New guidelines for sustainable and compact housing in Ireland have been proposed by the Department of Housing, Local Government, and Heritage. Minister for Housing, Local Government, and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, has launched a public consultation to gather views and ideas on how a national policy framework can support more compact and diverse housing and increase housing supply. The consultation will run until April 27th, 2023, and will be followed by a public consultation on the Draft Sustainable and Compact Settlements Guidelines to be published in May 2023. The final Guidelines will be published by the end of June 2023.
The proposed guidelines seek to build on and update the existing Sustainable Residential Developments in Urban Areas guidelines, which were published in 2009. The new guidelines aim to provide greater flexibility to allow for more compact and sustainable forms of development and greater housing choice. The guidelines focus on the interaction between residential density, housing standards, and quality design and place-making.
Among the key proposals for consultation are housing density, housing standards, and quality design and placemaking. The proposed approach recommends density ranges for cities, metropolitan towns, large towns (10,000+ population), small and medium-sized towns (>1,500 to 10,000 population), and rural towns and villages (>1,500 population) to achieve compact growth and reflect the variety of settlements and settlement contexts where residential development takes place.
To achieve compact growth, medium-density housing models should be facilitated, alongside traditional housing and apartment developments, recognizing the significant population growth forecast and changing demographics. The guidelines also recommend specific standards for housing, such as minimum separation distance, private and public open space provisions, and car parking.
A minimum separation distance of 16 metres between opposing upper floor windows that serve habitable rooms at the rear of houses and duplex units is recommended, with provision for further reductions in certain circumstances. A minimum private open space provision of 10 square metres per bed space is suggested, with provision for further reduction where an equivalent amount of semi-private open space is provided in lieu of private open space, subject to an absolute minimum provision of 5 square metres private open space per bedspace.
The guidelines also propose a minimum public open space requirement of 10% of the total site area (net) for new residential development in statutory development plans. In terms of car parking, to achieve sustainable transport goals and support action against climate change, car parking in ‘Cities,’ ‘Metropolitan Towns,’ and ‘Large Towns (10,000+ population)’ should be graduated based on location and access to services by public transport, walking and cycling. In areas of high accessibility, car-parking provision should be minimised, substantially reduced or wholly eliminated, while in areas of medium accessibility, car-parking provision should be substantially reduced.
The proposed policy approach affords greater flexibility in design standards such as building separation distances and open space standards to support the construction of more compact ‘own-door’ housing, alongside traditional housing and apartment developments. The guidelines provide guidance on quality design and placemaking, including indicators that should be applied in the preparation of plans and consideration of individual planning applications.
Launching the consultation, Minister O’Brien emphasised that the aim is to secure views and ideas around how a national policy framework can support more compact and diverse housing and increase housing supply. He said, “New housing should respond to population needs, enhance communities, and facilitate a more sustainable way of building communities. I encourage members of the public to help shape the way forward and to influence the delivery of sustainable residential development in their communities.”
The Minister of State for Planning and Local Government, Kieran O’Donnell, also encouraged people to give their views so that housing supply can be increased into the future in a sustainable way based on best planning practice.
The proposed guidelines, when finalised, will constitute Ministerial Guidelines under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended. This means that planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála shall have regard to Ministerial guidelines in the performance of their functions under the Planning and Development Act.
In conclusion, the proposed guidelines aim to provide greater flexibility to allow for more compact and sustainable forms of development and greater housing choice, while also taking into account changing demographics and the need to achieve sustainable transport goals and support action against climate change. The public consultation on the proposed policy approach is open until April 27th, 2023, and it is an opportunity for members of the public to shape the future of sustainable residential development in their communities.