Chapter 2: Core Strategy and Settlement Strategy
Aim: To direct and facilitate appropriate levels of growth and development throughout the County that promotes sustainable development, a more consolidated urban form, a high quality living and working environment with supporting infrastructure that meets the needs of all residents, in accordance with the National Planning Framework and the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Southern Region.
The purpose of the Core Strategy is to set out an evidence-based strategy for the future spatial development of the Plan area. Its primary purpose is to identify and reserve an appropriate amount of land at the right locations to meet population and housing targets. It is a statutory requirement of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended) to ensure consistency with the national and regional objectives as outlined in the National Planning Framework (NPF) and the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) for the Southern Region.
2.1 Legislative Context
The requirements of the Core Strategy as contained in the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended) include:
- Defining a settlement hierarchy that is consistent with the NPF and RSES.
- Transposing the prescribed NPF, RSES and Section 28 (Housing Demand Methodology) housing demand targets to urban and rural centres identified in the settlement hierarchy.
- Providing an evidence-based rationale for land proposed to be zoned for residential and mixed-use development having regard to the capacity of existing zoned land and the phasing of development taking account of the location of public transport and services.
- Demonstrating how the Planning Authority has had regard to the statutory Retail Planning Guidelines in setting out objectives for retail development.
- Depicting key elements of the Core Strategy on a diagrammatic map.
2.2 Policy Context
2.2.1 National Planning Framework
The National Planning Framework is a high level, 20-year strategic plan for future growth of the Country to 2040, the objectives of which are to:
- Establish a broad national plan in relation to the strategic planning and sustainable development of urban and rural areas;
- Secure balanced regional development by maximising the potential of the regions; and
- Secure the co-ordination of Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies and City and County Development Plans.
The NPF identifies a set of goals built around the themes of wellbeing, equality and opportunity. These are expressed as National Strategic Outcomes (NSOs) and are aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which underpin the overarching vision for the Country.
The NPF strategy represents a significant change to current development trends and growth patterns referred to as “business as usual” by implementing a policy of “regional parity” whereby projected growth of the Eastern and Midland Region must be at least matched by the combined growth of the Northern and Western and Southern Regions. In this regard the strategy focuses on:
- Building “centres of scale” with a focus on Dublin (25% of growth) and the cities of Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford (accommodating a further 25% of growth);
- Remaining 50% of growth to occur in key regional centres (Athlone, Sligo, Letterkenny and cross border networks of Letterkenny-Derry and Drogheda-Dundalk-Newry), towns, villages and rural areas;
- Securing compact and sustainable growth with a focus on reusing previously developed “brownfield” lands together with the development of infill sites and buildings.
- Enabling people to live closer to where they work, moving away from the current unsustainable trends of increased commuting;
- Regenerating rural Ireland by promoting environmentally sustainable growth patterns;
- Planning for and implementing a better distribution of regional growth, in terms of jobs and prosperity;
- Transforming settlements of all sizes through imaginative urban regeneration and bringing life / jobs back into cities, towns and villages;
- Co-ordinating delivery of infrastructure and services in tandem with growth, through joined-up NPF/National Investment Plan and consistent sectoral plans.
The NPF emphasises the importance of sustainable urban development and connectivity in the Southern Region, ensuring economic growth activating and realising potential in wider rural towns and dispersed communities. The South-East (comprising Counties Carlow, Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford, and the southern part of County Tipperary) is identified as having a strong urban structure as well as some of Ireland’s most productive agricultural land. Regional opportunities identified to leverage growth in the South-East include national and international connectivity, strengthening higher education, and further balanced employment and housing development in key settlements and county towns. The NPF emphasises that growth in the South-East must be based on infrastructure and quality of life, rather than long distance commuting to Dublin, as is apparent in parts of Counties Carlow and Wexford in particular.
Specific targets are set out related to securing compact and sustainable growth in Ireland’s towns and cities. A major new policy emphasis is placed on renewing and developing existing settlements rather than continual expansion and sprawl out into the countryside, at the expense of town centres and smaller villages.
The NPF further states that there is scope for potential growth in all towns in Ireland and this will largely be determined by the relevant Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) for each Regional Assembly area, also taking into consideration the potential of smaller settlements and rural areas.
2.2.2 Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Southern Region (RSES) (Jan 2020)
The RSES sets out a 12-year strategic framework for development, and the way in which society, the environment, economy and use of land should evolve, while identifying key priorities for investment. Within the Southern Region there are three Strategic Planning Areas (SPA Ref: Map 2.1). Carlow is located in the South East SPA with Waterford being the principal urban centre connected to a network of large and strong urban centres.
Map 2.1 Southern Region – Strategic Planning Areas
The overarching purpose of the RSES is to support implementation of the NPF, the NDP, government economic policies and to ensure co-ordination of planning and development policy matters through the Development Plan and Local Economic and Community Plan (LECP) processes.
The RSES outlines 11 strategic principles which seeks to determine at a regional scale how best to achieve the shared goals set out in the National Strategic Outcomes of the NPF. In the context of the development strategy the RSES focuses on:
- growth of cities and other settlements throughout the Region,
- broadening the base of the economy,
- improving accessibility and connectivity,
- provision of infrastructure and services,
- conserving energy and transitioning to a low carbon economy,
- maintaining the role and character of smaller towns and villages,
- revitalising rural areas,
- safeguarding the environment,
- building an inclusive region and
- achieving a high quality of life for residents.
