IPI Responds to draft Building Heights guidelines

Planners give cautious welcome to draft Building Heights guidelines

Support for taller buildings as a basis for more compact development and efficient land use

More detailed criteria needed to ensure consistent quality across planning authorities

Housing need issues will not be solved by planning changes alone

“On behalf of professionals in planning in Ireland, I welcome these draft guidelines as recognition of the need for a change in thinking that can support more sustainable urban growth and in particular the provision of housing where there is a critical national need”

Mr. Joe Corr President of the Irish Planning Institute was addressing publication by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government of Draft Guidelines on Urban Development and Building Heights. 

Mr Corr continued, “We support strongly the principle of compact development in our cities and towns, including the need to build upwards rather than outwards. We welcome the general direction in policy from government to support these principles. The guidelines when translated into Specific Planning Policy Requirements (SPPRs) will establish some priority for the effective reuse of brownfield sites in particular. This promises a more efficient use of available, accessible land and more focused and efficient investment in infrastructure”

Mr. Corr emphasised however that the draft guideline needs to be strengthened, specifically in respect of the detail of planning and design parameters that are set out under the development management process.

“The devil is in the detail. Not all height is good. There are numerous examples throughout Ireland where taller buildings have impacted negatively on their surrounding communities, being unsuitably located, poorly designed and inappropriately detailed. We need to increase density in a sustainable way. Taller buildings represent just one means of doing so. The final guideline needs to define parameters and detailed criteria for increased building heights to enable local authorities resist poor quality approaches consistently across the system”.

Mr. Corr pointed out that there is scope in striking the final guideline for a more comprehensive approach to the methodology that could be applied by planning authorities covering

  • Provision for ‘character areas’
  • Differentiation between the Solitary Tall Building and the Clusters of Tall Buildings
  • Strategic and protected view corridors of increased building height that can be identified and especially so where multiple local authority areas are impacted – e.g., the four Dublin Local Authority Areas
  • Visual impact
  • Sustainability
  • The siting of buildings
  • Climatic considerations
  • Architectural and urban design

Looking at the wider need in society that has prompted attention to building heights, Mr. Corr cautioned that overcoming the challenge of inadequate housing figures is not just a function of changing planning regulations.

“Planning considerations and changes to the planning system, while important, cannot on their own impact significantly on the housing crises. Economic measures such as changes to the taxation system in the form of a site valuation tax remain as crucial as ever to reversing the worsening trends in housing figures.”