Topic: Developing resilient community plans to manage dispersed rural settlement
Keywords: sustainability, rural housing, planning, settlement studies, history
Rural villages in remoter parts of Ireland experience continuing population decline or minimal growth while the commuting zones of cities and other economic centres are growing at fast rates. Villages, like their larger counterparts, have lost population in the urban core, offset by population growth in the surrounding countryside. In line with other Western countries, urban centres have lost ground to out-of-town retail parks and ex-urban development, frequently taking the form of ‘one-off’ dispersed rural housing in Ireland. While planning practice has officially favoured clustering and urban development, attachments to dispersed rural housing are historically and culturally embedded in the population. This creates tensions with other national objectives, such as the siting of wind turbines and powerlines, and the provision of essential services such as healthcare, schooling, utilities, and transport. It also has a tangible impact on the imperative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sustainably manage the environment for biodiversity. This study approaches the question of planning sustainable and resilient settlements by examining people’s attachments to forms of settlement and the degree to which they are rooted in cultural practices and perceptions of historical injustice. It consists of, firstly, spatially describing current settlement patterns in relation to kinship networks using planning records and qualitative interviews, and secondly, co-producing community planning scenarios. The project seeks to contribute towards the co-creation of resilient, neo-endogenous community plans that mitigate the long-term costs of dispersed settlement with a more nuanced and tailored appreciation of the locus urbis and the benefits of clustered development.