The Irish branch of the Regional Studies Association held its annual conference on Friday 1st September at the DIT Grangegorman campus.
The conference, “Urban Centres and Regional Economic Development”, which was opened by John Paul Phelan T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Housing Planning and Local Government, covered a wide range of topics relevant to regional studies and regional development.
The first plenary session (chaired by Jim Walsh, MU, who also spoke about the National Planning Framework) considered governance trends in European metropolitan areas and how Dublin differs from some of the trends (Niamh Moore Cherry, UCD). Proinnsias Breathnach (MU) examined the implementation of the National Spatial Strategy, which was launched in 2002, and discussed how certain issues which arose then might recur with the National Planning Framework.
The morning parallel session on Brexit (Speakers: Michael Gallagher (Derry City & Strabane District Council) and Gerard Brady (IBEC)) provided very interesting perspectives on different aspects of Brexit covering both local and personal impacts as well as potential issues for businesses. The session prompted lively discussion with the audience.
The other parallel session on Regional Economic Development focused on the growth of firms (Olubunmi Ipinnaiye, UCC) and the role of knowledge in regional development (presentations from both Enrica Pinca (UCD) and Adam Whittle (UCD)
After lunch, in the international plenary session, invited speaker Prof. Mike Danson (Heriot Watt) spoke about community resilience and enterprise in the periphery and highlighted trends of interest for rural development in Ireland. The second invited speaker, Prof. Andy Pike (CURDS), considered the options for, and benefits of, demand side policies for city economies. Both provided interesting examples of economic and social development practices from outside Ireland.
Later in the afternoon, a parallel session provided perspectives from the Regional Assemblies with speakers from each of the assemblies (Denis Kelly (NWRA), Stephen Blair (SRA) and Jim Conway (EMRA) while the other session considered rural and urban policy in the regions. Pauline White (WDC) focused on regional growth in rural areas, towns and cities; Ruth Pritchard (NUIG) and David Meredith (Teagasc) considered rural policy in the form of the Action Plan for Rural Development; and Sean O Riordan (PPAN) and Chris Van Egeraat (MU) examined governance and implementation issues for the NPF.
Finally, to close the conference, the panel discussion took the form of a wide ranging conversation involving both speakers and audience members on regional development issues in Ireland.
The conference was timely with the draft of the National Planning Framework expected in October and its associated Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies to follow next year. There was much discussion of these and of the issue of regional balance in Ireland from both speakers and attendees.
See here (link http://rsa-ireland.weebly.com/register.html) for more information about the conference and the speakers. Links to the presentations will be made available shortly.