Regional Spatial Strategies: the Architecture of Effective Regional Development


Dublin, Ireland

Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government

9 May 2018

Custom House, Dublin 1

The ESPON Seminar that took place in Dublin on Regional Spatial Strategies was the second in a series of linked events forming a roadshow in 2018 on spatial planning – going from the methodology to content, citizen participation and implementation steps. This series of linked events aims at sharing experiences bringing different perspectives across the North-West Europe countries – France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands. While all these countries operate in different contextual environments, they share common objectives in terms of spatial plans.

Some reflections from the first seminar in Paris started the discussions of the day, pointing out the renewed interest in spatial planning and methodologies, the need to build political and financial capacity at the regional level as well as the need to assure the legitimacy of the plans.

Ireland presented the Irish National Planning Framework (NPF) as the vision for Ireland for the future 20 years. Key challenges outlined included the domination of Dublin compared to other regions in the country, the link of the NPF to other rexisting strategies, the delineation of metropolitan areas boundaries and how to accommodate the strength of a regional overview and a local perspective. These challenges lead to questions of power and legitimacy, and for the need to clarify relationships and competences. The Irish National Planning Framework represents a disruptive innovativion as it seeks a better alignement between investment and place-based strategies. However, attention is still needed to avoid the development of a plethora of strategies and to assure the necessary means for regional governance to implement the strategies.

A view from the outside brought some lessons learned and new ideas from the experience of other countries. The Netherlands pointed that that decentralisation has reached its limits with widening gaps between territories and increased spatial challenges. A new planning act has spurred on a national vision which will includes a spatial and environmental dimension, but that requires a new governance model more focused on activation not intervention or blueprint planning. Luxembourg, a country heavily influenced by cross-border commuting, has presented its new Master Plan for Spatial Planning which is a new approach and currently in a public consultation stage. It covers basic functions such as housing and mobility, the quality of life, social and territorial cohesion, resilience to climate change and resources e.g. the role of agriculture. As a representative of Belgium, Flanders shared its interest in exploring instruments such as compensation, appropriation and subsidies. Zoning remains a challenge in the country and while planning is a competence for the regions, cross-border collaboration was still not embedded in the regulations. The need of a regulator was raised as well the need for municipalities to collaborate and work together.

In order to answer some of those challenges, ESPON experts from COMPASS, SPIMA and ACTAREA shared their research findings and some relevant case-studies. Some of the key recommendations that emerged from the discussions:

  • The need to develop further the competences for planning and territorial governance in functional regions;
  • The importance of strengthening the ‘strategic dimension’ of the planning process and the integration of multiple sectors to enhance the chances of success;
  • The need to follow a metropolitan planning approach: shared-governance at a multi-level scale, within and beyond ‘metropolitan areas’;
  • Stimulate the emergence of soft governance areas to fill existing governance gaps and provide the required resources and political framework.


Regional and national spatial planning

  • Acrobat Document | 4.52MB

Agenda and Practical Information

  • Acrobat Document | 759KB

Regional Spatial Strategies - Nicolas Rossignol, ESPON

  • Acrobat Document | 486KB

Spatial Consequences of Brexit - Eoin Magennis

  • Acrobat Document | 1.25MB

New approaches to regional spatial planning in Ireland - Niamh Moore-Cherry

  • Acrobat Document | 591KB

Southern Regional Assembly - Stephen Blair

  • Acrobat Document | 1.35MB

Eastern and Midlands Regional Assembly - Jim Conway

  • Acrobat Document | 1.78MB

Northern and Western Regional Assembly - David Minton

  • Acrobat Document | 4.97MB

A view from Flanders - Geert Mertens

  • Acrobat Document | 2.29MB

A view from outside (Luxembourg) - Jutta Bissinger

  • Acrobat Document | 412KB

Netherlands National Strategy - David Evers

  • Acrobat Document | 185KB

COMPASS - Brendan Williams

  • Acrobat Document | 1.03MB

SPIMA - Edouard Fleury (Lille Metropole)

  • Acrobat Document | 7.36MB

ACTAREA - Alicia Cuche

  • Acrobat Document | 2.58MB