Nat O'Connor: Dublin City Council have launched the Draft Dublin City Development Plan 2011-2017 and are actively seeking "conversations with, and feedback from, citizens, thinkers, agencies and other stakeholders."
Many commentators have asked where is the Government's plan for economic recovery, jobs and sustainable development. In the absence of a national plan, the Dublin plan might be the nearest thing we've got. So, with the acknowledgement that not everything will be apt for those living and working outside of the greater Dublin area, I thought it was well worth asking whether the Dublin plan is progressive and a possible model for sustainable economic development nationally.
The plan's vision statement is premised with the following message:
"It would be folly to adopt projections from either the economic boom years or the recent downturn as the basis for a vision for the city. Instead, the city must, collectively through its citizens and civic leaders, develop a shared vision of what sort of city we aspire to, not in the six-year lifetime of a development plan, but over the next 25 to 30 years. It is only by developing a shared vision for Dublin that we can deliver the core strategies of each successive Development Plan as crucial stepping stones towards the long term vision. This Development Plan is not so much based on short-term forecasts, but on ‘backcasting’ from the 30-year vision. Without a vision which enjoys broad support, short-term, often competing interests will prevail, ultimately to the detriment of the city." You could insert Ireland for Dublin and country for city in the above, and you would have the kind of positive, forward-looking statement that has been missing on the national level.
The Vision for the City is:
"Within the next 25 to 30 years, Dublin will have an established international reputation as one of the most sustainable, dynamic and resourceful city regions in Europe. Dublin, through the shared vision of its citizens and civic leaders, will be a beautiful, compact city, with a
distinct character, a vibrant culture and a diverse, smart, green, innovation-based economy. It will be a socially inclusive city of urban neighbourhoods, all connected by an exemplary public transport, cycling and walking system and interwoven with a quality bio-diverse greenspace network. In short, the vision is for a capital city where people will seek to live, work and experience as matter of choice."
The plan covers six themes: Economic, Social, Cultural, Urban Form and Spatial, Movement, and Environmental.
Obviously, the plan in incomplete from a national perspective, as the city council cannot comment on health infrastructure, social welfare, criminal justice or many other policy areas. Nevertheless, the broad thrust of the plan is 'progressive economics', insofar as economic development is not just described in terms of 'growth' but it seen as built on sustainability and the provision of an attractive, well-run place where people would want to live and work, and which would both foster native creativity and attract highly-skilled mobile workers from around the globe. Those of you who are most interested in a strictly economic perspective might be interested in the proposals in Chapter 9 'Revitalising the City's Economy'.
The plan has long lists of policies and objectives; 313 policies and 214 objectives in total, across nine areas:
- Shaping the City
- Connecting and Sustaining the City's Infrastructure
- Greening the City
- Fostering Dublin’s Character and Culture
- Making Dublin the Heart of the Region
- Revitalising the City’s Economy
- Strengthening the City as the National Retail Destination
- Providing Quality Homes in a Compact City
- Creating Goods Neighbourhoods and Successful Communities
(For those interested in local government issues, the policies are also a useful list of the things that the council currently does.)
It is worth noting the verbs used in the plan, in order to get a feel for how aspirational it is. For example, a lage number of policies begin with verbs that indicate the city council's reliance on external actors (state or private): 85 policies begin with the verb "promote", 26 with "support", 12 with "encourage" and 10 with "facilitate". In contast, more active verbs are rarer. Only 20 policies begin with "ensure", 16 with "protect" and 8 with "require". The objectives have a more even balance between weak and strong verbs , with 10 "facilitate", 11 "support" and 13 "promote" versus 16 "implement", 10 "provide" and "6 ensure". This is only a crude analysis, but it is a reminder that this kind of plan requires a lot of public-private co-operation as well as joined-up-government.
I am particularly struck by the various means in which the city council is attracting feedback from Dubliners. The Irish Times reports that "the facilities at the Wood Quay Venue will allow the public to make video submissions on the plan or to use an interactive map to see how the plan will affect their neighbourhood". In addition, there is an online submissions form for comments and suggestion, and an online discussiuon forum for anyone who wants to discuss the plan in detail.
I am not going to start a critique of the plan right now. I really just wanted to open it up as a topic for discussion. If nothing else, I think it is good that they suggest "developing a shared vision" for the future. That's what all of Ireland needs right now.
Nat O’Connor is a member of the Institute for Research in Social Sciences (IRiSS) and a Lecturer of Public Policy and Public Management in the School of Criminology, Politics and Social Policy at Ulster University.
Previously Director of TASC, Nat also led the research team in Dublin’s Homeless Agency.
Nat holds a PhD in Political Science from Trinity College Dublin (2008) and an MA in Political Science and Social Policy form the University of Dundee (1998). Nat’s primary research interest is in how research-informed public policy can achieve social justice and human wellbeing. Nat’s work has focused on economic inequality, housing and homelessness, democratic accountability and public policy analysis. His PhD focused on public access to information as part of democratic policy making.