Chapter 5: Design and Place-making in Towns and Villages

opendate_range28 Sep, 2020, 9:00am - 9 Dec, 2020, 4:00pm

5.1 Introduction 

Wexford is home to a network of towns and villages which perform a variety of roles and functions for their residents and the wider rural hinterlands. Chapter 3 outlines the Council’s overall development approach for each of the main settlements and settlement types in the settlement hierarchy. This chapter outlines the Council’s commitment to improving the quality of the county’s towns and villages and contains the objectives to ensure that they are attractive and functional places where people want to live, work, access services and raise their families.

The creation of successful places is shared activity between local authorities, infrastructure provides, designers, businesses and local communities. Successful places share a number of common factors. Figure 5.11 illustrates the many components and conditions which are required.

Figure 5.1 Components of Successful Places

While the various components are covered under the respective chapters of the plan (see Chapter 4 Sustainable Housing, Chapter 15 Sustainable Communities and Social Infrastructure, Chapter 8 Transport and Chapter 10 Environment Management) this chapter focuses on ensuring quality and sustainability in physical form of towns and villages ensuring that they are successful and vital places. 

5.2 Climate Change in our Towns and Villages

Our towns and villages are the focus of much of our residential properties and they also contain a significant proportion of our commercial and community building stock, amenities and infrastructure. Many of our towns and villages were founded on rivers or by the coast for economic and transport reasons and as a result are more vulnerable to climate change.  In order to respond to the impacts that climate change will have on our towns and villages the Planning Authority will, inter alia:

  • Implement necessary flood management measures such as those proposed under CFRAMS.
  • Ensure that floodplains and other natural features which retain and filter floodwaters such as wetlands are retained.
  • Ensure that development and infrastructure and designed is located so as to minimise the threat from flooding and coastal erosion. • Ensure that buildings are energy efficient and that materials and structures are resilient to climate change.
  • Ensure that development is located so that the need to travel is minimised and modal shift is optimised.

5.3 Policy Context

The NPF acknowledges the importance of rural towns and villages in terms of their economic, administrative and social functions and seeks to activate the potential for renewal and strengthen and diversify rural towns. It places a strong emphasis on strengthening Ireland’s urban structure by targeting both population and employment growth in urban areas, reversing stagnation and decline, promoting urban infill and brownfield development and ensuring that urban areas are attractive, liveable, high quality places. It envisages that they are home to diverse and integrated communities. It also focuses on addressing the legacy of rapid growth by facilitating catch-up in amenity, services and employment and creating more self-sustaining settlements of all sizes.

Realising our Rural Potential – Action Plan for Rural Development states that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to rural development. Different rural areas have different needs and require different solutions, depending on their local assets, their peripherality, population density, etc. The Council must tailor its policies to fit the character of the respective town or village, some of which have commuter pressures, other have experienced decline and some in more remote coastal are experiencing pressure from tourism related development which is not matched by local growth. 
The objectives of the RSES seek to strengthen the region’s urban and rural fabric creating vibrant towns and villages and seeking investment for infrastructure and initiatives to support job creation. It will be enabled through the ‘New Homes in Small Towns and Villages’ initiatives, investment in renewal initiatives, co-ordination between local authorities, Irish Water and other stakeholders. The RSES recommends the implementation of sustainable place frameworks, the 10-minute town concept and the development of smart towns.

Further guidance on how we should lay out our towns and villages to be attractive places which are safe places to live and which are efficient, adaptably and resilient is provided in the following government guidance:

  • Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets (2019, Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Department of Housing Planning and Local Government). 
  • Urban Design Manual – A Best Practice Guide, Companion to the Sustainable Residential Guidelines for Planning Authorities (Department of Environment Heritage and Local Government, 2009).
  • Quality Housing for Sustainable Communities, (Department of Environment Heritage and Local Government, 2007).
  • Urban Development and Building Height – Guidelines for Planning Authorities (Department of Housing Planning and Local Government, 2018). • Sustainable Urban Housing: Design Standards for New Apartments – Guidelines for Planning Authorities (Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, 2018).
  • Retail Design Manual,  A companion Guide to the Retail Planning Guidelines for Planning Authorities ( 2012, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government and Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht)
  • Government Policy on Architecture. 
  • Architectural Heritage Protection Guidelines for Planning Authorities, (2004, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government).

5.4 Goal  

It is the goal of the Council to ensure that the towns and villages in the county are vibrant and inclusive, support their urban and rural communities and provide attractive and enjoyable living and working environments.

5.5 Strategy

The Council’s strategy is create attractive, healthy, safe and efficient places through its own interventions and ensuring that all future developments achieve the highest standards in design and layout. Having regard to this, the key aims of the strategy are:

  • Design Quality -  To ensure that our towns and villages are attractive places to live and visit and that the design of development and the public realm and is of exceptional quality.
  • Connected Places - To ensure that future development has a coherent urban structure, is permeable and places people at the heart of the public realm.
  • Compact and Rejuvenated - To ensure that development results in the efficient use of land, encourages walking and cycling and rejuvenates the areas within which it is located.
  • Vibrant, Inclusive, Resilient and Adaptable -To ensure our towns and villages are are self-sustaining places which are vital and vibrant, with appropriate services, jobs, amenities and community facilities which are inclusive, accessible to all and are resilient to challenges such as climate change and economic instability. 

Towns and Villages Strategic Objectives

It is the objective of the Council:

Objective TV01

To ensure, through our planning processes and investment decisions, that we create liveable, vital, diverse, inclusive, resilient towns and villages.

Objective TV02

To promote a healthy County by improving physical and social environments to crate vibrant, accessible, healthy and sustainable places to live, work and relax.

