The Irish environment department has published draft planning guidelines on sustainable residential development in Irish cities, towns and villages for public consultation.
Ireland has experienced unprecedented economic and social change over the past decade. Rapidly-changing demographics and settlement patterns have greatly increased demand for housing throughout the country, with consequential pressure on existing infrastructure and a proper expectation of a good quality of life. Just to give few examples, by 2020, the population of Dublin City is expected to increase by 12% to almost 1.5 million, Cork City by 25% to almost 150,000 people and Galway City by 45% to 105,000 people.
“An ever-expanding footprint of our urban areas is not sustainable, we must implement policies and practices to consolidate our urban areas by providing for high-density residential development in the right locations which are well-serviced in terms of public transport and community facilities and which are built to the highest possible standards,” says John Gormley, Irish minister for the environment, heritage and local government.
The government has therefore published draft planning guidelines (1) that focus on creating sustainable communities by incorporating the highest design standards and providing a co-ordinated approach to the delivery of essential infrastructure and services. A key element is a best practice urban design manual (2) illustrating how the guidelines can be implemented effectively and consistently across different scales of urban development throughout the country.
Objectives of the new guidelines are to:
Set out stronger planning requirements to facilitate development of sustainable communities by strengthening planning and provision of supporting services and amenities;
Help achieve efficient use of urban land through housing densities appropriate to the location and availability of supporting services and infrastructure, particularly transport; and
Set high standards in terms of space and facilities to meet the needs of the Irish context.
The guidelines support and add to considerable work already done at central government level and locally to plan for anticipated growth in an appropriate manner that supports the creation of sustainable communities within a high quality living environment.
Preparation of the draft guidance and the complementary urban design guide was overseen by a widely representative steering group. This comprised officials from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and planning authorities, together with representatives from the Irish Planning Institute, the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland, the Irish Home Builders Association and the Irish planning board.
The urban design manual illustrates best practice in implementing sustainable development policies and urban design principles as set out in the draft planning guidelines. The manual outlines essential criteria for sustainable urban residential development, and demonstrates how new developments can be integrated and facilitated across a range of scale and locations.
The 12 criteria for use both in pre-planning application consultations and in assessing individual planning applications cover: the neighbourhood in such terms as context and fitting in; the site itself in such term as safety, security and friendliness; and the home in terms of design quality, amenities and even parking – whether cars or bikes.
“The creative and focused approach set down in the guidelines and the best practice design manual should ensure that, in meeting new housing needs in the cities, towns and villages across the country over the next 20 years, this is done in a way that delivers more sustainable communities,” adds the minister.