Cross-border Cooperation and Spatial Planning

Spatial Strategy for the Irish Border Region. Source: Regional Planning Guidelines for the Border Region 2010-2022.

Border regions can experience socio-economic and political disadvantages due to their peripheral location within a country and a legacy of ‘back-to-back’ planning and administration. Strategic spatial planning and cross-border cooperation at local, regional and national scales can facilitate the emergence of transboundary perspectives and help borders to become ‘bridges’ rather than ‘barriers’. This process of border transformation requires, hard work, institutional support and political will.

On the island of Ireland, a dense network of social and economic ties has developed across the border since the signing of the Belfast/ Good Friday Agreement in 1998. ‘Bridging organisations’ such as the Centre for Crossborder Studies, InterTrade Ireland and ICLRD have played an important role in bringing people together at various levels and developing and promoting the vision of an ‘all-island economy’ and interconnected border region. Brexit has exposed the vulnerability of current arrangements for cross-border cooperation and raises the unwelcome prospect of a return to the ‘hard borders’ of the past.

My research work in this field has firstly, introduced a fine-tuned geographical dimension to current debates on Brexit and the Irish border, focussed on the interplay of territorial and relational spaces. Secondly, it has helped focus attention on issues of governance capacity and the role of soft policy in a context of political sensitivities and extreme uncertainty at the international scale.

In particular, my work to date has focussed on the following areas:

– the role of spatial planning strategies and frameworks in fostering common perspectives;

– the role and status of informal, non-territorial spatial concepts such as the ‘island of Ireland’, border area networks or indeed the Danish-German Fehmarn Belt region in the development and realisation of shared perspectives;

– the implications of Brexit for cross-border cooperation and spatial planning on the island of Ireland, North and South.

Publications in this field include the following:

A special issue of the journal Irish Geography:

Walsh, C. & Rafferty, G. (2019) Creating Spaces for Cooperation: Crossing Borders and Boundaries before and after Brexit, Irish Geography, 52, (2), 127-233.

Walsh, C. (2019) Brexit Geographies: Spatial Imaginaries and Relational Territorialities on the Island of Ireland, Irish Geography 52(2), 137-152, http://dx.doi.org/10.2014/igj.v52i2.1398.

Walsh, C., (2015) Creating a Space for Cooperation: Soft Spaces, Spatial Planning and Territorial Cooperation on the Island of Ireland. In: Allmendinger, P., Haughton, G., Knieling J., Othengrafen, F. (eds.) Soft Spaces in Europe: Re-negotiating Governance, Boundaries and Borders, London: Routledge, 192-212.

Walsh, C., Jacuniak-Suda, M., Knieling, J., (2015) Soft Spaces across the Fehmarnbelt: Territorial Re-shaping and Transnational Region-building. In: Allmendinger, P., Haughton, G., Knieling J., Othengrafen, F. (eds.) Soft Spaces in Europe: Re-negotiating Governance, Boundaries and Borders, London: Routledge, 151-173.

Walsh, C., Blair, N., Hetherington, J. & Driscoll, J. (2012) Towards A Spatial Monitoring Framework for the Island of Ireland: A Scoping Study, Armagh: International Centre for Local and Regional Development.