Objective TV03

To promote compact urban form, which is appropriate to context, in the interests of efficient use of resources and optimising the opportunities to walk and cycle and the feasibility of public transport.

Objective TV04

To ensure that towns and villages are accessible to all, adaptable and safe.

Objective TV05

To require high quality design in the public realm, in architecture and in building functionality.

Objective TV06

To prepare Urban Design Frameworks which implement the 10 Minute Town concept, identifies opportunities for infill and regeneration and set out the key components and design principles for new areas in all future Local Area Plans.

Objective TV07

To ensure, through the development management process and in local authority own development, that new development adds to the sense of place, quality, distinctiveness and character of our towns and villages.

Objective TV08

To regenerate and revitalise our towns and villages, diversify and seek new roles and uses to stimulate economic and cultural development and provide necessary physical and social infrastructure.

Objective TV09

To require that all developments complies with the design advice contained in the narrative and the objectives of this chapter and the design principles set out in the guidance documents section 5.2 above.

Objective TV10

To ensure our towns are healthy places with quality recreational and sporting amenities and which are planned to optimise opportunities for active travel.

5.6 The Design Process 

The Urban Design Manual, which accompanies the ‘Guidelines for Sustainable Residential Development in Urban Areas’ (May 2009), provides comprehensive guidance on design issues. The Manual sets out a series of 12 design criteria for development sub-divided into three groups: (i) Neighbourhood (ii) Site (iii) Home. These groups reflect the spatial scales and order of priorities that should help inform and guide the design of any new residential, mixed-use and commercial development. 

Figure 5-2 Criteria for Successful Place-Making

Wheel - criteria for successful place-making

The criteria and associated indicators are included in the Development Management Manual contained in Volume 2. This chapter provides advice on the application of the more important criteria, such as Quality (Section 5.7) Connections (Sectoin

5.8) and efficiency (Section 5.9 Compact Growth) Inclusivity and adaptability (Section 5.10). Together with the other guidance documents referred to above, the criteria shall be used by designers to appraise sites and inform the design of new development. 

The Council will require the submission of a Design Statement to accompany all development over 2ha, commercial or mixed use schemes in central areas, residential schemes above 50 houses in towns and on a case by case basis in villages where the sensitivity to change is higher due to considerations of scale. Details of what shall be addressed in a Design Statement are included in the Development Management Manual.

Specific development management standards with regard to the design of individual sites and dwellings are contained in the Development Management Manual.

5.7 Design Quality 

The quality of design in our towns and villages determines how we use them and how we feel about them. This applies equally to our buildings, streets and public spaces, the places where we work and where we live. Good design is a good investment as people come to and stay in attractive places. As such quality design is an investment in quality of life and in economic prosperity. 

New urban form must create interest and a ‘sense of place’ and it must have quality and distinctiveness that will make people attached to it and have pride in it as their place. Places should be legible and people should be able to way-find using the buildings and spaces. 

Quality must be considered at every level from neighbourhood to individual building design and the spaces between them. It must be evident in the building form and streetscapes, public realm and spaces, landscaping and the materials and finishing on building and spaces. 

5.7.1 Architectural Quality

‘The architecture we choose to build now is the architectural heritage of the future’ (Government Policy on Architecture 2009-2015, 2009:8).

Quality architecture addresses beauty, functionality, durability, adaptability, amenity, liveability and a positive sense of place. Good architecture ensures that the building is fit for its intended use or function, answers the profound challenges of environmental sustainability and climate change2, is durable in terms of its design and construction and respects and enhances its environment aesthetically. Such architecture gives us enduring social, environmental, cultural and economic benefits3.

County Wexford has a proud architectural heritage which is both aesthetically pleasing and tells a story of our evolving communities, values, technologies, crafts and tastes. New architecture must add to that story. We have started to create the architectural heritage of the future; building such as the National Opera House and Wexford Library tell of the progressive and culturally rich county that Wexford is.

Good architecture is viewed in context ‘Sometimes how a building fits in to the townscape is the principal concern, sometimes it is the stark contrast that makes a place’ . The National Opera House is a fine example of how an infill site was redeveloped to create an architectural statement in a historic environment. Viewed from the bridge over the River Slaney, the Opera House provides a contemporary element to Wexford’s historic skyline framed by Rowe Street and Bride Street Church Spires. Its form is appropriate to its function as a national building which is also of major cultural significance to the people of Wexford.  

New architecture should enrich the local built environment. Good quality design can be either simple paired back buildings that follow the established pattern and symmetry of the streetscape or it can be an architecturally designed landmark building. The architectural quality, composition of elements and use of materials should be of a high standard.

The proposed design should ensure that the elevational components relate to the overall form and mass. The number and composition of elements on the building’s façade and the contrasting relationships between them – as viewed from near and afar – determine visual quality and interest’ . The façade should achieve a balance between the ratio of solid to void and sit comfortably with the pattern and symmetry of the existing streetscape. The design of the building and use of materials should strengthen local identity and where possible draw on local traditions of built form, materials and craftsmanship. New development should include high quality, robust materials and finishes that will endure weathering and stand the test of time. 

5.7.2 Designing the Public Realm

There public realm describes a variety of spaces, such as squares, neighbourhood centres, parks, quays and streets. As all developments will have at least an interface with the public realm, and in most cases will be a least partially comprised of public areas, the design and quality of the public realm will be crucial to the quality of the scheme. 

In general, the quality of the public realm should be as high, if not higher, than the quality of the individual buildings – a neighbourhood with poor quality spaces will rarely be improved by the highest quality architecture buildings. Buildings should not sit in space, rather they should be used to define and shape the public area. Consideration must be given to how the buildings and spaces interact and are to make attractive and welcoming places. 

Designing Quality Places Objectives

It is the objective of the Council:

Objective TV11

To encourage a culture of creativity and quality in architecture.

