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Housing; Local Government and Heritage | Rural housing and planning applications

To ask the Minister for Housing; Local Government and Heritage the degree to which he expects to be in a position to meet rural housing requirements in all counties where there is an obvious need; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

To ask the Minister for Housing; Local Government and Heritage the steps that can be taken by the local authorities to facilitate the granting of planning permission for rural applicants who have a need of rehousing; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY

Since 2018, the National Planning Framework (NPF) is the national planning policy document providing overall strategic policy for the future development of Ireland through specific National Policy Objectives (NPOs) that support the overall rural and small town pattern of development in Ireland.

In policy terms, NPO 19 of the NPF aims to ensure that a 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, on the one hand, and other remoter and structurally weaker rural areas where population levels may be low and or declining, on the other. NPO 19 is also aligned with the established approach whereby considerations of social (intrinsic part of the community) or economic (persons working full or part time) need may be applied by planning authorities in rural areas under urban influence.

Under the Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Sustainable Rural Housing 2005, which were issued under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 as amended, 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.  The Guidelines are available on the Government’s website at the following link: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/23809-sustainable-rural-housing-development-guidelines/.  

I would also like to update the Deputy on the review of the Rural Housing Guidelines, which is relevant to this topic. Draft Sustainable Rural Housing Guidelines are currently being finalised by my Department and are intended to set out national planning policy and guidance in relation to the sustainable management of rural housing. The guidelines will build on the strategic policy framework set by the National Planning Framework (NPF) and support a more consistent approach in the management of rural housing demand across local authority areas.  

The guidelines are at an advanced stage of drafting and environmental assessments are ongoing.  It is intended to publish the draft guidelines for a period of public consultation when the environmental assessments are competed.  It is anticipated that these assessments will be completed in December 2022.

Following the consultation period and with any subsequent changes made, the guidelines will be submitted to me as Minister for approval to publish.  Once issued, Planning Authorities and An Bord Pleanála will be required to have regard to the guidelines in carrying out their functions.

Finally, in relation to the granting of permissions by local authorities, in making a decision in respect of an application for planning permission, planning authorities (and An Bord Pleanála in relation to planning appeals) are required to consider such applications in the context of the relevant Development Plan, or Local Area Plan where one exists for the area, as well as any relevant Ministerial Guidelines.

It is noteworthy that there has been strong delivery of single new homes in rural areas nationally in recent years, comprising around one in three of all houses (i.e. excluding apartments), completed in the 5 years between Q4 2017 and Q3 2022. Approximately 30,000 rural house planning permissions were granted in this period. Rural housing construction has generally been one-quarter of overall delivery nationally for the last 30 years. Therefore, it continues to be a very strong housing sector.

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