Participatory Planning for Countryside Housing Development
The phrase ‘a living and working countryside’ is one that exerts powerful resonance across the island of Ireland and which can readily be found in contemporary Government rural planning statements. It is of course a contested phrase with multiple meanings and diverse preference constituencies. Additionally, as noted by Scott and Murray (2009) a dispersed settlement pattern comprising single dwellings in the open countryside is a longstanding feature of rural areas in Ireland. Historically this is rooted in the legacy of power relationships around land in the 16th and 17th centuries comprising conquest, confiscation and transfer that created a landlord class and a community of occupying tenant farmers and their labourers (O’Tuathaigh, 1999). An agrarian campaign for large estates to be broken up, linked to the creation of peasant proprietorship, led to a series of Land Purchase Acts spanning the period 1885-1925. This legislation facilitated the tenant purchase of holdings to create relatively small owner-occupied family farms (Hunter, 1987) and thus established a system of land tenure that is materially different from that in the UK. But additionally there were pressing issues of farm viability and in 1923 the then newly established Irish Government secured the passing of a Land Act that permitted further land reform related to acquisition and division. Through processes of estate rearrangement and land resettlements very many new farm dwellings were established on subdivisions representing, as noted by Dooley (2004), a social engineering initiative that was possibly the key component of Irish social policy for many decades.