Objective TV12

To require that new buildings are of exceptional architectural quality, and are fit for their intended use or function, are flexible in the face of unknown future demands, durable in terms of design and construction, respectful of setting and the environment and to require that the overall development is of high quality, with a well-considered public realm.

Objective TV13

To ensure that the appearance of buildings, in terms of details and materials (texture, colour, patterns and durability), is of a high standard with enduring quality and has a positive impact on the visual quality of the area.

Objective TV14

To require a Design Statement to accompany all development over 2ha commercial or mixed use schemes in central areas, residential schemes above 50 houses in towns and on a case by case basis in villages where the sensitivity to change is higher due to considerations of scale and context. Details of what shall be addressed in a Design Statement are included in the Development Management Manual.

Objective TV15

To require all significant residential planning applications of 50 or more dwellings to include a public realm plan and statement. These shall address quality at every level and shall contain a fully detailed and specified plan for the public realm of the scheme. The public realm plan shall include details of the street hierarchy, pavement treatment, permeability, open spaces and meeting places, landscaping and tree planting, boundary treatments, surfacing and street furniture, lighting and signage.

Objective TV16

To implement environmental and public realm improvements in town and villages centres to a high standard and finish in order to improve safety, image, identity and environmental quality. The Council will work with developers, stakeholders and local community groups to secure improvements to the public realm and pursue all avenues of funding to secure resources for the enhancement, renewal and regeneration of our settlements.

Objective TV17

To require that new developments, street, public spaces and other areas of public realm including parks are designed to reflect the design principles of Connectivity, Enclosure, Active Edge and Pedestrian Facilities/Activity4.

Objective TV18

To require that new buildings be used to frame and create streets and spaces rather than sit in spaces.

5.8.1 Street Networks, user priority and permeability

The majority of the public space or public realm in our towns and villages is comprised of streets. Streets are also the basic building block of urban structure and therefore the design of street networks and streets is of crucial importance to creating sustainable, walkable and attractive towns. However, one of the legacies of residential layout design in the recent past has been that design considerations have often been dominated and driven by the need to make provision for motor vehicles – to the detriment of other users. The standards and guidelines set out in the Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets (hereon referred to as DMURS) must be applied by the Council in relation to all urban roads and streets, that is, streets and roads with a speed limit of 60 km/h or less5

The Manual recognises the importance of assigning higher priority to pedestrians and cyclists , without unduly compromising vehicle movement in order to create secure, connected places that work for all members of the community.

New development should provide for optimum levels of connectivity and permeability through careful consideration of layout and design. Permeability refers to the ease of movement within any given area particularly for pedestrians and cyclists. Permeable urban environments encourage increased participation in sustainable modes of travel including walking, cycling and public transport. Further Guidance on permeability is provided in Permeability Best Practice Guide (NTA, 2015).

While in general, the principle is that every street must lead to a street, network design does not have to result in complete permeability for all modes of transport. 

5.8.2 Route Hierarchy

In general the urban street network is comprised of a hierarchy of routes of differing design and function. DMURS recognises the different ‘movement functions’ or roles which particular routes play and sets out a hierarchy of route types and characteristics. It identifies a route hierarchy with 3 route types; Arterial, Link and Local Routes. As well as detailed road design and movement function, the type of route will inform the design, building line/frontage, building type, building height, density and landscape treatment.

Arterial Routes are the major strategic routes that connect major centres and nodes. They may also include orbital routes. Pedestrians, cyclists and public transport should be prioritised on these routes but they may also need to convey a volume of individual traffic movements. The routes have a higher design speed and greater width. They can accommodate buildings of greater height which will serve to provide continuity and enclosure of these wider routes.  Legibility and landmarks will be important considerations on these routes to enable way finding and convey sense of place in these more fast moving routes.

Link Routes provide the links to Arterial routes or between centres, neighbourhoods and/or suburbs. Their movement function will still be significant but they will have a lesser volume of traffic with a destination outside the town. They cater for shorter journeys and the design, width and design speed is lower. These routes can still accommodate building height which shall be proportionate to the road width to ensure appropriate enclosure (see below). There should be particular attention to the different characteristics of the areas through which they pass. A higher standard of design will be expected in places with more important ‘place’ function (see below).

Local Routes are the routes which provide access within communities and to link Arterial and Link routes. Their movement function is much less important and the ‘place’ function is paramount.  The may be even be fully pedestrian or they may serve a number of modes of transport. They are a more intimate space where people will dwell and the movement function is secondary to their function as a place.

DMURS notes that the character of these routes will change across their length as the pass through various ‘places’; rural areas, villages, suburbs, neighbourhood centres/nodes and town centres. The design treatment will therefore also vary depending on the ‘place context’. For example in locations such as neighbourhood centres and intersections a higher design quality design will be expected, higher levels of pedestrian connectivity and vibrant and responsive frontages will be required .

These roles will be assigned and new routes planned in the respective Local Area Plans. However in many of the County’s towns and villages there are not local area plans and in such instances6 designers should seek the advice of the Planning Authority at preplanning to ascertain the envisaged role for the route where this is not set out in a Local Area Plan.

Figure 5-3 below shows the proposed the route structure of a new area and shows how the route type influences the type of building frontages required (Principal and Secondary). 

Figure 5-3 Example of a Proposed Route Structure

Example of a proposed route structure

The Development Management Manual contained in Volume 2 provides further indicative cross sections for Arterial, Link and Local Routes7. The sections show carriageways, cycle tracks, building lines and heights, landscaping privacy strips and SUDS for each route type– all of which contribute to creating a comfortable, attractive and safe space which is designed to reflect the function of the route.

In designing new routes it is important in the interests of street design, street enclosure and land efficiency that buildings front the street. Separate access roads which run parallel to the existing route will not be permitted.

