Sustainable and Compact Settlements Guidelines for Planning Authorities, 2024

January 23, 2024


On the 15th of January 2024, the Minister published the ‘Sustainable and Compact Settlements Guidelines for Planning Authorities’, which replace the Sustainable Residential Development in Urban Areas Guidelines for Planning Authorities 2009.

The Guidelines provide for different densities to respond to settlement size, greater flexibility in residential design standards, setting national standards that support innovation in housing design and a greater range of house types, and more compact own-door housing as an alternative to apartment development. This in turn supports higher densities for own door housing schemes.

In terms of application, the SPPRs contained in the Guidelines will supersede any conflicting provisions in current Development Plans and therefore must be applied by planning authorities when assessing applications in accordance with the provisions of Section 34(2)(ba) of the Act.  Planning authorities are also required to have regard to other aspects of the Guidelines in assessing applications, however, conflicting provisions in current Development Plans take precedence. The Circular accompanying the Guidelines encourages planning authorities to review their ‘plans’ to form a view as to whether they are materially consistent with the Guidelines, and where not, they recommend that plans be varied. 

The Guidelines seek to support a more consistent approach across local authorities and therefore are welcome. The below outlines some of the key aspects, along with a summary of some of the key changes from the Draft Guidelines.  


The Guidelines seek to provide greater flexibility in respect to housing standards, with the following a summary of the specific planning policy requirements (SPPRs).  The key provisions from the Draft in relation to SPPRs on key development standards for housing in order to encourage more compact own-door housing solutions are retained, and include:

  • SPPR 1 – Separation Distances: A minimum separation distance of 16 metres (previously 22 metres) with provision for further reductions in certain circumstances.
  • SPPR 2 – Minimum Private Open Space Standards for Houses (minimum areas): Minimum requirement reduced to 20 sq.m – 1 bedroom house, 30 sq.m – 2 bedroom house, 40 sq.m – 3 bedroom house and 50 sq.m – 4 bedroom+ house.  Further reductions possible where high quality communal open space is provided.  
  • SPPR 3 – Car Parking: In areas of high accessibility, car-parking provision should be minimised, substantially reduced or wholly eliminated, while in areas of medium accessibility, car-parking provision should be substantially reduced.
  • SPPR 4 – Cycle Parking and Storage: In the case of residential units that do not have ground level open space or have smaller terraces, a general minimum standard of 1 cycle storage space per bedroom should be applied (with visitor parking to be also provided).


There are a number of nuanced changes when compared to the draft version of the Guidelines, in particular the removal of the public open space provisions as an SPPR, the omission of proximity to town centres and places of employment in the accessibility criteria, and variations to the settlement types and density ranges in Chapter 3, as summarised below.


The public open space standards were previously included as an SPPR but are now identified as Policy and Objective 5.1 – Public Open Space in the finalised Guidelines, meaning that conflicting provisions in Development Plans will apply until varied.Policy and Objective 5.1 – Public Open Space provides that New residential development provide a minimum of 10% and not more than 15% of the net site area. A higher proportion of public open space may be required in historic, landscape or recreational setting. Offsets/financial contributions (in part or whole) in lieu of open space provision within an application site may be acceptable.


The Guidelines sets out a methodology for identifying appropriate densities in a range of settlements. New and amended density ranges are set out that respond to settlement size. The recommended net density ranges for the different settlement types are as follows (which include some alterations from the Draft Guidelines):

 CentreUrban NeighbourhoodSuburban / Urban extension
Dublin/Cork City and Suburbs100-300 dph50-250 dph40-80 dph (+ 150 dph)*
Limerick / Galway / Waterford100-250 dph50-200 dph35-50 (+ up to 100 dph)*
Metropolitan Towns (>1,500)50-150 dph50-150 dph35-50 dph (+ up to 100 dph)*
Metropolitan Area Villages (<1,500)Reflect existing density and/or bult form not below 25 dph
Regional Growth Centres50-150 dph50-150 dph35-50 dph (+ up to 100 dph)*
Key Towns and Large Towns (5,000+)40-100 dph40-100 dph30-50 dph (+ up to 80 dph)*
Small to Medium Sized Town (1,500 – 5,000)Respond to existing context.n/a25-40 dph
Rural Towns and Villages (<1,500)Respond to existing context.n/aRespond to existing context.
(Summary of the information provided in Table 3.1-3.7 of the Guidelines). * Open for consideration at ‘accessible’ suburban/urban extension locations (as per table 3.8)

There is a presumption against densities that exceed 300 dph (net), unless where plan-led. The exceptions listed under 3.3.6 have been reduced.

A summary of the key changes from the Draft Guidelines include:

  • Revisions to tables setting out settlements, area types and density ranges.
  • The requirement for public open space to be at a minimum of 10% and maximum of 15% of net site area is now included as a Policy and Objective (5.1) rather than as an SPPR.
  • Revisions to Table 3.8 – Accessibility.  The reference to capacity and peak hour frequency of public transport has been omitted from the criteria for high-capacity public transport node or interchanges (Table 3.8). 
  • The proximity reference for ‘accessible locations’ to 400-500 metres of a principal town or suburban centre or significant employment location has been removed. Intermediate locations also no longer include a reference to proximity to town or suburban centre.
  • Expanded wording is included in SPPR3 relating to accessible, EV, and car club not forming part of maximum carparking provision, but that visitor car parking is included in maximum car parking provision.
  • The adopted guidelines confirm that the SPPRs will not apply to applications made in SDZs until the Planning Scheme is amended to integrate changes arising from the SPPR.
  • Additional text included with regard to the protection of the natural environment.

The associated non-statutory Design Manual has not been published yet, with the Circular indicating it will be published in early 2024.

A link to the Guidelines can be found here.

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