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A guide to some of the complex terminology in Irish planning.

Some of the terminology used in planning can be very complex. Our glossary of planning terms may help.
15 Minute City

A 15-Minute City is a residential urban concept in which most daily necessities can be accomplished by either walking or cycling from residents' homes.

Aarhus Convention

The Aarhus Convention is the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters. The Aarhus Convention grants the public rights regarding access to information, public participation and access to justice, in governmental decision-making processes on matters concerning the local, national and transboundary environment. It focuses on interactions between the public and public authorities.

Affordable Housing

An umbrella term for the various Government schemes that allow for for to be purchased at below market value cost by those meeting certain income criteria.

An Bord Pleanála

An Bord Pleanála (ABP) is an independent, statutory, quasi-judicial state body that decides on appeals from planning decisions. As of 2007, An Bord Pleanála directly decided major strategic infrastructural projects. Since 2016 it was granted further powers to directly decide on applications for Strategic Housing Developments (SHDs). These powers are due to revert back to Local Authorities in 2022,

Approved Housing Bodies

Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) are independent, not-for-profit organisations that work with government bodies to deliver and manage social and affordable housing. Section 6 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1992 enables housing authorities, among other things, to provide assistance to AHBs for the provision of housing. Section 6 (6) of the Act empowers the Minister to grant approved status for this purpose.


Orientation of the building such that proper ventilation can be achieved. Local Authority Development Plans encourage double aspect dwellings, which offer cross ventilation and greater levels of sunlight than single aspect dwellings.


Build to rent (BTR) schemes are purpose-built residential accommodation built specifically for long-term rental. BTR schemes were introduced by the Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy as Specific Planning Policy Requirement under Section 28 of the Planning Act. BTRs are funded, managed and serviced in an institutional manner by an institutional landlord.

Building Height Controls

"Maximum heights of new buildings typically prescribed in Local Area and Development Plans. In determining planning policy and making planning decisions around appropriate building heights, the planning process has to strike a careful balance between enabling long-term and strategic development of relevant areas, while ensuring the highest standards of urban design, architectural quality and place-making outcomes on the other.

Urban Development and Building Height Guidelines for Planning Authorities document published in 2018 under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (SPPR 1 and SPPR 4), removes any Development Plan restrictions on building heights, as long as the applicant can demonstrate certain criteria are met, e.g. transport studies to show there is sufficient capacity for public transport in the area.

Cost Rental Housing

Cost rental is not-for-profit housing. In Cost Rental Housing, the rent covers the cost of the construction, management, and maintenance of a dwelling. Cost rental offers a long-term, secure tenancy that is more affordable. 

Development Plan

Development plans set out a local authority’s planning policies for the area. It also sets out development objectives for the area, such as plans to improve roads and local amenities, and advises on appropriate heights and density for new development. It is subject to several rounds of consultation with the public.

All planning applications are measured against the local area’s development plan, however several Specific Planning Policy Requirements issued by the Housing Minister under Section 28 of the Planning Act specifically permit certain types of housing development to contravene Local Authority’s Development Plan provisions.

Housing Density

Number of dwellings per hectare. Density is usually expressed in units per hectare.

While higher densities are encouraged in urban areas to avail of good transport links and discourage suburban sprawl, the development density should respect the existing character, context and urban form of an area and seek to protect existing and future residential amenity.

Sustainable densities promoting high quality of urban design and open space are sought by local authorities in all new developments. Public transport capacity is also used to determine the appropriate density allowable.

Housing Mix

Variety of dwelling size and type in a development. The desired mix of units within a housing development is typically stated in a local authority’s Development Plan and encourages a balanced combination of dwellings suitable for single persons, couples and larger units for families.

SPPRs 1 and 2 of the Design Standards for New Apartments document, introduced in 2018 by Eoghan Murphy TD Minister for Housing, remove minimum requirements for provision of 3 bedroom family units in housing schemes, and permit up to 50% one-bedroom or studio type units within a development.

Judicial Review

Judicial Review is a mechanism by which an application can be made to the High Court to challenge the decision making processes of administrative bodies and lower courts. It is the only route of appeal of a planning permission grant given by the An Bord Pleanála.

A Judicial Review allows an applicant (which can be either a natural or legal person) to question the constitutionality or legality of a decision taken by a public body.

The time limit for instituting judicial review in respect of a decision under the Planning and Development Act is 8 weeks from the date of the decision a planning authority or the Board.

The High Court is principally concerned with the fairness of the decision- e.g. if it was made with error of law, an error of fact, or if the decision was made on irrational grounds or by following an unfair procedure.

