Engineers Ireland calls for new NDP to prioritise infrastructure with greatest impact

Engineers Ireland, the professional body for engineers on the island of Ireland with over 25,000 members representing the disciplines of engineering, has said that the review of the National Development Plan (NDP) 2018-27 must avoid the mistakes of the past and systematically prioritise target projects with the greatest impact for Irish society.

To mark the body’s submission and recommendations to the Government’s ‘Review to Renew’ NDP consultation which closes on Friday 29 January, Engineers Ireland also undertook a survey of its members and found that only 28% of the country’s engineers agree that Ireland’s infrastructure is in good condition, with capacity for future development. Ireland’s infrastructure was given only a ‘C’ grade by respondents, denoting mediocre condition and capacity.

The Government’s review of the National Development Plan 2018-27 (NDP) aims to set out a 10-year programme of capital investment aimed at upgrading Ireland’s infrastructure, enhancing economic capacity and promoting balanced regional development. Dr Kieran Feighan, Fellow and Chartered Engineer with Engineers Ireland, said that the body’s submission “pinpointed the three overarching areas of climate action, digitalisation, and education and skills, as critical to supporting Ireland’s national recovery.”

Dr Kieran Feighan said: “Engineers Ireland has long campaigned for more strategic and targeted investment in infrastructure. The NDP review must avoid the mistakes of the past and prioritise sustainable infrastructure projects that deliver the greatest impact to society, and this can be done through a rigorous and systematic approach to minimising delays and cost overruns. There is also a greater need for the State to partner with the private sector to drive efficiencies and source capital at a time when Ireland is being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Dr Feighan added: “Our survey has shown engineers’ views that Ireland needs a long-term, spatially planned approach to capital expenditure. Correctly targeted investment in infrastructure and technology underpins social cohesion by providing vital facilities for citizens. The NDP review should maximise the opportunity for an ambitious capital investment programme to be a central element of a medium-term economic recovery plan, beyond a focus on the short-term stimulus impact of shovel-ready projects. For example, the NDP should support the implementation of the Climate Action Plan commitments and net zero by 2050, drive digitalisation and deliver much-needed housing and balanced regional development in line with the National Planning Framework. Communities must be at the heart of this and involved as early as possible, receiving clear benefits from infrastructure project investment.

“We see the role of the engineering profession as helping to ensure value for money, the high-quality, rapid delivery of the associated capital projects, and we will work with Government to achieve this,” Dr Feighan added.

In relation to climate action, Engineers Ireland is calling for a Green New Deal for Ireland to include energy system integration and achieving 70% renewable electricity; a seaport to support offshore wind development; a hydrogen strategy, a radical national retrofit strategy, the re-engineering of our transport system; active State land management and multi-annual funding for water, wastewater and flood risk management, all of which should be reflected in a revised NDP it said.

Digitalisation is transforming how and where we live, work and learn. Engineers Ireland is calling for a National Programme for Digital Transformation to set out a vision for an equitable, secure and sustainable transition to a digital society fuelled by data, the reusable raw material of the 21st century. The delivery of the National Broadband Plan is key to economic and social development including more balanced regional development. There is an opportunity to rethink and redesign our work environment post-COVID-19 as a hybrid model of working at home and in the office.

Additionally, the body, which accredits hundreds of third level engineering courses across the country, has said that Ireland’s higher education system needs a sustainable funding model to respond to current challenges. Engineering skills it says, are necessary to deliver the NDP, the Programme for Government and achieve a green and digital future.

Of the 1,829 engineers who responded to the statement ‘Ireland’s infrastructure is in good condition with capacity for future development’, 28% agreed, 44% disagreed and 28% neither agreed nor disagreed.

Engineers Ireland contributed to and welcomed the National Development Plan 2018-27, which committed to increasing Exchequer capital investment to 4% GNI by 2024 and included a strong pipeline of projects, linked to the National Planning Framework as part of Project Ireland 2040.

The submission by Engineers Ireland as part of the Government’s public ‘Review to Renew’ of the National Development Plan, has been informed by Engineers Ireland’s The State of Ireland 2020 report, published in October 2020. The submission also draws on the results of an Engineers Ireland member survey, carried out in January 2021, including questions dedicated to the NDP review.

‘The State of Ireland 2020: Engineering a green and digital recovery’ can be accessed here.

The State of Ireland 2020 report, is the tenth annual review of built environment needs in Ireland, informed by an expert advisory group. The report highlights the opportunity to make climate action and digitalisation central to economic policy, to reduce detrimental impact on the environment and improve the quality of our lives. The report calls for Ireland’s recovery to be green and digital, driven by investments in infrastructure, technology and education.