Planners support new powers to approve taller buildings

Urban areas need to be ‘built upwards rather than outwards’, Irish Planning Institute said

Poorly designed, inappropriately detailed and unsuitably located tall buildings have had a negative impact on communities across Ireland, the president of the planners' representative body has said.

However, towns and cities did need to be "built upwards rather than outwards" to ensure sustainable development and efficient use of land, Irish Planning Institute (IPI) president Joe Corr said.

Mr Corr was responding to Government plans to remove caps on the height of buildings. The Urban Development and Building Heights guidelines, which are available for public consultation for the next five weeks, stop local authorities setting “generic maximum height limits” on buildings and give council planners the power to determine building heights on a case-by-case basis.


The IPI welcomed the draft guidelines and supported the concept of “taller buildings” in the context of the “critical national need” for housing. Increasing height could be particularly effective in the reuse of “brownfield” or former industrial sites, Mr Corr said.


However, he said the final guidelines needed to be strengthened to ensure planners had the power to “resist poor quality approaches” by developers.

“The devil is in the detail. Not all height is good. There are numerous examples throughout Ireland where taller buildings have impacted negatively on their surrounding communities, being unsuitably located, poorly designed and inappropriately detailed.”

The final guidelines needed to outline the methodology for differentiating between the “solitary tall building” and “clusters” of tall buildings, for assessing the siting of buildings, their sustainability, and the architectural and urban design of schemes, Mr Corr said.

He cautioned that changing planning regulations could not alone solve the housing crisis.

“Planning considerations and changes to the planning system, while important, cannot on their own impact significantly on the housing crises. Economic measures such as changes to the taxation system in the form of a site valuation tax remain as crucial as ever to reversing the worsening trends in housing figures.”

‘Blanket limitations’

The draft guidelines state that taller buildings will bring “much needed additional housing and economic development to well-located urban areas” and increasing building height would improve “the overall quality of our urban environments”.

Imposing “blanket limitations” on height can “hinder innovation in urban design and architecture leading to poor planning outcomes” the guidelines state and increased height was “not only desirable but a fundamental policy requirement” in areas with potential for large-scale development.

“It is Government policy that building heights must be generally increased in appropriate urban locations. There is, therefore, a presumption in favour of buildings of increased height in our town/city cores and in other urban locations with good public transport accessibility.”

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times