Local Independent Deputy, Denis Naughten, Chair of the Dáil’s Rural Affairs Committee, has welcomed the Government’s Rural Future plan which he says, if delivered, will give families a real option of living in their own home in a rural community instead of renting in Dublin City.
However, Denis Naughten has warned that the key challenge remains the implementation of the Government plan by the Dublin decision makers.
“The challenge remains those decision makers in Departments and agencies who will perceive this strategy to be an afterthought rather than a key plank of Government policy to ease the infrastructure and congestion challenges in Dublin and our other cities.
“If this plan is not held at the centre of Government as the starting point for all policy proposals then it will just be an afterthought with some ill-conceived measure bolted on to the end of the newest Government strategy or action plan that will fail to achieve the well intentioned goals set out in the Rural Future plan.
“Many aspects of this plan align with proposals that I have put directly to Government over the last year, including a proposal for a relocation grant to encourage families to purchase an existing property in a town or village with a significant residential vacancy rate, instead of Government just subsidising new serviced sites in our cities at an average cost of €30,714.
“Conservatively, there are more than 50,000 vacant houses throughout the country and this should be the very first step in helping to ease housing pressure in our cities as well as bringing life backing into streets in our villages that have not had a football kicked on them in a generation.
“I’ve consistently said that we must capitalise on the delivery of high-speed broadband to every home in Ireland. This was never about Netflix but about relocating jobs and reducing transport emissions, directly benefiting our congested cities as well as our climate.
“While I welcome and fully support the ambition set out in the plan, the key problem will be changing the mindset of the decisionmakers who work within a mile of Merrion Street in Dublin. Without them, it will just remain another footnote to the history on the overdevelopment of our capital city.
“For example, the plan talks about a report on tax incentives for remote working, yet just three months ago the Minister for Finance, for the second year in a row, refused to consider a report on such a proposal that I presented to him as part of the Finance Bill. So, while we all agree that remote working makes sense, the Department of Finance remains opposed to providing supports to make it happen.
“In 2018, Cabinet took a decision to provide a three-year window to post offices to allow time to put more Government work through the network to make it sustainable in the long term. However, 32 months later yet another Inter-Departmental Group has just been established to ‘examine the feasibility of directing more Government business to the post office network’ and report back by the end of July.
“Despite the fact that Cabinet took a decision in October 2017 to locate all new data centres outside the Dublin region, and to only support the development of such centres in regional locations where there is a net jobs dividend to the economy, the IDA is still facilitating the locating of such centres in the Dublin area resulting in Irish families having to subsidise the cost of delivering electricity to them.
“This plan has the ability to transform our economy by creating a geographically balanced and sustainable future for all our citizens both urban and rural, but only if the key decision makers give it a chance to be implemented,” Deputy Naughten concluded.