The RSES strategy for the Region is illustrated in Map no.2.2
Map 2.2: RSES Strategy
2.3 RSES Principles for the Core Strategy
The RSES also indicates that the local authority will have regard to the settlement typology and apply the following guiding principles when allocating future growth in the Core Strategy:
- Scale of population and existing performance;
- Extent to which a settlement is located inside or outside a Metropolitan Area;
- Scale of employment provision, number of jobs, jobs-to-resident workers’ ratio and net commuting flows;
- Compliance with the NPF (NPO 72) on a standardised, tiered approach that differentiates between zoned land that is serviced and that which is serviceable within the life of the plan;
- Linking Core Strategies to an evidence base on the availability and deliverability of lands within the existing built up footprints.
- Extent of local services and amenities provision, particular higher education institutes, health, leisure and retail;
- Extent to which sustainable modes of travel can be encouraged (walking, cycling or public transport);
- Rate and pace of past development and the extent to which there are outstanding requirements for infrastructure and amenities;
- Accessibility and influence in a regional or sub-regional context;
- Sub-regional interdependencies, e.g.location of a settlement in relation to nearby settlements and scope for collaboration including cross-boundary collaboration for settlements adjoining local authority boundaries;
- Character of local geography and accessibility as a service centre for remote and long-distance rural hinterlands;
- Track record of performance and delivery, as well as ambition and scope to leverage investment;
- Environmental and infrastructural constraints;
- The appropriate density and scale of development relative to the settlement and location, incl. differing rates and nature of development experienced; and
- Need for attractive, alternative options to rural housing within smaller towns and villages.
2.4 RSES Strategy and Influence on Future Growth of County Carlow
It is a mandatory requirement that there is consistency in the spatial planning hierarchy between national, regional and local plans. Carlow’s framework for growth is therefore guided and directed by the NPF, the RSES and Section 28 Guidelines.
Strategic elements of the growth strategy of the RSES that will influence growth and development in Carlow are as follows:
Designation of Carlow Town as a Key Town to function as an economic self-sustaining regional driver and a focus of significant growth within the county. A population growth rate of more than 30% by 2040 relative to CSO 2016 figure is targeted for Carlow Town. This entails also delivering important infrastructure and services, ensuring that it can grow as a successful regional employment centre and service hub. RPO 11 sets an objective for delivering population growth and infrastructure provision in Key Towns, as well as promoting sustainable transport, culture, placemaking, tourism development, education, sustainable development, and water infrastructure.
Supporting Town centre led regeneration, and the development of underutilised lands with improvements to the public realm, investment in infrastructure together with sustainable transport solutions.
Delivering new homes on urban infill and brownfield land to support urban regeneration with at least 30% of all new homes targeted in settlements (other than the Cities and their suburbs) shall be delivered within their existing built-up footprints.(RPO 35)
Provision of a coordinated planning framework (JUAP) for the Greater Carlow Urban area to strategically plan for the growth and development of the town, to identify and deliver strategic sites and regeneration areas for the future physical, economic and social development of Carlow in conjunction with Laois County Council.
Supporting the strategic employment development potential of Carlow Town and facilitating economic integration between urban centers throughout the regions including Tullow and Muine Bheag.
Acknowledgement of the inter-regional role of Carlow town given its location to the north of the Southern Region and adjacent to the Eastern Midlands Regional Assembly region. Opportunities afforded to Carlow are noted as part of a network of regionally significant drivers of collaboration and growth located on the Waterford-Kilkenny-Carlow-Dublin M9/Rail Network/Axis.
Identification of Carlow as an important regional centre of education and research, supporting the establishment of a Multi-Campus Technological University for the South East.
Towns and villages with populations of 1,500 or above are recognised as providing a housing, employment or service function. In County Carlow these comprise Tullow and Muine Bheag which act as District Towns serving a wider rural hinterland.
Supporting a strong network of towns, villages and diverse rural areas in achieving the objectives of the NPF.
2.5 Strategic Aims of the Core Strategy
The strategic aims which relate to the advancement of this Plan comprise:
- To guide the future development of County Carlow in line with national and regional objectives set out in the NPF and RSES and other national guidelines and policies.
- To promote and facilitate the development of the County in accordance with the provisions of the Core Strategy, including directing development in line with the settlement hierarchy and promoting development at an appropriate scale that is reflective of the terms of the Core Strategy Table and accompanying land-use zoning maps.
- To apply the Settlement Hierarchy to determine the scale, rate and location of proposed developments and apply appropriate development management measures to ensure compliance with the Settlement Hierarchy including the population targets for the County.
- To promote the delivery of at least 30% of all new homes that are targeted in settlements within their existing built-up footprints.
- To support the achievement of more self-sustaining towns and villages through residential and employment opportunities together with supporting social and community facilities.
- To monitor and maintain a record of residential development permitted in the County in line with the Settlement Hierarchy in order to ensure compliance with the population allocations defined by the Core Strategy and to adjust the approach to permitting development proposals in instances where Core Strategy objectives are not being met.
2.6 Content of the Core Strategy
The Core Strategy outlines:
- The Settlement Hierarchy for County Carlow;
- Population targets and associated housing demand;
- Core Strategy with required land use zoning requirements;
- Policies to support delivery of the Core Strategy; and
- The Core Strategy Map.
2.7 Carlow’s Settlement Hierarchy
Section 10(2A)(f) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended) requires the County Development Plan to contain a settlement hierarchy. The settlement hierarchy must be consistent with the NPF, RSES and the policies of the Government. The RSES framework is based on the pillars of the three cities, supported by a network of strategically located key towns, towns, villages and rural areas. Below the category of key town, the RSES indicates that it is a function of the County Development Plan to categor