5.8.3 Street Design

New street and road design must put primary emphasis on creating attractive places which are accessible by all and which, secondly, serve their movement function. A broad range of place-based measures such as built form, landscaping and levels of pedestrian and cyclist activity, as well as more conventional road design measures, will need to be taken into account in making streets function as places. 

A key challenge is to successfully promote the non-car based functions of ‘the street’ by promoting a ‘sense of place’, facilitating social interaction and encouraging walking and cycling. It is important that the space between buildings is carefully considered in relation to the scale of the buildings and the activities taking place on the new streets. 

DMURS focuses on streets as attractive places and seeks to ensure that design appropriate to context, character and location. The manual identifies four key characteristic of place based street design:

  • Connectivity
  • Enclosure 
  • Active Edge 
  • Pedestrian Facilities / Activity 


Connectively of the route network is dealt with extensively in Section 5.9.1 and 5.92 above. At the street level the creation of vibrant and active places requires pedestrian activity and this in turn requires walkable, permeable street networks. Well-designed connections should be overlooked by active accommodation to give passive supervision. Passive vehicular traffic can also provide a level of surveillance. There should be good visibility from other areas to minimise opportunities for hiding/crime. It is beneficial to retrospectively improve connectively with well-designed connections where possible to increase pedestrian activity and walkability. Further guidance is available in Permeability - A Best Practice Guide (NTA).

Enclosure is an important element of street design. New streets and spaces should be continuously and adequately enclosed by building frontages and landscape. Existing continuity should be maintained where it exists (building lines and forms) and opportunities to address weaknesses should be realised through infill development or redevelopment. Further detail and dimensions are provided on the role of building height and street width in creating enclosure in Section 4.2.1 of DMURS. 

Figure 5.4 Characteristics
of place based street design
 

An active edge livens the street creating a more interesting and engaging environment. An active frontage is achieved with frequent edges and openings to ensure that the street is overlooked to generate pedestrian activity as people come and go from buildings. Where residential development fronts onto streets, a higher level of privacy is desirable. This can be provided at ground floor level with a ‘privacy strip’ (see Figure 5.5 and Section 4.2.3 DMURS) or change in level to create separation and privacy without compromising the active edge. Providing a planted privacy strip help define public and private space, protect residential amenity and provides an attractive street edge. 

Figure 5.5 Privacy Strip (Source: DMURS)

The inclusion of in-curtilage parking in front gardens results in large setbacks and reduces the sense of enclosure and will only be considered in exceptional circumstances (or outer suburban, or and villages).  Car parking should not dominate the streetscape. On-street or underground parking increases site potential and creates allows for s stronger street frontage. Where possible apartment developments should be designed to include own door entrances for ground floor units. This will create a greater level of street activity. 

Good pedestrian activity/facilities such as wide footpaths, well designed crossings can make walking a more convenient and pleasurable experience that will further encourage pedestrian activity and vibrancy. DMURS provides more detail on the various zones within the pedestrian area - made up of the strip, footway and verge. These areas should be viewed and designed as three areas of activity. 

Figure 5.6 The three activity zones of the footpath

Source: DMURS

Diagram - The three activity zones of the footpath (strip, footway, verge(

Urban Blocks

Urban blocks are an important component of street design. They are the basic development parcels that remain once open space, streets, footpaths and other public spaces have been removed. Our historic towns are made up of contrasting buildings that work together because they sit together in coherent blocks. Proper block layout is also crucial to achieving compact urban form and the development of successful places.

Figure 5.7 Measures that indicate
active and animated street interfaces

Source: DMURS

Measures that indicate active and animated street interfaces
Urban blocks need to be sized and shaped to accommodate development of different uses and types. DMURS sets out detailed guidance for the design of urban blocks. With regard to block dimensions the following apply:

  • 60 – 80m is optimal for pedestrian movement and will sustain a variety of building types. This should be used within intensively developed areas such as centres to maximise accessibility;
  • Larger blocks within centres and business parks / industrial estates may be required to cater for larger commercial or civic developments. In such cases mid-block pedestrian links should be provided;
  • A block dimension of up to 100m will enable a reasonable level of permeability for pedestrians and may also be used in neighbourhoods and suburbs;
  • In some cases, site constraints may require designers to apply larger block dimensions. However, maximum block dimensions should generally not exceed 120m. 

Urban blocks for residential areas tend to be smaller than blocks for industrial areas where buildings and spaces are larger. The perimeter block provides the greatest flexibility of urban block types. It provides coherent frontage to streets and spaces and it provides a clear distinction between public and private spaces. The block and adjoining blocks should align to create well defined streets and spaces with relatively continuous building frontage active frontage, made up of doors and windows, create attractive and well supervised streets and public spaces. 

Figure 5.8 and 5.9 Block Types

Source: DMURS

5.8.4 Streets - Detailed Design and Safety

DMURS provides further detail of the role of street trees, lighting, street furniture, materials, signage, historic streets, pedestrian and shared areas, cycling facilities including cycleway design and carriageway alignments. It also contains detailed advice on the design of radii, carriageway width, surfaces, visibility and splays, alignment curvature and deflections and parking. 

Careful consideration should be given to junction design; all junctions must meet DMURS standards and there will be a presumptions against roundabout in favour of standard junctions (either signalised, priority or uncontrolled). Existing large scale roundabouts may where necessary be retrofitted or replaced by standard junctions along main routes to achieve better provision for cyclists and pedestrians and to provide for the redevelopment of key corner locations.

DMURS promotes a design approach which seeks to create self-enforcing low speed environments in urban areas. In terms of road safety, the speed at which a driver travels is principally influenced by the characteristics of the street environment (Section 4.1.2). Integrated design approaches incorporate elements that instinctively alter behaviour thus reducing the need for more conventional measures.    The Manual sets out8 a matrix of appropriate design speeds which reflect the route type and context and user priority. 

