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Developing a planning research agenda for Ireland

This project sets out a framework for developing a research agenda for planning in Ireland. It focuses on the kind of research which helps planners and policymakers to develop and revitalise Ireland's towns, cities and rural areas.

This research was commissioned by RTPI Ireland and conducted by Brendan O'Sullivan, Jonathan Hall, William Brady and Eimear Murphy at the Centre for Planning, Education and Research, University College Cork.

The full report and a summary briefing are now available for this project.

Who should read this?

The research should be of interest to policy-makers, decision-makers and practitioners in planning in Ireland, the UK and internationally, especially researchers and commentators interested in planning and related issues.

Key findings

  • Right across the planning profession there is a very strong appetite for research and for developing a strong evidence base for planning work. Planners in general place a high value on commercial research and locally-derived ad hoc research as well as on scholarly research to support their work.
  • However, there are a number of barriers to practitioners using research more in their work. These include problems with poor dissemination of research outputs, lack of co-ordination and fragmentation of research efforts, poor validation and archiving of evidence and data and, for practitioners, a lack of access to academic planning journals.
  • The primary goal of a future planning research agenda should be to ensure that sufficient and appropriate evidence and data is available to support the work of planners in the pursuit of proper planning and sustainable development in Ireland.
  • The planning research agenda should recognise that academic, applied and commercial research in planning are all crucial components of evidence-led planning in Ireland. Academic research in planning should be more closely aligned to the needs of practice and its outputs should be more easily available to the practitioner community.
  • At the same time, the exploratory, critical and 'blue-sky' research that the planning academy excels in should be encouraged and supported as a component of the research effort within our discipline.
  • Priority should be given to research that addresses the core concerns of planning itself and especially planning practice.
  • These include: transparency and accountability in planning decisions in the post-Mahon era; the relationships between planning, market behaviour and employment-led development, the integration of spatial planning with national and regional priorities; and the crucial contribution that planning must make to strategic decisions about infrastructure, water and waste, energy and landscape.
  • Framing the on-going priorities for the planning research agenda should be the joint responsibility of a number of agencies in the public, professional and academic sectors.
  • These include the planning regulator, the regional assemblies, the planning schools, An Bord Pleanála and the professional planning institutes, and a specially formulated agency or forum to identify priorities, secure funding, co-ordinate dissemination and to raise the profile of planning research among government departments, funding agencies and other organisations.