Dáil Éireann - Volume 610 - 15 November, 2005

Written Answers. - National Spatial Strategy.

  309. Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the significant changes which have been implemented by his Department to date in 2005 in delivering the national spatial strategy; and the costs, benefits and savings that have accrued. [34077/05]

  Mr. N. Dempsey: In the communications area, under phase 1 of the €64 million metropolitan area network, MANs, programme, open access fibre optic networks were installed in five national spatial strategy, NSS, hubs, Ballina, Cavan, Kilkenny, Monaghan and Wexford. In this phase, fibre optic networks were also received by nine NSS gateway towns, Athlone, Dundalk, Galway, Letterkenny, Limerick, Mullingar, Sligo, Tullamore and Waterford. Each of these projects was delivered on time and under budget.

Regarding the marine sector, the Government’s ports policy statement, launched in January 2005, aims to better equip the port sector and its stakeholders to meet national and regional capacity and service needs. It sets out a framework to ensure that capacity needs are identified, planned and progressed in a coordinated manner. As an initial step in this process, the Department consulted with the commercial ports handling unitised trade to determine their view of port capacity and how they intended to deal with the [263] projected capacity requirement. In addition, my Department recently appointed consultants to advise on evaluating the projects submitted by the commercial ports with a view to contributing to my recommendations to Government.

It is intended that one of the criteria to be used for project evaluation in this regard will address the issue of consistency of the project proposals with the objectives of the national spatial strategy. In addition, my Department has established a steering committee to facilitate and oversee the work of the consultants; a key member of this committee is an official from the national spatial strategy division in the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

From an energy perspective, the Deputy may wish to note that Bord Gáis Éireann has no direct mandate with regard to the NSS. However, a reasonable overlap between the Bord Gáis supply area and the NSS exists. Of the new gateways specified in the NSS, Dundalk has had a natural gas supply for many years. Athlone and Tullamore were connected to the network in 2004 and Mullingar was connected to the network this year. The existing gateway, Galway city, was also supplied with gas this year. Of the new NSS hubs, Ennis, Kilkenny and Mallow are connected to the natural gas network. Kingscourt and Virginia in County Cavan and Carrickmacross in Monaghan also have a natural gas supply. A comprehensive assessment has not yet been undertaken of the costs benefits and savings which will directly accrue from the various sectoral projects in terms of delivering the national spatial strategy.