Local Area Plan

A Local Area Plan (LAP) is a legal document and is a public statement that provides more detailed planning policies, than the City Development Plan, for urban areas that are expected to experience significant development and change. 

The function of a local area plan is to take a detailed look at a specific area, particularly areas which require urban renewal or where large scale development is expected, identifying and analysing the various issues of relevance, before establishing and setting out principles for the future development of the area.

Local Area Plans are typically prepared with an emphasis on public participation and are referenced in the Development Plan for the area.

Where a Local Area Plan is in place, all planning applications in the area must acknowledge its provisions, however several Specific Planning Policy Requirements issued by the Housing Minister under Section 28 of the Planning Act specifically permit certain types of housing development to contravene Local Area Plan provisions.

Open Space Requirements

Amount of private and public shared outdoor space within a housing development

Development Plans stipulate the minimum provision of private and shared open space per dwelling within a development, promoting the city’s green infrastructure network, improving biodiversity, and expanding the choice of public spaces available.

In Build to Rent schemes, Section 28 Ministerial Guidelines permit provision of ‘enhanced’ shared outdoor space instead of offering the apartments private open space like balconies.

Part V Affordable Housing

Under Part V of the Planning and Development Act, residential schemes on land purchased after 1st August 2021 must set aside a minimum of 20% of new developments for social or affordable housing (10% minimum for undeveloped land with planning permission prior to 1st August 2021 or purchased after 1st September 2015). The local authority decides how much of the 20% will be social, voluntary or affordable housing, but least 10% must be for social housing and the remainder can be for affordable housing, which can include affordable homes for purchase, cost rental, or a mixture of both.

Plot Ratio

Plot ratio is a tool to help control the bulk and mass of buildings. It expresses the amount of floorspace in relation (proportionally) to the site area, and is determined by the gross floor area of the building(s) divided by the site area.

Section 28 Mandatory Ministerial Directives

Under Section 28(1C) of the Planning and Development Act, the presiding Minister of Housing, Planning and Local Government can issue Special Planning Policy Requirements (SPPRs), which are mandatory ministerial directives that override development control provisions set out in local authority Development Plans.

Section 28(1C) was introduced in 2015 by the then Minister for Environment, Alan Kelly TD, who amended the Act to give the Minister the power to issue these SPPRs. Importantly, the amendment also forced the executive branch of planning authorities (local authorities and An Bord Pleanála) to regard these mandatory ministerial directives over the Development Plan when making a decision on a planning application. SPPRs also modify the scope of future local authority Development Plans.

Under Section 28(1C), successive Ministers have introduced SPPRs that have down-graded space standards to facilitate "Build-to-Rent” and Co-Living (Shared Accommodation) schemes, and have allowed heights and densities far in excess of anything permitted by Development Plans.

Social Housing

Housing for low income households who would otherwise be unable to rent or buy a property. Local authorities are the largest providers of social housing in Ireland, with a current housing stock of approximately 140,000 dwellings delivered primarily through Approved Housing Bodies. 

Specific Planning Policy Requirements

Specific Planning Policy Requirements (SPPRs). Issued by a Housing Minister under Section 28 Ministerial Guidelines, SPPRs are mandatory directives designed to override specific provisions in Development Plans as set out by Local Authorities, like building height and number of units within a development. SPPRs were also the instruments issued to allow special planning regulations for specific types of housing like Build to Rent and Co-Living.

Strategic Development Zone

A Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) is an area of land that is proposed to contain developments of economic or social importance to the State. The SDZ designation enables the fast track delivery of new residential and non-residential development.

Before development can be permitted in an SDZ, it is necessary to prepare a masterplan for the area. Once approved, this masterplan forms part of the Dublin City Development Plan and any contrary provisions in the Development Plan are superseded.

Where development proposals are consistent with the provisions of the masterplan, they will be granted permission. Proposals which are not consistent with the planning scheme will be refused permission. No party may appeal to An Bord Pleanála the decision of Dublin City Council on any application in respect of a development within the area of the planning scheme.

Strategic Housing Development

The Strategic Housing Development (SHD) fast-track process was established in 2017 to ramp up the delivery of housing. It is due to expire in 2022, to be replaced by new legislation.

SHD process allowed developers seeking permission for 100 residential units or more to bypass local authorities and apply directly to An Bord Pleanála for permission. The Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 (as amended) under Section 9(4) provides the ABP with complete discretion when considering whether to grant an application for a SHD, provided that other criteria within the Act are satisfied.


Subsidiarity is the principle whereby the European Union does not take action (except in the areas which fall within its exclusive competence) unless it is more effective than action taken at national, regional or local level.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

Voluntary Housing

Voluntary Housing is providing rented accommodation, (including communal facilities where appropriate) by Voluntary Housing bodies.

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