The Climate Action Plan 2019, which I published on 17 June, reaffirms the important role of the National Planning Framework (NPF) in supporting national decarbonisation objectives. The NPF has clearly defined National Strategic Outcomes supporting the objectives of the Climate Action Plan, including Transition to a Low-Carbon and Climate Resilient Society, Compact Growth and Sustainable Mobility.
A top priority of the NPF is compact and sustainable growth. Ireland’s five cities are targeted for 50% of overall growth by 2040, with the four cities Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford each targeted to grow by at least 50% within that period. This will mean increasing the proportion of more compact forms of growth in the development of settlements of all sizes, with a focus on urban infill and the reuse of brownfield lands. ‘Brownfield’ targets are to deliver at least 40% of all new homes nationally within the built-up footprint of existing settlements, comprised of at least 50% of all new homes in the five cities and at least 30% of all new homes in settlements elsewhere.
The NPF envisages that changing the pattern of development in this manner will need to be buttressed by new policy tools in the planning system. It will ensure that more people will be living within the existing built-up footprint of cities and towns will support achieving the objectives of this Plan through:
- Reduced travel distances and greater proximity to employment and services, which will enable a greater proportion of journeys by bike or on foot (zero emissions);
- Greater urban density, which when combined with the point above, will ensure more viable public transport (less emissions per person than by individual vehicle);
- Greater sustainable mode share, which will enable cities and towns to densify, as development will not be dependent on road capacity nor car parking requirements, and less land will be required for the latter;
- Higher-density residential development, which tends to comprise smaller units and therefore requires less energy to heat. NPF targets require the proportion of apartments to treble, 13% in 2019, to 39% by 2030; and
- Closer proximity of multi-storey and terraced buildings, which will require less energy and make renewables-based systems of energy distribution such as district heating, or area-wide technology upgrades, more feasible.
The National Broadband Plan will deliver High-Speed Broadband services to over 1.1 million people in areas where there is no existing or planned commercial network. The Intervention Area includes 540,000 premises, including 56,000 farms and 44,000 businesses, and will ensure that households and business in rural parts of Ireland will have a similar level of connectivity as households and businesses in urban areas.
The High-Speed Broadband network will deliver a range of environmental benefits. For each new remote worker, an estimated average net saving of up to 10 kWh per day will be achieved, reducing commuter transport energy use and carbon emissions. Availability of better online conferencing and collaboration tools will reduce the need for business travel and the associated carbon emissions. High-Speed Broadband also increases the creation of local employment opportunities, which allows more people to work closer to their homes, reducing the emissions associated with longer commuter journeys.