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The Sky’s the Limit for Building Heights following Report

It’s onwards and upwards in urban development as limits on building heights are scrapped.

As part of Project Ireland 2040 and the National Planning Framework, new measures were published in December 2018, prepared by the Department of Housing Planning and Local Government. 

The report is titled ‘Urban Development and Building Heights Guidelines’ and presents a new, forward way of thinking towards the future of Ireland’s cities, after a public consultation process and study.

What were the restrictions before the report?

Prior to this, traditional building heights in most urban areas in Ireland ranged from two storeys in many suburban locations, frequently in the form of housing estates, moving towards building heights of three, four or more storeys in more central urban areas.

But generally, there were not more than 6-8 storey buildings in the central urban areas of the cities and larger towns.

What does the report mean for building plans going forward?

In the foreword of the report, Minister Eoghan Murphy T.D. dubbed the previous traditional development models for cities and towns as ‘completely unsustainable’.

Councillors will no longer have the power to set a maximum height for residential and commercial developments – limitations that the report states can ‘hinder innovation in urban design and architecture leading to poor planning outcomes.’

The new rules will allow taller buildings, allowing for many benefits, one of which being housing supply:

“We need to shift away from the business as usual development patterns and create a more adaptive and forward-looking vision. Our cities and our towns must grow upwards, not just outwards if we are to meet the many challenges ahead.”

Report Response

The Irish Times reported that in November 2018 that according to David Browne, president of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, “Most European cities have a prevailing height of six to eight storeys with a smattering of taller buildings. At six storeys you could double the population of Dublin without going outside the city boundaries.”.

This is a big step in making City centres livable again, and in tackling urban sprawl. The sky’s the limit – however, the right types of properties will have to be built to make this work. The new guidelines do not mean that all proposals for high-rises will be approved – they are still subject to planning rules to match the surrounding existing area. Planners will have to consider potential issues such as traffic, light access and design.

A copy of the Urban Development and Building Heights Guidelines for Planning Authorities and associated environmental reports can be downloaded here.

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