A key outcome of both of the National Planning Framework (NPF) and the National Development Plan (NDP) is the compact growth of cities and towns of all sizes, in a manner that creates 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.
The NPF also acknowledges that there is a need for a more proportionate and tailored approach to residential development, especially in the context of regional cities and towns. This means that it is necessary to adapt the scale, design and layout of new housing according to the 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 (the ‘Sustainable Residential Development Guidelines’) were last issued in 2009, having been first introduced in 1999.
Further, related guidance has been subsequently issued in the form of updates to the Sustainable Urban Housing: Design Standards for New Apartments Guidelines for Planning Authorities, most recently in 2020, and the Urban Development and Building Heights Guidelines for Planning Authorities in 2018.
While the principles, approaches and general requirements of the Sustainable Residential Development Guidelines continue to be applicable to the objectives of the NPF for the development of compact, sustainable and liveable settlements, it is necessary to review guidance to take account of more varied development contexts, given the emphasis that the NPF places on tailored, plan-led and design-focused compact growth.
My Department is currently undertaking an update of the Sustainable Residential Development Guidelines with new Sustainable and Compact Settlement Guidelines (SCSG). In the meantime, my Department issued a Circular in April 2021 to Planning Authorities, Regional Assemblies and to the Planning Regulator to provide clarity in relation to the interpretation and application of current statutory guidelines, particularly with regard to the density of development in certain town contexts.
A preliminary draft of the SCSG is currently being prepared for the purposes of screening for Appropriate Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment. Following the completion of the AA/SEA process, the Draft SCSG will be subject to a period of consultation. Submissions made during the public consultation period will be taken into consideration and thereafter, the draft guidelines will be finalised for publication. It is intended that the review can conclude by mid-2022 and that final Guidelines will be issued under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended).