National Spatial Strategy (NSS)

The National Spatial Strategy (NSS) 2002 - 2020 was a national planning framework for Ireland. It aimed to achieve coordinated development between the various parts of Ireland and in particular achieve more balanced regional development, while still recognising the importance of Dublin as an economic centre. More on the NSS can be found here at the DECLG. However, in February 2013 the Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, announced that the NSS would be scrapped and replaced by a new policy "in about a year’s time".

The NSS was based on the planning hierarchy concept. This meant that strategic long term policies were determined in national and regional documents (NSS and Regional Planning Guidelines), whereas local planning policies that were described in the City or County Development Plan and were adopted by local authorities must be consistent with the strategic policies determined at the higher levels. The NSS aimed at sustainable development throughout the country, reduced urban sprawl, enhanced public transport networks and a balanced relationship with the environment.

Strategically located ‘hub’ and ‘gateway’ towns and cities were selected as a focus for economic, social and residential development. This aimed at improving quality of life by providing a more even distribution of opportunities. The gateways named were:

  • Dublin
  • Cork
  • Limerick/ Shannon
  • Galway
  • Waterford
  • Dundalk
  • Sligo
  • Letterkenny/ Derry
  • Athlone/ Tullamore/ Mullingar

However, intense debate sprang up surrounding many aspects of the NSS, including the choice of gateways and hubs, hence the on-going review and current development of a new NSS.

The NSS has been widely regarded as a failure, and the new 'National Planning Framework' which will take Ireland to 2040 claims it will avoid the mistakes made in the past. 


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