Urban Form, Height and Density

The urban form of Dublin City is distinctive, with the River Liffey, the City Quays, the Georgian Squares, canals and the historic core creating a strong identify and character. This is complemented in the suburbs by a series of city neighbourhoods generally of lower scale and density, stretching between the coastline and the M50.

Since the publication of the current Development Plan, planning policy has significantly evolved with a much greater focus on the densification of our urban centres to ensure the optimal and sustainable use of land. The drive to ensure compact growth coupled with the publication of the Urban Development and Building Heights – Guidelines for Planning Authorities – December 2018 has resulted in a noticeable shift in the height, form, pattern and density of development permitted.

As required under the guidelines, Development Plans can no longer provide for blanket height restrictions. The City Plan must promote more intensive forms of development including increased height and density whilst ensuring that high quality places and a good quality of life for all can be achieved. It will be important, therefore, that the forthcoming Plan identifies appropriate locations for such consolidation and increased height and that it sets out appropriate performance criteria in assessing such developments. Performance criteria will need to address issues such as shaping streets and places; amenity; ensuring a good mix of uses; impact of wind downdraft; sunlight and daylight impacts and impact on surrounding neighbourhoods. The challenge of the next Plan will be to ensure that the City continues to facilitate increased density and compact growth whilst at the same time ensuring that the intrinsic character of the City and our built heritage assets are protected.

It must also be considered whether the Plan sets out specific guidance for taller land mark buildings and/ or height clusters. Such buildings may have a role to play in the future development of Dublin as a compact city. Tall buildings can help people navigate through the City, form memorable landmarks and act as reference points to identify key urban quarters, regeneration sites and public transport interchanges. In this regard, if well designed, they can make a positive contribution to the cityscape. Conversely however, tall buildings can also have a significant detrimental impact on local character if the location or design is unsuitable.

Tall buildings in particular, can present major visual impacts on the City’s townscape character. The plan must, therefore, consider what types of locations are suitable for such buildings where their built form can be absorbed without significant adverse impacts.

Vacant Land

There are significant tracts of vacant and underutilised land in the City. Under the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015, as amended, Dublin City Council surveyed over 1,000 sites. Of these vacant site surveys, there are currently 55 sites on the Vacant Sites Register. A number of other sites have been progressed and are under development. The vacant site levy will continue to be used as an effective active land management mechanism to encourage infill development on key sites throughout the City. The forthcoming Plan must include objectives for the redevelopment of vacant urban sites in specific areas. This will facilitate securing the objectives of the Core Strategy.

Urban Design and Placemaking

Urban design is an essential tool in creating quality places and ensuring successful placemaking. There must be a balance between achieving compact growth whilst at the same time ensuring that we develop high quality places where people want to live. Good design is essential to support the economic, social, cultural and sustainability goals of the City and is integral to ensuring that Dublin maintains its competitive edge as a place to live and invest in. This will be a core focus of the next plan.

Shaping the City – Some Key Questions

1 How should the new Plan promote the concept of compact growth in accordance with the National Planning Framework (NPF) and Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) and what areas should be targeted for consolidation?
2  What areas of the City should be identified for regeneration?
3  What criteria should the Plan set out for assessing higher density proposals?
4 How can the Development Plan promote sustainable neighbourhoods and communities? Is the 15 minute City an achievable goal?
5 Where increased density is proposed, how can we ensure that appropriate standards of urban design and architecture are promoted to ensure sustainable and liveable communities?
6 Where should building height be promoted in the City and should the City Plan include specific policy regarding landmark buildings?