Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown told to scale back housing plans

Draft county development plan will lead to ‘surplus lands zoned’, regulators claim

Planning regulators have told councillors in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown to scale back residential zoning, saying the targets in their new development plan allow almost 7,000 more housing units than needed.

In a series of planning recommendations to councillors, the regulators said housing supply and population targets in their draft county development plan for 2022-2028 would lead to “surplus lands zoned” for residential and other uses.

The intervention by the Office of the Planning Regulator – in a letter circulated this week to councillors – sets the stage for a tense tussle over permitted levels of development for years to come in some of Dublin’s most prosperous suburbs.

Asked about the regulator’s letter, a spokesman for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown council said: “The response to any issues raised in submissions received on the draft county development plan 2022-2028 will be set out in the chief executive’s report, which will be circulated to the elected members in summer 2021.”


The letter said the council’s proposal to zone some 22,800 housing units – including part of the Cherrywood strategic development zone – was “significantly in excess of housing supply targets” calculated in line with guidelines that Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien published in December.

“As the office estimates the housing supply target for the county to be in the region of 15,000 for the plan period, the proposed land use zoning is based on an excess of 6,800 units, which would indicate that excessive lands are proposed to be zoned under the draft plan,” it said.

Housing crisis

Although the Government wants to front-load housing construction after the pandemic to tackle the housing crisis, the regulator told the council that its draft plan has potential to undermine “national and regional policy objectives” for compact growth.

The December targets reflect an assessment of national housing demand to 2040 by the Economic and Social Research Institute that was commissioned by the Government.

The regulator’s letter of April 16th was signed by deputy regulator Anne Marie O’Connor, who said the recommendations should be prioritised and “will require a lot of work”.

The institution was established in 2019 to provide independent oversight of the planning process. One of its functions is to assess the preparation of development plans to ensure they properly apply national policies.

Asked if councillors were obliged to comply with recommendations, the regulator said: “Where necessary, we can recommend to the Minister to intervene if a council’s plan seriously breaches national or regional policy, although this tends to be extremely rare, as we actively engage with local authorities to facilitate the implementation of our recommendations and observations.”

Population projections

Although Government policy aims to promote the rebalancing of regional development, the regulator said the population projections in the council’s plan were too high.

The core strategy in the plan was to target an increase of 40,375 to 258,375 in the council area population in 2028. “This represents an apparent excess of 4,646 against the growth provided for under the [national planning framework] implementation roadmap,” the regulator said.

The difference appeared to arise from the council addition of the 25 per cent “roadmap headroom allowance” for 2026 to the 2031 population target set out in the “regional spatial and economic strategy” of the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly.

“The office considers that the application of the headroom allowance beyond 2026 is not supported under the roadmap and results in excessive growth for the plan period,” the regulator said.

“In addition to the above, the core strategy provides for two years’ growth post-2026, notwithstanding the plan extends only to Q4 2027, or one full year. This has the effect of extending the population projections for the plan period within the core strategy for an additional year beyond the plan period.”

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times