13.6 Building Heights
13.6 Building Heights
Following on from the NPF, the Minster issued “The Guidelines on Urban Development and building Heights” (December 2018) under Section 28 (1C) of the Planning and Development Act, which has the aim to increase urban densities by allowing a greater range of building heights in the appropriate urban locations. The 5 cities and other major towns as identified and promoted for strategic development in the National Planning Framework are the focus of the guidelines. Kilkenny City is identified as a significant Key Town of scale, with a significant zone of influence in the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy with a growth target of 30% by 2040. (RPO 11)
National Planning Objective 13 identifies building height as an important measure to achieve compact growth, stating:
“In urban areas, planning and related standards, including in particular building height and car parking will be based on performance criteria that seek to achieve well-designed high-quality outcomes in order to achieve targeted growth. These standards will be subject to a range of tolerance that enables alternative solutions to be proposed to achieve stated outcomes, provided public safety is not compromised and the environment is suitably protected.”
The Guidelines set out the National Policy that expand on the requirements of the NPF and sets out the criteria for considering increased building heights in various locations, but principally the town centre areas. The Guidelines include some Specific Planning Policy Requirements (SPPR) which the Planning Authority must have regard to and apply and which takes precedence over conflicting policies and objectives. These are contained in the Development Plan as far as is applicable.
In accordance with the Specific Planning Policy Requirement 1 (SPPR 1) of the Guidelines, this Development Plan does not provide for blanket numerical limitations on building height. It sets out a set of assessment criteria that will enable proper consideration of development proposals for increased building height linked to the achievement of compact growth.
SPPR 2 requires appropriate mixtures of uses, such as housing and commercial or employment development, are provided for in statutory plan policy.
Within Kilkenny City the Abbey Quarter Masterplan adopted by Council in 2015 provides for a mix of uses as described along with a block development type approach with building heights ranging from 3 to 5 storeys.
In determining the appropriate policy and making planning decisions on heights for buildings, the Planning process has to balance the long-term planning objectives for achieving compact growth as required in the National Planning Framework (NPF) with public safety and the environment particularly for Kilkenny City and County where architectural heritage historic character and protected structures are important considerations. In particular historic environments can be sensitive to large scale or tall buildings. It is therefore imperative that the character of the area be assessed in order to establish the sensitivities and the capacity for development and to define opportunities for new development and to inform its design.
The Council will support increased building height and density in central locations with good public transport accessibility for both regeneration and infill purposes to secure the objectives of the National Planning Framework and Regional Economic and Spatial Strategy.
The Council will also ensure that proposals for urban densification make a positive contribution to the streetscape and does not detract from the historical environment/character of the surrounding area in general and/or neighbouring buildings in particular.
Development Management principles for increased height:
It is important to ensure that the Development Management process sufficiently considers all relative principles to achieve higher densities whilst having due regard to the context of the proposed development. In this regard it is important that development proposals subscribe to the Development Management principles and satisfy Development management criteria as contained in the Ministerial Guidance document “Urban Development and Building Heights” (December 2018) when assessing applications for development.
In accordance with the Guidelines, all applications for planning permission shall demonstrate to the Planning Authority that the following Development Management criteria are satisfied:
At the scale of the relevant city/town:
- The site is well served by public transport with high capacity, frequent service and good links to other modes of public transport.
- Development proposals incorporating increased building height, including proposals within architecturally sensitive areas, should successfully integrate into/ enhance the character and public realm of the area, having regard to topography, its cultural context, setting of key landmarks, protection of key views. Such development proposals shall undertake a landscape and visual assessment, by a suitably qualified practitioner such as a chartered landscape architect.
- On larger urban redevelopment sites, proposed developments should make a positive contribution to place-making, incorporating new streets and public spaces, using massing and height to achieve the required densities but with sufficient variety in scale and form to respond to the scale of adjoining developments and create visual interest in the streetscape.
At the scale of district/ neighbourhood/ street:
- The proposal responds to its overall natural and built environment and makes a positive contribution to the urban neighbourhood and streetscape
- The proposal is not monolithic and avoids long, uninterrupted walls of building in the form of slab blocks with materials / building fabric well considered.
- The proposal enhances the urban design context for public spaces and key thoroughfares and inland waterway/ marine frontage, thereby enabling additional height in development form to be favourably considered in terms of enhancing a sense of scale and enclosure while being in line with the requirements of “The Planning System and Flood Risk Management – Guidelines for Planning Authorities” (2009).
- The proposal makes a positive contribution to the improvement of legibility through the site or wider urban area within which the development is situated and integrates in a cohesive manner.
- The proposal positively contributes to the mix of uses and/ or building/ dwelling typologies available in the neighbourhood.
At the scale of the site/building:
- The form, massing and height of proposed developments should be carefully modulated so as to maximise access to natural daylight, ventilation and views and minimise overshadowing and loss of light.
- Appropriate and reasonable regard should be taken of quantitative performance approaches to daylight provision outlined in guides like the Building Research Establishment’s ‘Site Layout Planning for Daylight and Sunlight’ (2nd edition) or BS 8206-2: 2008 – ‘Lighting for Buildings – Part 2: Code of Practice for Daylighting’.
- Where a proposal may not be able to fully meet all the requirements of the daylight provisions above, this must be clearly identified and a rationale for any alternative, compensatory design solutions must be set out, in respect of which the planning authority or An Bord Pleanála should apply their discretion, having regard to local factors including specific site constraints and the balancing of that assessment against the desirability of achieving wider planning objectives. Such objectives might include securing comprehensive urban regeneration and or an effective urban design and streetscape solution.
To support proposals at some or all of these scales, specific assessments may be required and these may include:
- Specific impact assessment of the micro-climatic effects such as down-draft. Such assessments shall include measures to avoid/ mitigate such micro-climatic effects and, where appropriate, shall include an assessment of the cumulative micro-climatic effects where taller buildings are clustered.
- In development locations in proximity to sensitive bird and / or bat areas, proposed developments need to consider the potential interaction of the building location, building materials and artificial lighting to impact flight lines and / or collision.
- An assessment that the proposal allows for the retention of important telecommunication channels, such as microwave links.
- An assessment that the proposal maintains safe air navigation.
- An urban design statement including, as appropriate, impact on the historic built environment.
- Relevant environmental assessment requirements, including SEA, EIA, AA and Ecological Impact Assessment, as appropriate.
A comprehensive Urban Design Statement should be submitted with all applications where potential exist to impact on the historical environment. The Planning Authority shall decide if proposals align with best practise and which design standards are to be used in certain circumstances. Reference can be had to “Architectural Heritage Protection – Guidelines for Planning Authorities (DEHLG”) and “Shaping the future – Case studies in Adaptation and Reuse in Historic Urban Environment (DAHG) 2012.”