Builders should not decide housing locations, planning regulator says

Niall Cussen says it is ‘false to suggest we are running out of zoned land’ with thousands of permissions not used

Planning regulator Niall Cussen has warned against allowing builders to decide where new homes should be located.

A “myth” had been put forward, Mr Cussen said, that the failure to deliver sufficient homes was a result of policies that constrained rezoning of lands in outlying suburban or rural areas.

He was responding to a recent report by estate agents Savills Ireland which claimed the National Planning Framework was hampering housing supply by restricting land zoning outside towns and cities.

“We are at a crossroads. We effectively have a choice between a plan led approach to urban development centred around providing good quality, economic to build, affordable to rent or buy homes, located close to urban towns, which can provide infrastructure, amenities and employment, so we can have climate friendly development,” Mr Cussen said.


“Or following short-term thinking that suggests we should suspend long-term plans and just build wherever builders and vested interests say they can or will. All justified on the back of ‘we are in a housing crisis’….Do we ever learn?”

Addressing a Housing Agency seminar on Tuesday, Mr Cussen said it was “false to suggest we are running out of zoned land”.

There were thousands of planning consents granted to builders on existing zoned land which had not been activated, so the suggestion the “National Planning Framework unreasonably caps the delivery of housing in Dublin” was “somewhat academic”, he said.

Mr Cussen warned against “loose talk” which might suggests a doubling or trebling of the amount of zoned land would lower housing costs, without the research to prove this proposition.

“We are dealing with a perfect storm building in relation to massive pressure to deliver out on the edges,” he said. “Everyone seems to be almost signalling a `needs must’ approach to planning and housing delivery over the next several years. This is going to bring us back to short term solutions, to having big housing estates at the edges, or even beyond, our cities and towns. We know that will take us down planning, community, infrastructure and environmental culs-de-sac.

“There just has to be a better way than this. Of course, we’ve all already invented it, it’s called the National Planning Framework.”

The framework, which was the blueprint for city and county development plans, provided for “proper plan-led housing” development he said, using robust research to align population forecasts with areas which were best equipped to provide for increases in housing.

“We are in a housing crisis, but we really, really need to avoid a reversion to a `build where the builders say they can, or will’ approach of our past. Instead all arms of the State, the private sector and civil society, should be working together to solve our housing pressures,” he said.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times