The Irish government has unveiled a 20-year national development plan to create more balanced growth.
Drawn up by planners in the Department of the Environment, the so-called Spatial Development Strategy provides a planning framework that targets nine areas for large-scale economic growth.

These areas include the five leading cities (Dublin, Waterford, Cork, Limerick and Galway) as well as the Letterkenny, Sligo, and Dundalk districts. The ninth target is based around Mullingar, Tullamore and Athlone. The last four areas have been targeted in a bid to create a growth corridor in the west of Ireland, though most economic development is expected to take place along the east coast.

The areas listed will be earmarked for public investment, and planning authorities will be required to ensure that their plans conform. Sectors that will benefit from public spending include housing, roads and railways.

The government decided to introduce the strategy to distribute growth more evenly. Prime minister Bertie Ahern said: “Three-quarters of the projected population increase of half a million in the next 20 years will happen in or around the greater Dublin area [if the strategy is not put in place].”

Nine smaller-scale hubs have also been earmarked for growth. These are medium-sized towns that can support employment in the nine target areas.