Affairs

Business priorities and solutions

1. Enhance the effectiveness of national and regional planning


We are living with the legacy of historic policy failure on spatial planning. The now-defunct National Spatial Strategy was well-intentioned but ineffectively implemented. Urban sprawl and traffic congestion adds to the cost of doing business.

Regional economic development has been unbalanced and, in some cases, wasteful of scarce resources. Our housing and transport systems are struggling to cope with society’s growing needs. Given Ireland’s reliance on international trade, our cities need to become more attractive places to live and work.

Regions that have seen population decline, and local economies that are still undergoing fragile recoveries, should be given the necessary guidance to develop through the National Planning Framework (NPF). Through the NPF, they can achieve strong economic growth and create high-skilled employment.

Business investment is driven by certainty, whereas constant change in regional planning or poor adherence to the new NPF, will undermine regional investments.

How? The Minister should:

  • expedite the placement of the NPF on a secure legal footing. It must set out a vision for making our major cities more liveable, for revitalising regional towns, for targeted infrastructure investment in the regions, and achieving a better balance in regional development
  • ensure consistency between regional and local authority planning throughout the implementation of the NPF.


2. Investment in regional transport infrastructure


Underdeveloped transport infrastructure is hindering investment in the regions and driving up costs for businesses and households. Balanced and effective regional development must be a key priority to ensure job creation and future economic growth right across the country.

Although road links between Dublin and the regions have greatly improved in recent years, our regional cities remain poorly connected with each other and some regions remain unconnected to the capital. Better connectivity between cities and regions would boost trade and create growth and job opportunities.

How? The Minister should:

  • expedite the planning and construction of key transport infrastructure projects, prioritising them in line with regional needs as highlighted in Ibec’s submissions on the NPF and the Mid-Term Review of the Capital Plan
  • support the development of a transport network to support an Atlantic Cities Strategy as an economic counterweight to the Greater Dublin region
  • ensure fewer projects get ‘bogged down’ in lengthy planning and consent procedures.


Digital infrastructure that enhances access and connectivity in all regions


Many parts of the country do not have access to high speed broadband. This works against job creation, social inclusion and balanced regional development. SMEs without access to high speed broadband cannot compete on a level playing field. 

A robust infrastructure is the backbone of our growing digital economy. Policy and regulatory decisions at national and EU level can unlock this investment.

How? The Minister should:

  • ensure timely implementation of the National Broadband Plan
  • facilitate commercial rollout of high speed broadband and improved mobile coverage by removing costs and delays caused by onerous administrative and planning processes
  • implement the actions to improve telecoms service identified by the Government Taskforce on Mobile and Broadband. 


4. Develop Regional Cities and Towns

Ireland’s Atlantic cities are not performing to their potential. Economic and population growth needs to be reoriented towards Ireland’s regional cities. While Dublin’s population will continue to grow, the majority of total population growth should occur outside of Dublin. This can only be achieved however if other city regions become more attractive places to live and work. Focused investment and long-term planning would allow them to develop economically and attract more businesses and skilled workers to their regions.

The future of Ireland’s town centres should not be left to chance. Revitalising town centres will help to underpin future growth across the regions. Rural towns were more severely affected by the financial crisis than cities and larger urban centres. Successful and sustainable town centre revitalisation, that offers resilience against future hardships, can only be achieved through the active involvement of the public and private sectors.

How? The Minister should:

  • develop a cities strategy for Atlantic Cities that provides Atlantic city-regions with the political and economic vision necessary to achieve complementary growth between Dublin and the other regions
  • support genuine partnerships between local authorities and local businesses to help identify sectors and projects that would best support local growth.


5. Reduce congestion in cities

Ireland’s transport systems are struggling to cope with society’s growing needs. A chronic transport infrastructure deficit has made our cities less ‘liveable’. Congestion imposes costs on business; increasing average journey times by 34% in Cork and 27% in Limerick for example. This is a hindrance to attracting skilled staff and competing for inward investment.

With a growing economy and increases in population, it is inevitable that congestion will get even worse in cities unless there is significant investment in road and public transport infrastructure. The future transport needs of cities should be assessed so that the provision of cost-effective public transport will reflect the needs of individual cities. Investment in suitable public transport infrastructure would in turn reduce the number of cars on the road, help to ease congestion levels and improve air quality in the cities.

How? The Minister should:

  • ensure better integrated public transport within and between our regional cities to encourage modal switch from private cars
  • deliver substantial investment targeted at bottlenecks.


ensure faster delivery of planned projects such as the Cork Area Strategic Plan for Transport.


6. Overhaul the commercial rates system


Local business, not central government, is the primary funder of local authorities. This is unsustainable. Exchequer cutbacks have left local businesses to plug the budgetary gap. This undermines local cost competitiveness and capacity for job creation.

How? The Minister should:

  • reform and modernise the commercial rates system in order to rebalance local authority financing and reduce the burden on business
  • improve the effectiveness of the rates collection process. Coordinate with the Department of Justice and Equality to streamline the valuations process and commercial rates system, making them more efficient and transparent.

About Ibec

Ibec is Ireland's largest and most influential business representative. We proudly speak on behalf of 7,500 Irish businesses; home grown, multinational, big and small, spanning every sector of the economy and employing 70% of the private sector workforce in Ireland. Together with our 40+ trade associations, we lobby government and policy makers nationally and internationally to maintain a positive climate for business and drive economic growth. Our policy is shaped by our members through the work of our board, national council, policy committees and trade associations.  We regularly produce market leading industry and business events, positions on issues impacting business, economic research, forecasts and analysis. We also provide a wide range of professional services and management training to members on all aspects of human resource management, occupational health and safety, employee relations and employment law.  With 200 staff in 6 offices around Ireland as well as an office in Brussels and connections in the U.K. and Washington, Ibec communicates the Irish business voice to key stakeholders at home and abroad.

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