Participatory Village Planning
Villages are a key component of the settlement hierarchy in Ireland and for many people they represent the essence of desirable rural living. Factors such as location, scale, function, townscape, affordability and community are significant attributes in residential decision-making and can give rise to considerable developer-led pressure for housing expansion in places that are perceived as being geographically accessible to home-buyers. The latter, of course, is a relative consideration but increasing evidence on the ground over the past 20 years points to marked physical transformations of village character in areas close to urban workplaces as well as in more remote, high amenity settings popular as second home and retirement destinations. Part of that legacy in 2010 comprises the phenomenon of ‘ghost estates’ of unoccupied and unfinished dwellings in many towns and villages reflecting the large-scale collapse of the construction sector, rising unemployment and borrowing restrictions at a time of economic crisis. Thus The Irish Times (27th January 2010) has reported that there are 621 such ‘ghost estates’ across the Republic of Ireland with some 300,000 homes lying empty. The most seriously affected counties include Leitrim, Longford, Sligo and Roscommon and which in locational terms would be within the rural periphery. High density infill schemes and large edge-of-village/small town accretions, with their townhouses and apartment dwellings, place planning centre-stage in managing the public interest vis-à-vis the capacity of water and sewerage infrastructure, community services, traffic circulation, car parking and environmental amenity. Not surprisingly, village planning and development is frequently contested between pro-growth, slow-growth, and no-growth advocates.