Connected Places and Street Design Objectives9

It is the objective of the Council:

Objective TV19

All applications for new developments shall demonstrate (and graphically illustrate in the design brief where appropriate) how permeability considerations have been integrated into the development. In the first instance the needs of pedestrians must be considered and the scheme and its various routes should be design to ensure walkability.

Objective TV20

All new development must be laid out in connected streets. While network design does not have to result in complete permeability for all modes of transport, open networks are generally considered as the most permeable but it is also be desirable to encourage filtered permeability to provide routes specifically for pedestrians or for pedestrians and cyclists and/or public transport but not the private car. All development must make provision and graphically show pedestrian and vehicular connections to adjoining lands notwithstanding whether that land is already developed but particularly adjoining greenfield and under-utilised land

Objective TV21

The design of streets on all ‘route types’ must have regard to their ‘place context’ and a higher quality of design will be required in locations with a higher place value. New developments and their associated streets and spaces shall put primary emphasis on creating attractive places, facilitating social interaction and provide for connectivity, enclosure, active edge and pedestrian facilities.

Objective TV22

New development will be required to present an ‘active edge’ to streets and spaces to create a sense of places and variety and provide adequate surveillance in the interests of safety

Objective TV23

To ensure all new buildings and developments provide adequate ‘enclosure’ for the spaces they adjoin. Existing building continuity must be maintained and opportunities to infill to create enclosure must be taken.

Objective TV24

To encourage, and in some cases require, the making of retrospective links to existing developments, where such links will improve accessibility, increase opportunities for walking and cycling, represents an improvement in the amenity and accessibility of existing developments.  Such links are best made in conjunction with the provision of additional amenity space to make the links open and attractive.

Objective TV25

Pedestrian activities must be well considered in the design of streets and schemes. On new streets which are likely to have a high level of usage the design shall clearly indicate the three divisions of the pedestrian zone of the street - made up of the strip, footway and verge. These areas should be viewed and designed as three areas of activity.

Objective TV26

To require a design approach which seeks to create self-enforcing low speed environments which incorporate elements that instinctively alter behaviour, thus reducing the need for more conventional measures. DMURS sets out a matrix9 of appropriate design speeds which reflect the route type and context and user priority

5.9 Compact Growth and Regeneration

The NPF acknowledges that the physical format of urban development is one of our greatest national development challenges and identifies ‘Compact Growth’ as the first NSO. Increasing the number of people living within the footprint of our existing towns and villages will result in more sustainable and resilient growth as it maximises opportunities for people to walk, cycle and potential for the development of public transport. It also optimises the use of physical and community infrastructure and supports the economic viability of local retail facilities and other services. High quality design, coupled with high quality amenity is, however, fundamental to establishing successful compact urban areas. 

RPO27 of the RSES recognises the need to be more flexible in in terms of such growth in rural villages. A one size fits all will not be appropriate or sustainable.

Section 10(2)(h) of the planning and development Act 2000 has been extended and now requires a development plan to include objectives for the redevelopment and renewal of areas identified having regard to the core strategy, that are in need of regeneration, in order to prevent – 

  1.  adverse effects on existing amenities in such areas, in particular as a result of the ruinous or neglected condition of any land,
  2.  urban blight and decay,
  3.   anti-social behaviour, or
  4.   a shortage of habitable houses or of land suitable for residential use or a mixture of residential and other uses.
  5. This renewed emphasis on improving and regenerating areas requires local authorities to take a proactive approach to ensure their renewal.  

There are significant opportunities for targeted regeneration and renewal while at the same time increasing the number of people living and working within the existing built up area of our towns and villages. These opportunities include:

  • The creation of street networks, streets, buildings and blocks and places (See Section above) which not only is an appropriate form of development in terms of permeability it is also an effective means of achieving compact growth.
  • Infill, backland and brownfield development.
  • Active land management including site assembly and the use of CPOs.
  • Appropriate zoning of new land and matters such as density and building heights.
  • ;Applying a more flexible approach to development management standards such as separations distances, open space provision and      parking subject to a performance criteria and design quality being achieved. 
  • Reusing or redeveloping existing sites including building more intensively 
  • Developing institutional lands.

5.9.1 Infill, Regeneration and Renewal

There are many opportunities to increase the number of jobs and people within central areas through infill which achieves the dual objectives of compact growth and regeneration. The development of these sites will prevent car-dependent sprawl and resulting unsustainable patterns of commuting and service provision. It will also rejuvenate these areas, many of which have been declining in population, by bringing new people to the area and create demand and customers for existing services. There will therefore be a presumption in favour of development which can encourage more people, jobs and activities within our towns and villages. 

Infill/Greenfield Expansion

In accordance with the requirement of the NPF the Council will ensure that 30% of all new homes that are targeted in settlements will occur within their existing footprint. The NPF states that this will apply to all settlements as defined by CSO10. This will be implemented through the various local area plans. 

In settlements which do not have a local areas plans or zoning under this Plan, the Council will only consider the sequential development of the village. In villages such as Rosslare Strand and Castlebridge, which have significant potential for inner and outer infill, development will only be permitted within the existing built-up  area. Greenfield expansion outside the existing built up area will not be permitted.  The Council will also protect the edge of all settlements from ribbon development in order to allow for their orderly development in the future.

Scale of Infill

The scale of infill development will depend on the location of the site and the characteristics of the settlement. In areas where a LAP applies this will be specified in the LAP. Where no LAP is in place the Council will consider the scale of infill development having regard to the need to make efficient use of centrally located sites and the prevailing scale in the area. The Council will encourage development which intensifies the use of the land to, at minimum, the intensity of adjoining uses but optimally, subject to the appropriate protection of amenities of adjoining residences to a higher intensity. The Council will consider the relaxation of quantitative standards subject to certain performance standards being met.   .

