Housing: Urban developments to be focused within existing footprints

Development framework says new homes pose danger of rampant urban sprawl

Inner-city regeneration is one of the key targets of the National Development Framework, including higher-density, high-rise buildings.

Inner-city regeneration is one of the key targets of the National Development Framework, including higher-density, high-rise buildings.


The 550,000 new homes needed between now and 2040 could cause rampant urban sprawl, run-down city centres, and unsustainable car-dependency if these issues are not addressed, according to the National Planning Framework.

The Cabinet formally signed off on Friday on a strategy to map Ireland’s development being cast as Project Ireland 2040. It comprises two reports; The National Planning Framework (NPF) will decide how to achieve balanced regional development.

The second report is the National Development Plan (NDP), a 10-year, €116 billion programme to upgrade the State’s infrastructure in anticipation of the population increase.

The framework sets out a marked departure for the State’s planning strategy, focusing on “compact growth” where much of future housing development will be built within the existing footprint of built-up cities, towns and villages.

To achieve this, the plan recommends choosing infill sites, and so-called “brownfield sites” (formerly developed), as well as the extensive use of land already owned by the State.

In the case of Dublin, and the four other cities - Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford - 40 per cent of new housing will be built within existing built-up areas.

Overall, it says that 30 per cent of all new homes should be built within the existing footprint.

There is particular emphasis on regenerating the inner-city areas. That includes higher-density developments, and more high-rise buildings in appropriate areas.

No car parking spaces

In city centre developments there will be no provision for car parking spaces, as it is envisaged residents will use public and other modes of transport.

To achieve this goal, the plan recommends the establishment of a powerful national regeneration and development agency to oversee this change of culture.

The agency will identify strategic lands for renewal, secure the investment and acquire the sites. The plan also provides for more robust powers of compulsory purchase order in future.

The allied 10-year development plan has earmarked €14.5 billion for housing over the next decade, almost €12 billion for social housing and €2 billion for urban regeneration.

“An effective engagement in building up a reserve of development land is required,” it states.

Already 30 projects in urban settings have been identified and they are projected to provide 20,000 homes by 2021, with the aid of €200 million in funding. The development plan also provides for a second round of funding of €50 million to provide 5,000 homes as part of the urban regeneration goal.

Housing in the countryside

The plan also sets out a new strategy for housing in rural areas, particularly in the open countryside. It distinguishes between a once-off development which is “under urban influence” and other housing in the open countryside.

The new plan says that urban-influenced housing of this nature will only be facilitated “on the core consideration of a demonstrable economic or social need to live in a rural area.”

Setting out the “do-nothing scenario”, based on ESRI research, the report paints a grim scenario of a losing struggle to match homes with local jobs; the increased use of car-dependency, and the lack of cohesive public transport.

Without change there will be a “gradual” run-down of city and town centres and established suburban areas as jobs, retail and housing move out; falling school numbers; empty buildings; and a lack of people to create strong and vibrant places “both day and night.”

It also refers to current practices where “most development takes the form of greenfield sprawl that extends the physical footprint of our urban areas.”

This pattern of development will also increase greenhouse emissions.

‘Compact development’

In setting out the solution, the report states: “A preferred approach would be compact development that focuses on reusing previously developed, ‘brown field’ land, building up in infill sites, which may not have been built on before and either reusing or redeveloping existing sites and buildings.”

“Along with transport demand, higher densities and shorter travel distances will also reduce energy demand and use. Multi-storey and terraced buildings in close proximity require less energy and make renewable-based systems of energy distribution such as district heating, more feasible,” it states.

The framework also addresses the ageing population saying that all future housing should be adaptable to accommodate families as they age or become less-abled.

Social disadvantage

To avoid social disadvantage, there is also a recommendation that future developments will have a social mix, and mixed tenure, to encourage more integrated communities.

The report estimates that 25,000 new homes will have to be built each year between now and 2040, half of which will be in Dublin and the other four cities. However, because the house building rate is lower than that at present, it forecasts annual output will need to be between 30,000 and 35,000 homes between now and 2027.

Specifically for Dublin, it says greenfield development should happen where there are strong public transport connections. These areas would include Adamstown, Clonburris, Clongriffin and Cherrywood.

In Cork, it recommends regeneration for housing in the Tivoli Docks and city docks areas.