Planning in the new Programme For Government

Seán O'Leary MIPI

The Taoiseach today published "A Programme for a Partnership Government", the Programme for Government document agreed between the Fine Gael Party, the Independent Alliance and Independent TDs. 

The IPI has welcomed the appointment of Simon Coveney as Minister at the new Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and  also looks forward to engaging with the Department of Climate Change, Communications & Natural Resources and the Department of Regional Development and Rural Affairs on the role of planners and the planning system plays in delivering sustainable development across Ireland.

The Programme for Government is an extensive document and some of the key planning policies are set out below. One of the Government's key priorities in its first 100 days is the preparation and publication of an Action Plan for Housing.

In a section on “Planning Reform” (pp. 27-28) the new Programme For Government states "We want to attract people back into main streets and town centres by examining new incentives to regenerate derelict and underused buildings. To achieve this we will seek Oireachtas support for a new Town and Village Renewal Scheme to support the revitalisation of our towns and villages and improve the living and working environment of communities. Using the €30million available from this year to local authorities for town and village regeneration, the scheme will, among other things, seek to increase the attractiveness and sustainability of our towns and villages as places to live and work”. This is a Year 1 Action.

The document continues:

“In the context of this new scheme we will examine:

  • Introducing a similar scheme to the ‘Living City Initiative’ to regenerate town centres and villages throughout Ireland (Year 1 Action)
  • Establishing a national register of derelict sites, in addition to the new vacant site levy, to bring vacant and underutilised sites into beneficial use for housing and urban regeneration purposes (Year 2 Action) 
  • Mandating local authorities with better land management powers, including the possibility of additional CPO (Compulsory Purchase Order) capabilities (Year 2 Action)
  • Reclassifying and incentivising the use of underutilised or vacant areas over ground floor premises in towns, for both residential and commercial use (Year 1 Action"

The section continues:

"We will propose to reform the Derelict Sites Act to tackle the under use and hoarding of derelict land by the State, semi-State and private sectors. (Year 1 Action)

We will propose a new Rural Resettlement Scheme to promote the advantages of rural living and ease housing pressures in high demand urban areas. (Year 1 Action)

We will promote higher urban densities in terms of housing design, particularly in public transport corridors, through a new National Planning Framework to replace the National Spatial Strategy, to be finalised by the first quarter of 2017. (Year 1 Action)

We will commission a “root and branch” review of the planning system with the aim of reducing the uncertainty and length of planning processes. This will include a review of theresources and structures required by An Bord Pleanála to meet its statutory objective of deciding appeals within 18 weeks. (Year 1 Action)

We will conduct a review of nationwide housing building standards. (Year 1 Action)

We will commission an audit of land holdings by State bodies and local authorities that might be used for housing. (Year 1 Action)

We will consult on possible amendments to the planning guidelines to support the construction of on campus or near-campus, high-quality, purpose-built student accommodation, and retirement villages for the elderly. (Year 1 Action)”

The document states that the Government “will prioritise regional development across all policy areas” (p.32) and argues “Our national infrastructure compares poorly with the most advanced European countries, and threatens to smother the recovery in some urban areas through housing shortages and transport congestion, as well as limiting the participation in the economic recovery of individual communities and entire regions” (p.38).

Page 44 discusses Town and Village Renewal and states “The renewal of towns and villages will be a top priority for the new Minister for [Regional Development and Rural Affairs] as a way to revitalise rural Ireland. To deliver on this goal the new Minister will develop a new and improved Town and Village Renewal Scheme with input from the Oireachtas in time for Budget 2017. As part of this scheme we will propose to commit additional funding to support the development of rural towns and villages, as a key priority for revitalising rural Ireland. The central aim of supporting the revitalisation of towns and villages is to improve the living and working environment of local communities and to increase their potential to support increased economic activity into the future. The focus for improvements will extend to the enhancement of villages, small towns and the surrounding countryside.”

Elsewhere the Government (p.51) commits “to reviewing the position in relation to the planning code as it relates to turf cutters for domestic use.”

Page 125 of the document states “The new Government understands the divisions and distress caused in local communities who feel that new energy infrastructure, like wind farms and pylons are imposed on them. The technology and scale of wind farms has evolved significantly since the last set of planning guidelines were introduced in 2006. As a matter of urgency the new Government will update the wind farm planning guidelines, within 3 to 6 months, to offer a better balance between the concerns of local communities and the need to invest in indigenous energy projects. These new planning guidelines will be informed by the public consultation process and best international practice. It is also important that there is community participation in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects as it is in both the national and local interest.” 

The document adds 

“In order to foster and support this we will:

  • Develop a framework for how communities can share in the benefits of substantial new energy infrastructure which is located in their area.
  • Provide support for community-led projects in the initial stages of development, planning and construction.
  • Establish a register of community benefit payments, and examine shared-ownership opportunities for renewable energy projects in local communities supporting, in particular, the emerging energy cooperative movement as one means of facilitating community participation.”

P.128 of the document states “Investment in our public transport system will uphold the principles of smarter travel policies. Under the Capital Plan, €100million is being committed to smarter travel and carbon reduction measures, including Greenways, to ensure that the transport sector makes a major contribution to climate change mitigation targets. To aid the development of Greenways, the Minister for Transport will develop national guidelines for Greenway public consultation, planning, and construction to help guide local authorities and agencies.”

Page 155 states “Public consultations provide an important opportunity for the public to input directly into matters which affect them and their communities. Currently there is no single mechanism by which individuals can access information on consultations local, regional and national. We will establish an easily accessible portal to provide details of all such public consultations.”


Seán O'Leary MIPI
Executive Director