Removal of two tier zoning requirement from the National Planning Framework

Covid has fueled a massive surge in remote work, a remote revolution if you like. This means, for the first time in decades, we can now properly consider working close to where we live, instead of living close to where we work.

Published on May 21, 2021

Joint Motion Text
Cllr. Cillian Murphy; Cllr. Ian Lynch; Cllr. Pat O Gorman; Cllr. Pat Hayes; Cllr. Susan Crawford;

“Given the impact Covid 19 has had nationally on work and living patterns, and the opportunities this creates to ‘proactively address issues of town/village decline’ and to promote ‘compact growth’ in those settlements, we would ask the Minister of Housing, Local Government and Heritage that he undertake a review to the current National Planning Framework, and prior to the outcome, he remove reference to, and requirement for local authorities to adhere to, the two tiered approach to land zoning in the delivery of the next County Development Plan due to its negative impact on the ‘facilitation of the building of homes within the existing footprint of rural settlements’ and the ability to deliver on our own rural development goals.
We further request this motion be forwarded to every one of our Oireachtas members and to every other local authority in Ireland for their observations.”

Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying, ‘Out of adversity comes opportunity’… and while Covid has certainly provided much adversity there is now a glimmer of light at the end of tunnel with the vaccine roll-out and its time now to focus on the opportunities…and probably the biggest of those comes from the fundamental shift in our concept of ‘work’ and workplaces.

The industrial revolution lead to the centralisation of work, an increasingly urbanised outlook, and the resulting “live close to where work is” perspective has driven planning policy for 100 years or more, impacting on how and where we work, how and where we live and is almost exclusively responsible for the depopulation of much of our rural and coastal communities.
Nowhere is that traditional school of thinking more obvious than within the NPF and the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy. One only has to look at the submission made by the OPR to our CDP to see this hugely urban centric focus, with an insistence we look at the Ennis/Shannon/Limerick corridor to accommodate a large percentage of the population growth for the county over the life span of our next CDP.

However, Covid has fueled a massive surge in remote work, the tools we use to enable it and the necessity for employers to embrace it, a remote revolution if you like. This means, for the first time in decades, we can now properly consider working close to where we live, instead of living close to where we work. Swathes of the economy have now been decoupled from being in a specific location at a specific time, they can make decisions about where they live based on quality of life factors and are no longer constrained by commute times, something that was inconceivable when both the NPF and the RSES were created.

This is the opportunity C19 presents us to achieve many of the goals around our own Rural Dev Strategy, to pro-actively address the national issues of town/village decline and to repopulate the parts of the country that have seen a huge decline over the past 30 or so years due to that centralisation and urbanisation of work.

If CCC had been in the middle of their plans to build its HQ when Covid hit, the realisation that so many of our administrative and executive staff could work effectively from home would have sent us back to the drawing board and we would surely have built a much different building than we did…. The facts and underlying assumptions would have changed and so would our thinking…the same is true for both the NPF and RSES, the facts upon which they were set out have radically changed, the world is no longer the same place it was when they were drafted, and their relevance is based on underlying assumptions that no longer hold true.

So, what to do…..

Firstly, government should commit to reviewing them in light of Covid, to ensure the sustainable development of our rural and coastal communities here in Clare, and indeed in every other county, is not shackled by an old way of thinking that we will hamstring our growth for the next 7 years.

Furthermore, Government should also ensure that until the review has taken place the restrictions those documents place on local authorities with regards to zoning, population targets and settlement plans must also be placed on hold… our next CDPs should not be constrained by old ways of thinking and we should be permitted to grab this golden opportunity we have been presented with to rejuvenate our rural and coastal communities and see if it can finally deliver that holy grail, balanced regional development.

It’s vital we do not allow this opportunity slip by us because we are bound to adhere to a set of policy guidelines that were created long before the adversity of Covid was considered, and long before the opportunity the remote work revolution presents to us was ever dreamt of.

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