Population levels in some parts of Dublin city, particularly in inner suburban areas, have been falling and are showing a trend towards smaller average household sizes. Such decreases in population levels have implications for service provision in these areas. It is also encouraging, however, to note that as a result of the Government's proactive urban regeneration policies, significant amounts of new residential development in Dublin's inner city and docklands areas have reversed the long-established trend of declining population levels in these areas.
Two key planning policy documents issued by my Department have addressed the issue of declining population in parts of Dublin. First, Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Residential Density, 1999, promoted increased residential density in appropriate areas, including brownfield sites, and also on inner suburban in-fill sites. With regard to the latter, the guidelines stated that "The provision of additional dwellings within inner suburban areas of towns or cities, proximate to existing or due to be improved public transport corridors has the potential for revitalising areas by utilising the capacity of existing social and physical infrastructure. Such development can be provided either by in-fill or by sub-division [of large houses]." The guidelines have been successful in encouraging higher residential densities in urban areas; for example, most new housing within both inner city and suburban Dublin is now designed to meet the needs of smaller household sizes.
Second, the national spatial strategy, NSS, emphasised the importance of consolidating the greater Dublin area. The physical consolidation of Dublin, supported by effective land use policies for the urban area itself is an essential requirement for a competitive Dublin. The NSS, therefore, recommended that the regional and planning authorities in the metropolitan area, that is, the built up area of Dublin and its immediate environs, should "carry out a systematic audit of all vacant, derelict and under-used land to establish its capacity to accommodate housing or other suitable uses. Such an audit should be focused in particular on areas in or close to public transport corridors and areas with under-utilised physical and social infrastructure (e.g. schools)." I am pleased to note that this recommendation has been incorporated into the draft regional planning guidelines for the greater Dublin area which, when adopted, will replace the strategic planning guidelines for the greater Dublin area.