Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Questions (89)

Pa Daly


89. Deputy Pa Daly asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage his views on clustered development within rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38297/20]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

Towns and villages across Ireland are facing many challenges, in terms of decline in population, viability of services and community facilities. The Government has provided a strong national policy response through The National Planning Framework (NPF) and the Action Plan for Rural Development, which identify the need to reverse these trends and revitalise rural towns and villages by attracting new residents.

Under the NPF, National Policy Objective 15 fully supports the concept of the sustainable development of rural areas. It seeks to encourage growth and arrest decline in areas that have experienced low population growth or decline in recent decades, while also highlighting the need to manage certain areas around cities and towns that are under strong urban influence and under pressure from uncoordinated and ribbon-type development. This is crucial to avoid over-development of those areas.

National Policy Objective 15 is supplemented by National Policy Objective 19 , which aims to ensure that a policy distinction is made between areas experiencing significant overspill development pressure from urban areas, particularly within the commuter catchment of cities, towns and centres of employment, and other remoter and weaker rural areas where population levels may be low and or declining.

The NPF acknowledges that rural settlements are not suitable for a suburban or a high density approach to development and tailored design approaches are needed. The NPF also recognises that in rural Ireland many people seek to have an opportunity to build their own homes. Under National Policy Objective 18b my Department is committed to developing a programme with local authorities, public infrastructure agencies such as Irish Water and local communities for the provision of serviced sites for housing to attract people to build their own homes and live in small towns and villages.

Some local authorities have developed their own guidance, tailored to their own specific circumstances, in respect of clustered development in working towards delivering on the NPF, and in line with objectives outlined in Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies. For example, in 2018, Tipperary County Council published Design and Best Practice Guidelines for Cluster Housing Schemes in Rural Ireland, which seeks to address difficult challenges faced in providing new viable housing within rural villages that are experiencing population decline and reduced access to services and community facilities.

Under the Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Sustainable Rural Housing 2005, planning authorities are required to frame the planning policies in their development plans in a balanced and measured way that ensures the housing needs of rural communities are met, while avoiding excessive urban-generated housing. Given developments in the interim, including inter alia , the publication of the NPF in 2018, the Sustainable Rural Housing Guidelines require updating, in a broader rural development and settlement context. Clusters are one of the key areas for consideration in the context of rural settlement patterns and the viability of Ireland’s towns and villages, and provide an alternative to the dispersion of single housing in rural areas. It is intended to examine clustered developments as part of this review. My Department has commenced scoping this work and I expect a draft by the end of this year.