Population growth trends suggest that Ireland’s population could reach 6.5 million in the next 30 years. This brings new development pressures and calls for innovative, long-term thinking in how and where people live, work, recreate and travel. These very issues were the focus of a recent conference on ‘Planning for Regional Development’ organised by the Regional Studies Association Irish Branch, in collaboration with NUI Galway and the Western Development Commission.
Increasing regional disparities between Dublin and the rest of Ireland were highlighted. Senior planning adviser Paul Hogan at the Department of Housing and Planning pointed out that 40% of the population lives in Dublin and it generates half of Ireland’s GDP. Dr Edgar Morgenroth from the Economic and Social Research Institute presented statistics highlighting regional differences in GVA. Dr Morgenroth emphasised the need for forward thinking on how regions are developing and that physical infrastructure improvements alone are not the solution, but human capital, such as knowledge and skills, are also a vital part of planning for balanced growth.
Research being carried out for a creative momentum project gave us the opportunity to place the creative industries firmly on the conference agenda. We presented evidence showing the important role of creative industries in supporting more balanced regional development. In our presentation we highlighted examples from Iceland and Sweden where creative entrepreneurs play important roles in contributing to more balanced, sustainable regional development. While not a catch-all solution, greater emphasis on developing creative industries in peripheral regions of Ireland could be one part of the innovative planning that helps Ireland develop in a more balanced way.