Re-use of Vacant Buildings and Upper Stories

The Council will encourage the reuse of vacant buildings and the use of the upper stories in towns and villages for either the same use or alternative uses including more intensive uses subject to the development meeting performance standards and protecting amenities of adjoining occupants.

With regard to both the reuse of vacant buildings and the use of upper floors in central areas, the Council will be flexible in the application of development management standards and will consider the introduction of schemes to incentivise such reuse.

5.9.2 Active Land Management and Local Authority Intervention

There are significant portions of well-located lands adjacent to town and villages centres and public transport facilities, some of which are in public ownership. The Council will work together with the Land Development Agency to facilitate the appropriate redevelopment of these sites.

Other sites have complex ownership patterns and/or may present issues with multiple consent procedures (such as Foreshore Licences). Activating these areas may require a level of active land management which is prohibitively complex for private developers and which, before now, Councils have previously not been involved in. 

The Council is committed to targeted intervention in the interest of rejuvenation and efficiency of land use/sustainability and has taken the first steps in this regard having purchased a centrally located brownfield site in Wexford Town. The Council has been successful in obtaining planning permission and URDF backing for Trinity Wharf, a high quality, compact urban development in an area of the town in need of regeneration. It is one of a number of schemes being pursued by the Council which will achieve the dual aims of compact growth and regeneration.

The Council will consider interventions such as site assembly using CPO, demolition and clearance or decontamination and the provision of facilitating infrastructure. When sites are acquired the Council will decide on the most appropriate mechanism to ensure appropriate rejuvenation which may include redevelopment for civic or amenity uses, public and private housing or the release of the land back to the market for redevelopment.

The Council will encourage and actively participate in such activities and will also leverage the variety of funds including LIHAF, Urban and Rural Regeneration and Development Funds, Climate Activation Fund and Disruptive Technologies Fund to achieve compact growth and regeneration of our towns and villages. In this regard priority will be given to projects which result in social and economic rejuvenation and regeneration and the provision of amenities and services where these are deficient.

5.9.3 Vacant Sites, Derelict Sites and Dangerous Sites

Vacant Sites

The Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015 (as amended) introduced the Vacant Site Levy, the intention of which is to incentivise the development of vacant sites in urban areas for residential and regeneration purposes.

The levy will support the implementation of the Core Strategy and Settlement Strategy objectives, particularly in respect of promoting the renewal and regeneration of urban areas, ensuring a compact urban form and sustainable growth patterns, and in achieving the population targets and meeting the housing needs of the county.

For the purposes of the 2015 Act, a site is vacant site 11if

  1.  In the case of residential land the site is in an area in which there is a need for housing, is suitable for the provision of housing and is, or the majority of the site, is vacant or idle. 
  2.  In the case of regeneration land, the site or the majority of the site is vacant or idle and the site being vacant or idle has adverse effects on existing amenities or reduces the amenity provided by existing public infrastructure and facilities in the area in which the site is situated or has adverse affects on the character of the area. 

The implementation of the Vacant Site Levy requires the Council to identify sites in the county which are vacant and come within the scope of the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015 (as amended). Any sites identified are to be entered on a Vacant Sites Register that is to be monitored by the Council. The amount of the Vacant Site Levy is set out in Section 16 of the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015 (as amended) and shall be equal to 7% of the market value of the site for 2019 and subsequent years (unless otherwise revised).

As part of the HNDA and the preparation of the Housing Strategy, areas with a ‘housing need’ as defined in the Act were identified.  When new local area plans are prepared, lands will be designated for the purposes of applying the levy in the case of both residential and regeneration lands. This presents a snapshot of a particular time and will be a living document and will be updated regularly.

Table 5-1 sets out the relevant zonings which are designated as Residential and Regeneration zonings in the development plans, local area plans and settlements plans to which the levy may be applied and lands which are designated for regeneration (until these are replaced by new LAPs where appropriate).

Table 5-1 Land Use Zoning for the purpose of Vacant Sites Levy

Plan

Residential Zonings

Regeneration

Wexford Town and Environs Development Plan 2009-2015 (as extended)

Residential & Infill, Mixed Uses & Residential, Town Centre, Neighbourhood Centre and Commercial & Mixed Uses

All zoned lands within the plan area.

Gorey Town and Environs Local Area Plan 2017-2023

Residential, Long Term Residential and Central Business Area

The area designated as Regeneration lands on Map 11 in the plan.

Enniscorthy Town and Environs Local Area Plan 2008-2014 (as extended)

Existing Residential & Infill, New Residential, Mixed use & Residential, Commercial & Mixed Use, Town Centre and Village Centre.

All zoned lands within the plan area.

New Ross Town and Environs Development Plan 2011-2017 (as extended)

Existing Residential, New Residential, Town Centre, Neighbourhood Centre and Mixed Use.

All zoned lands within the plan area.

Courtown and Riverchapel Local Area Plan 2015-2021 (as extended)

Existing Residential, New Residential and Village Centres.

All zoned lands within the plan area.

Bunclody Settlement Plan

Town Centre, Existing Residential and Existing and New Residential.

Specific identified lands in the Town Centre and Commercial and Industrial lands.

Rosslare Harbour and Kilrane Settlement Plan

Village Centre, Existing Residential and New Residential (all Tiers).

Lands identified for Regeneration in the Village Centre

Taghmon Local Area Plan 2009-2015 (as extended)

Low to Medium Residential, Mixed Use & Residential and Village Centre

All zoned lands within the plan area.

