Chapter 13: Rural Design Guide

Dúnta21 Iúil, 2021, 9:00am - 1 D.F., 2021, 5:00pm

Aim: To encourage appropriate site selection, layout, and high-quality design for rural housing in the countryside, by utilising guiding principles to ensure that rural housing complements, reinforces, and preserves the character and visual amenity of the County’s rural landscape, while also being cognisant of the need to transition to a low carbon climate resilient future. 

13.0 Introduction

In County Carlow there is a tradition of people residing in the countryside. Therefore, while the strategic objective of the Council is to accommodate growth in a network of vibrant towns and villages, it is equally recognised that a smaller proportion of the future growth in the County will be accommodated in the countryside in accordance with policies as contained in Chapters 2 and 3 of this Plan.

Development proposals for rural houses in the countryside require careful and detailed consideration in relation to site selection, site layout, and house design, so that they complement rather than dominate the rural landscape. This chapter outlines the key guiding principles which should inform proposals for new builds, or renovations and extensions to existing rural houses in the countryside. 

13.1 Strategy

This rural design guide is not intended to be prescriptive but will be used by the Planning Department as an advisory document in the consideration of future planning applications. Each development proposals will be considered having regard to site location and characteristics of the local rural area and will be considered on a case by case basis. The guide seeks to encourage imaginative and innovative contemporary design as well as more traditional vernacular solutions, which complement their rural surroundings. It is intended to be utilised as a tool to assist potential applicants, architects and planning agents, particularly in the areas of site selection, layout, design, and sustainable building.

Within the countryside new rural houses, together with extension, renovation and conversion projects, should:

  • Be a positive addition to the rural environment and community;
  • Reflect location and contribute to the character of the area by acknowledging the local built heritage and using local materials;
  • Embrace contemporary rural living and lifestyle as an alternative to the suburban style of many new homes in the open countryside;
  • Be timeless and capable of adaptation;
  • Be durable and built of materials which improve with age and which are well detailed;
  • Respect, learn and interpret from the past to achieve well designed architecture, be it in a contemporary or traditional style; and,
  • Be sustainable, incorporating design features/principles to facilitate a transition to a low carbon climate resilient future.

The rural design guide should also be read in conjunction with other relevant chapters in this Plan, in particular:

  • Chapter 3 (Rural Housing Policy);
  • Chapter 5 and 16 (Traffic Safety);
  • Chapter 6 (On-site wastewater treatment and flood risk assessment);
  • Chapter 9 (Landscape character, sensitivity and capacity, and scenic views and routes); and,
  • Chapter 10 (Natural and Built Heritage).

Rural Design - Policy

It is the policy of the Council to:

RD. P1:   Ensure that rural housing in the countryside is appropriately located in the landscape, informed by best practice principles for siting, layout, design, scale, form, orientation, use of materials, energy efficiency and climate adaptation, thereby contributing to the preservation of the rural environment.

13.2 Site Selection

The development of rural housing in the countryside has tended to focus on the use of road frontage sites, often carved out of larger fields. Here buildings dominate the view, where existing roadside trees and hedgerows are removed, and new inappropriate suburban type gardens, boundary walls and gates are introduced into the landscape. Such development changes the character of the countryside and, when repeated, leads to ribbon development and a loss of the rural character of an area.

All new development will be required to be sited in such a way that allows it to blend into the rural landscape and not form an overly visible or obtrusive feature.  A good site will be one that already has a significant number of well-established features that naturally define its extents/boundaries.

Fig. 13.1 Avoid corner sites located on dangerous bends with poor sight lines. 


Fig. 13.2 Avoid open and exposed sites limited or no existing boundaries.  Houses located in the middle of sites/fields, distant from boundaries will not be considered acceptable.  Houses should be ‘tucked into’ the landscape close to existing landscape features such as field boundaries, trees, and hedgerows.

Fig. 13.3 Avoid sites which lead to or exacerbate ribbon development.