Thursday, 11 November 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
I thank the Minister of State for attending this evening's debate. I have raised this matter previously. Ultimately, we need to build homes, but we also need to ensure the national density guidelines are in keeping with ensuring that we get sustainable development. The national density guidelines recommend between 35 and 50 units per hectare. In many cases they are well above that now. At above 35 units per hectare, only apartments can be accommodated, in many cases very high-rise apartments in mature areas. In many cases developers are submitting planning applications to local authorities and including as part of the mix five-storey or six-storey apartment blocks, which in many cases may not get built, in order that they can continue to build starter homes. The issue of traffic management and the impact it will have on an area does not appear to be factored into national guidelines in how particular planning applications are assessed.
I am based in Limerick city. I very much welcome the development under way in the building of homes. However, in many areas, homes are being built but are ending up being interspersed with five-storey or six-storey apartment blocks in order that developers can get the densities to get the planning applications approved to enable them to build starter homes. In many cases the cost of building apartments is 30% higher than the cost of building individual homes because the model means they need to build large apartments. This is becoming a feature in areas such as Castletroy, Monaleen, Caherdavin, Dooradoyle and Raheen on the outskirts of the city.
We need high densities in city centres and I want to see people living there. In many cases, the location is the issue. I have no particular issue with high densities along main thoroughfares but I do where there are existing or mature areas, including those with houses. For a developer to get planning permission, they must go for apartments to get the required densities.
We need to build starter homes and apartments in a sustainable way. I call on the Minister of State with responsibility for the local authorities and planning to give a commitment to look at reviewing urban density guidelines. I ask that he consider different measures as one size does not fit all. Densities suitable for Dublin, for example, may not fit down the country and what is suitable for city centres may not fit in suburbs or rural areas outside city centres. What might fit on a main thoroughfare in a suburb may not fit in a mature area. I ask the Minister of State to undertake a review of the urban planning guidelines and look at them on a specific basis.
Local area plans may have a density of 35 units per hectare and planners in the local authority in Limerick say this cannot be dealt with locally because national planning guidelines supersede the process. It is a contradiction. A local area plan may indicate what is sustainable but national policy appears to contradict it. I am looking for a commitment that the Minister of State will carry out a review of the national density guidelines for residential housing, taking into account different density requirements outside Dublin, including Limerick and the suburbs rather than city centres.