Clonroche Local Area Plan 2009-2015 (as extended)

Residential, Mixed Use & Residential and Village Centre

All zoned lands within the plan area.

5.9.4 Derelict Sites

Derelict sites are controlled under the Derelict Sites Act 1990.  A “derelict site” means any land which detracts, or is likely to detract, to a material degree from the amenity, character or appearance of land in the neighbourhood of the land in question because of;

  1. the existence on the land in question of structures which are in a ruinous, derelict or dangerous condition, or
  2. the neglected, unsightly or objectionable condition of the land or any structures on the land in question, or
  3. the presence, deposit or collection on the land in question of any litter, rubbish, debris or waste, except where the presence, deposit or collection of such litter, rubbish, debris or waste results from the exercise of a right conferred by statute or by common law 

The Council will continue to use its powers under the Derelict Sites Acts to ensure that sites in urban and rural locations which are deemed derelict are investigated and remedied subject to available resources. It may be necessary to prioritise certain types of sites having regard to available resources. In this regard the Council will prioritise sites on main routes and thoroughfares, adjacent to heritage buildings or protected natural heritage sites or on tourism and amenity routes and trails, adjacent to schools and other sensitive receptors, where they interfere with economic development or employment uses and other sites where public health or safety concerns arise.

5.9.5 Dangerous sites

The Council will continue to regulate Dangerous Sites under the Local Government (Sanitary Services Act) 1965.

5.9.6 Building Heights and Density

Scale and height are important elements of urban form. Scale is the size of a building in relation to its surroundings and incorporates height and massing. Height is the number of storeys of a building. In evaluating the scale and height of proposed development, it is necessary to balance the strategic planning need to make the most efficient use of each site while ensuring the highest standard of urban design, architectural quality and place-making outcomes on the other.

Local context is a key element in determining appropriate scale and height and a well-considered design is required to minimise effects on existing environmental, heritage and residential and visual amenities and assets. 

The Urban Development and Building Heights - Guidelines for Planning Authorities acknowledge that increasing prevailing building heights have a critical role to play in addressing the delivery of more compact growth in our urban areas, particularly large towns. The Guidelines require that the scope to consider general building heights of at least three to four stories, coupled with appropriate density, in locations outside what would normally be defined as the city or town centre and which would include suburban areas, must be supported in principle at development plan and development management levels.  The Guidelines also contain an SPPR which requires local authorities to identify in the development plans locations where increased building heights will apply (SPPR 1).

The Guidelines further state that in cities and the towns identified for significant growth in the RSES ‘it would be appropriate to support building heights of at least 6 storeys as the default while allowing the scope to increase above this level’. Wexford Town and Gorey have been identified in the RSES as Key Towns capable of significant growth. 

The Guidelines state that they apply to all urban areas as defined by the CSO 12 . The Council consider, however, that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to building heights is not appropriate, particularly outside our four main towns.

Compact Growth Objectives

It is the objective of the Council:

Objective TV27

To pursue a compact growth policy in our existing settlements and maximise their potential as places to live, work and visit.

Objective TV28

To require that all new development represent an efficient use of land and supports national policy objectives to achieve compact growth in towns and villages. The location of new development should be based on the sequential approach focussing on the development of lands within and closest to the town and village centre and should avoid ‘leap-frogging’ where development of new areas is removed from the existing contiguous village. Development of lands with no links to the town or village centre will be refused.

Objective TV29

To promote the redevelopment and renewal of areas identified having regard to the core strategy, that are in need of regeneration, in order to prevent – 
  1. adverse effects on existing amenities in such areas, in particular as a result of the ruinous or neglected condition of any land,
  2. urban blight and decay,
  3. anti-social behaviour, or
  4. a shortage of habitable houses or of land suitable for residential use or a mixture of residential and other uses.

Objective TV30

To pursue a variety of methods to increase the number of people living and working in our towns and villages in term of investment decisions, local authority own projects and in the assessment of planning applications. Such activities and methods will include, but not limited to,:
  • The creation of street networks, streets, buildings and blocks and places) which is both an appropriate form of development in terms of permeability and also an effective means of achieving compact growth.
  • Active land management including site assembly and the use of CPOs.
  • Appropriate zoning of new land and matters such as density and building heights in local areas plans.
  • Applying a more flexible approach to development management standards such as separations distances, open space provision and parking subject to a performance criteria and design quality being achieved. 
  • Reusing or redeveloping existing sites including building more intensively 
  • Developing institutional lands.

Objective TV31

To prioritise projects and proposals which will result in both social and economic rejuvenation and regeneration and the provision of amenities and services where these are deficient and in areas where legacy issues arise. The Council will leverage the variety of funds available including LIHAF, Urban and Rural Regeneration and Development Funds, Climate Activation Fund and Disruptive Technologies Fund to achieve compact growth in pursuance of this objective.

Objective TV32

To engage in active land management to facilitate the development of sites which would achieve the aims of compact growth and regeneration where such sites have not come to the market or where they have complex patterns of ownership of consent regimes.

Objective TV33

To identify sites which are capable of infill and provide detail of the expected density, height and housing yield when preparing future local area plans.

Objective TV34

To identify obsolete and potential renewal areas within town and village centres and facilitate the re-use and regeneration of these areas and derelict lands and buildings.

Objective TV35

To adopt a presumption in favour of the development of infill and brownfield sites and to apply flexibility in the application of development management standards allowing for the  achievement of  performance standards for issues such as the protection of adjoining residential amenities, privacy, light and amenity.

Objective TV36

To ensure the scale of infill development reflects the location of the site and the characteristics of the settlement. The Council will consider the scale of infill development having regard to the need to make efficient use of centrally located sites and the prevailing scale in the area. The Council will encourage development which intensifies the use of the land to at minimum the intensity of adjoining uses but optimally, subject to the appropriate protection of amenities of adjoining residences to a higher intensity.

