Dáil debates

Thursday, 11 November 2021

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Housing Policy

5:45 pm

Photo of Peter BurkePeter Burke (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

The Deputy makes a very valid point and we are trying to resolve the matter. Deputy Stanton and Councillor Anthony Barry, who works very closely with Deputy Stanton, have raised the issue consistently. Project Ireland 2040 is the overarching policy and planning framework for the social, economic and cultural development of Ireland. It includes the 20-year national planning framework, NPF, and the ten-year capital plan to 2030. The NPF and Project Ireland strategy includes very clear objectives to significantly grow the regions by focusing on Ireland's cities, including in particular the four cities other than Dublin and on regional growth drivers and other key towns.

A key outcome of both the NPF and national development plan is the compact growth of cities and towns of all sizes to add value and create more attractive places in which people can live and work. The preferred approach is to focus on greater reuse of previously developed brownfield land, consolidating infill sites, which may not have been built on before, and the development of sites in locations that are better serviced by existing facilities and public transport. However, the NPF also acknowledges that there is a need for more proportionate and tailored approach to residential development, especially in the context of the growth of regional cities and towns. This means it is necessary to adapt the scale, design and layout of housing according to the size and type of settlement in which it is located and its proximity to centres and public transport services.

Statutory "section 28" ministerial guidelines for planning authorities on sustainable residential development in urban areas were last issued in 2009, having been first introduced in 1999. A preliminary draft of sustainable and compact settlement guidelines, SCSG, is currently being prepared for the purposes of screening to determine if a strategic environmental assessment, SEA, is required. Following the completion of the SEA process, the draft SCSG will be placed on display for a focused period of public consultation. Although there is no statutory requirement for public consultation, it is considered best practice to seek the views of planning authorities, practitioners, industry representatives and other interested parties. Submissions can be made in due course.

As the Deputy mentioned, my Department is undertaking a targeted review on the update of the sustainable residential guidelines. In the meantime I have issued a circular that the Deputy will be aware of. It states: "It is necessary for An Bord Pleanála and planning authorities to exercise discretion in the application and assessment of residential density at the periphery of large towns, particularly to the edges of towns with a rural context."

We must be clear that it is not a one-size-fits-all approach and there are communities and towns that should not be required to have a very high density level when it is not suitable for the area. On the other hand, in very large city areas like the centre of Dublin, we must take into account the land values that underpin cities and make the most of that in terms of compact growth and carbon footprint. A targeted review is under way and we will work through that. I am happy to take into account Deputy O'Donnell's views on that. I share his opinion and understand exactly where he is coming from. The last thing we want is any policy putting out development that is not viable and will not be delivered. We want to try to have sustainable communities across all tenures. That is very important.


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