The fifth Annual ICLRD Conference took place on the 21-22 January 2010 in the Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen. Attended by over 130 people representing central, regional and local government, elected representatives, policy-makers, cross-border networks, community activists, academics and representatives of the business community, the theme of this event was Preparing for Economic Recovery: Planning Ireland, North and South, out of Recession.
Sponsored by the Special EU Programmes Body with support from InterTradeIreland and the Higher Education Authority. The conference was organised around four sessions:
- Opening and Session 1: Health Check on Economic Development, Planning and Infrastructure
- Session 2: Planning and Economic Recovery – The Social and Community Dimension
- Session 3: Building the Platform for Economic Recovery
- Session 4: Recovery through Collaborative Spatial Planning
Speakers included: Declan Kelly, US Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland; John Fitzgerald of the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI); Pat McArdle, Economist and Irish Times Columnist; Conor Skehan of the Dublin Institute of Technology; Wesley Shannon of the Department of Environment, Northern Ireland; Hubert Kearns of Sligo County Council; Charlotte Kahn of the Boston Foundation’s Indicators Project; Holly St. Clair, Boston Metropolitan Planning Council; Celine McHugh of Forfás; Martin Spollen of the Strategic Investment Board; Brian Murray, The Workspace Group; and Greg Lloyd of the University of Ulster.
In opening the conference, Professor John Fitzgerald told conference delegates that “The UK faces a structural problem in its public finances of a similar order of magnitude to that in the Republic of Ireland. However, while a very serious adjustment has been made in Ireland to put the public finances on a sustainable path to recovery, the UK has postponed all such action until after the election. Thus the Northern Ireland economy faces a number of years of very tough fiscal action in the 2011-15 period, albeit superimposed on a world economic recovery”.
In closing the two-day conference, US Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland, Declan Kelly, emphasised that indigenous development – leading to industry clusters, where feasible – will be very relevant to the long-term prosperity and successful sustainable development in today’s fast-paced business environment.
As well as discussing the current economic situation across the island, a number of speakers stressed that spatial planning has a key role to play in securing economic recovery in both Irish jurisdictions. As we move into recovery, Charlotte Khan of the Boston Indicators Project in the US emphasised the value of using data to inform and drive a shared civic agenda, thus ensuring that future policies are evidence-informed and ‘fit for purpose’. A clear message emerging from the conference was that the economic environment of the future across the island of Ireland will be different to that of the ‘noughties’; with recovery being driven by the concentration of employment growth in major urban areas.