Objective TV37

To encourage and participate in heritage led regeneration, including consideration of the potential to participate in the Heritage Council’s Historic Towns Initiative.

Objective TV38

To support and facilitate the reuse of older/vacant buildings in our towns and villages for residential use in accordance with Bringing Back Homes – Manual for Reuse of Existing Buildings (Department of Housing, Planning and Local Communities).

Objective TV39

To promote and encourage residential uses on upper floors of appropriate buildings located in town and village centres and to require that independent street access to the upper floors of shops / commercial units is retained to ensure use of the upper floors of buildings for residential accommodation or commercial development.

Objective TV40

To use specific powers, such as the Vacant Sites Register as provided for under the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act, 2015, to address issues of vacancy and under-utilisation of lands in town and village centres in the county. For the purposes of the Urban and Regeneration and Housing Act the land use zonings identified in Table 5-1 are designated. The Council will examine and identify sites on these lands in order to facilitate regeneration and to increase the supply of housing.

Objective TV41

To implement the provisions of the Derelict Sites Act and encourage and facilitate the redevelopment of derelict sites to bring them back into productive use and address environmental and visual amenity concerns. The Council will prioritise the following types of sites:
  • main routes and thoroughfares,
  • adjacent to heritage buildings or protected natural heritage sites,
  • on tourism and amenity routes and trails,
  • adjacent to schools and other sensitive receptors,
  • where they interfere with economic development or employment uses, and
  • other sites where public health or safety concerns arise.

Objective TV42

To identify appropriate locations where increased building heights will be actively pursued when preparing future local area plans.

Objective TV43

To adopt give favourable consideration to buildings higher than the prevailing building heights in the following locations: 
  • Neighbourhood Centres.
  • Arterial Routes and in particular routes with public transport and places with high ‘place’ value along these such as urban villages and major junctions.
  • Routes served by local intra-town public transport.
  • Bounding medium and large amenity areas where tall building will increase the sense of enclosure and provide surveillance. • Other appropriate ‘edge’ sites such as quaysides.
  • Local Community Spaces (Gorey LAP and other LAPs as appropriate)
  • Corner sites and landmark sites which assist in way finding.

Subject to considerations of scale, heritage, amenity and design quality and in accordance with the requirements of Objective TV44, TV45 and TV46.

Objective TV44

To facilitate development incorporating higher buildings (i.e. buildings that exceed the contextual prevailing height) where it has been adequately demonstrated that the development complies with the assessment criteria set out in Section 3.2 of the Urban Development and Building Heights Guidelines for Planning Authorities (DHPLG 2018).

Objective TV45

To ensure that building height within future development makes a positive contribution to the built form of the area, is not obtrusive and does not adversely impact on the streetscape, local amenity or views.

Objective TV46

To require all development proposals where the building height will be above prevailing heights, including infill development, to include an analysis of the impact of building height and positioning of buildings on:
  • The immediate & surrounding environment - streetscape, historic character;
  • Adjoining structures;
  • Open spaces and public realm;
  • Views and Vistas.

5.10 Vibrant, Inclusive, Resilient and Adaptable

The sustainable development of our towns and villages must ensure that as well as being attractive and functional that they are vibrant and inclusive resilient and adaptable (economically, socially and environmentally). These qualities are dealt with in the various Chapters of the Plan:

  • Vibrant – Chapter 3 Core Strategy, 6 Economic Development, Chapter 7 Tourism development, Chapter 14 Recreation and Open Space, Volume 8 Retail Strategy
  • Inclusive – Chapter 4 Housing, Chapter 15 Social Inclusion and Community.
  • Resilient and Adaptable – Chapter 2 Climate Action, Chapter 3 Core Strategy, Chapter 6 Economic Development, Chapter 8 Transport, Chapter 9 Infrastructure, Chapter 10 Environment, Chapter 15 Social Inclusion and Community

Vibrant, Inclusive, Resilient and Adaptable Objectives

It is the objective of the Council:

Objective TV47

To support development which will add to the vitality and vibrancy of our towns and villages including development which will increase population, result in additional services and extend opening hours.

Objective TV48

To ensure our towns and villages are inclusive and welcoming to all people.

Objective TV49

To prioritise investment in towns and villages where it will achieve most benefit in terms of addressing disadvantage and legacy issues.

Objective TV50

To ensure that new development in our towns and villages does not exceed the social or physical carrying capacity of the settlement.
  • 1 -  1 Figure 1: Place-Making (adapted from Egan’s Wheel Sustainable Communities )
  • 2 -  2 Government Policy on Architecture 2009-2015, 2009
  • 3-  Places for People, National Policy on Architecture – Discussion Document, 2019
  • 4-  See Section 5.8.3 below.
  • 5-  Except: (a) Motorways. (b) In exceptional circumstances, certain urban roads and streets with the written consent of sanctioning authority being either the Transport Infrastructure Ireland or Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport respectively.
  • 6-  And in instances where the Route Type has not yet been assigned in the Town or Village Plan.
  • 7-  It also includes a Wexford County Council derivative of known as a ‘Country Road’ which seeks to retain the landscape character and biodiversity of approach roads to towns and villages.
  • 8-  DMUR Table 4.1, Page 64
  • 9-  DMURS, Table 4.1, Page 64
  • 10-  A minimum of 50 occupied dwellings, with a maximum distance between any dwelling and the building
    closest to it of 100m and where there is evidence of an urban centres (shop, school etc).
  • 11-  Site means an area of land exceeding 0.05ha identified by the planning authority  in its functional area but does not include any structure that is a person’s home.
  • 12-  CSO defines urban areas as settlements of 1,500 persons or more.

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