All Things Ireland: What would St Brigid make of the new Vacant Housing Action Plan?

Welcome to All Things Ireland- LGIU Ireland’s weekly collation of everything local government in Ireland.

1 February marks the beginning of spring and the celebration of Lá Fhéile Bríde, St Brigid’s Day.

Celebrating St Brigids Day in 2023, community based events were organised by the local authorities as part of their Culture and Creativity Strategies under Creative Ireland. In Louth, a talk from Dr. Ward focused on “Brigid – Ancient Figure, Modern Icon”, while in Kildare, schools were encouraged to get involved as part of ‘Brigid 1500’.

While they suspect St Brigid was born in a Druid household and therefore probably less concerned with the issue of vacancy and dereliction, this weeks All Things Ireland focuses on the significant changes in housing and planning this week.

LGIU Ireland updates

BriefingLocal government performance in 2021. This is the latest briefing in our series that examines the work of the National Oversight and Audit Commission (NOAC).

PublicationOverview of NOAC – As part of LGIU Ireland’s series that examines the work of NOAC (the National Oversight and Audit Commission), this publication provides an overview of the work of NOAC

BlogNASA, weather stations, schools and climate action: Innovation at Fingal County Council. To explore how Fingal County Council’s innovation fund works, LGIU Ireland spoke to Executive Engineer, Kevin Vallely.

You can find all this and more on our LGIU Ireland page here!


Check out this LGIU Ireland briefing which examines the background to An Bord Pleanála Action Plan and outlines the major reforms which have been approved by the Government and announced by the Minister.

Fancy a planning-focused distraction this weekend? Check out the OPR’s new podcast where Planning Regulator Niall Cussen discusses some of the OPR’s recent report’s key findings and makes observations on some of the key features which reflect Ireland’s planning performance.

A planning end of year review? Prepared by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, the briefing for the Minister of state for December 2022 gives a holistic overview of where planning is in Ireland.

Following an internal (and slightly external now) review of An Bord Pleanála, the Irish Times report that ABP is to engaged a senior barrister to investigate “matters of concern” in the planning authority after it ruled out publishing an internal report on the same issues for legal reasons.

From Engineers Ireland, a video presentation from John Martin focuses on the future of transport in Ireland under the Climate Action plan 2023.

Picked up by the, findings from a Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) report show that local authorities have asked for an extra 541 planning staff as of Q2 2022, with requests to increase planning staff level by a third.

A new guide from the Department of Rural and Community Development aims to ensure marginalised and disadvantaged communities have opportunities to engage and participate in local planning and decision making – A Guide for Inclusive Community Engagement in Local Planning and Decision Making.

Updates for local authorities

Digitising Local Government- Build to Share in Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council

Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council shares the details a recent Build to Share (Bts) project which aims to establish an approach to the development of digital systems.

Local Government priorities for 2023? Find out what is going on and when in the Ministers Local Government Division brief here!

Long-awaited, last Friday (27th January) we saw the release the Dublin Citizen’s Assembly report on a directly elected Mayor for Dublin.

While the Guardian poses the question of whether citizens assemblies are the future of our democracy, you can read how 67 randomly-selected members recommend a powerful directly elected Mayor model for Dublin. 

An end of year review for Irish local government? This week the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage published the Ministers brief for the overview of activities and structures. Check out a holistic look of the Departments work here!

Almost 400 community organisations will receive additional funding under the Community Services Programme, an initiative designed to support community-based businesses, social enterprises and organisations that provide local services and create employment opportunities for disadvantaged people.

Limerick City and County Council launched a new Three Bridges walking route to encourage people to get a real sense of the City. You can more about the project here, or you find out how Scottish local authorities partnered to celebrate the heritage of the Forth bridges. 

Donegal County Council launched the ‘Donegal Is Calling’ campaign, highlighting the county’s vibrant culture, modern infrastructure and world-renowned scenery which makes for the perfect location to live and work.

Reports from the Irish Times, allege Dublin City Council opposed the release of report it commissioned with HSE that says overlapping services are failing to hit targets for responding to most urgent calls.

A new ERSI report draws on survey and administrative data, as well as in-depth interviews with key stakeholders, to document the nature of early years provision in Northern Ireland and Ireland.


House price developments and prospects- This LGIU policy briefing explores the topic of house prices and over valuation in further detail and analyses the possible trends for the near future.

What can Irish local authorities learn from the rest of Europe? Click here to check out this LGIU briefing on  supporting affordable housing delivery for a fair and just recovery. 

In a wide-ranging interview with the Irish Times, Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan starts his final 9 months as Chief Executive with an intense focus on housing, outlining plans for the Council to acquire surplus land from institutional/religious groups, and rezone further land for housing. Read the full interview here!

A new Vacant Homes Action Plan has launched alongside a new €150 million fund for local authorities to tackle vacancy and dereliction to support the plan. Following measures sure as Town Centre First and the Ready to Build Scheme, the Action plan focuses on a database for vacancy, guidance for CPO’s and a new Vacant Homes Officer.

RTE reports how Mayo County Council is hoping to use funds like this to repurpose a number of old buildings in the town centre following work by Director of Services, Tom Gilligan.

Prepared by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, the homelessness numbers for December 2022 can be found here.

Read the ICSH Social Housing Autumn/Winter 2022 newsletter, which includes coverage of our Biennial Finance & Development Conference 2022, the Building on Success: A Financial Roadmap for the AHB Sector publication.

Reporting on housing figures for Q4 2022 shows an annual total of 29,581 new dwellings in 2022. The highest annual total since 2011, this weeks figures exceeds the Housing for All’s target of 24,600.

Climate and the environment

COP-26: One Year On – Global Local Executive Panel

Composed of Council Chief Executives from Ireland, the UK and Australia, this panel summary highlights all that has happened in the last twelve months and the ongoing implications for local government from the COP-26 discussions and resolutions.

Funding for locally led biodiversity projects doubled to €3 million and local Authorities can now apply for funding for 2023 projects!

The Greater Skellig Coast joins 148 others already designated spots, including the Galápagos Islands, the Great Barrier Reef and parts of Antarctica. Designed by MissionBlue, you can find out more here!

Following on from last weeks €3 million funding for locally led biodiversity projects, this week 11 local authorities have been awarded funding to appoint biodiversity officers to drive local action for biodiversity conservation.

Newly published, the Historic and Archaeological Heritage Bill 2023 modernises laws underpinning the protection of our archaeological heritage.

Finally, according to an analysis from energy consultants Baringa, just over a third of Irish electricity was generated by wind last year, new data shows.

Finance and funding

Local government response to an international crisis: Ukrainian refugees

Since March 2022, approx. 70,000 Ukrainian refugees have come to Ireland. This briefing looks in particular at how Clare County Council has managed the various national and local refugee initiatives (such as Offer A Home) and the challenges they’ve faced in the resettlement process.

The Northern and Western Regional Assembly (NWRA) launched a new six-year investment programme totalling €217m in European Regional Development Funds (ERDF) for Ireland’s Northern and Western region. Bringing together over 150 senior leaders from across Galway City and the region in Portershed, you can find out more here!

€37.3 million is set for capital projects in 2023 in Ireland’s six state-owned Fishery Harbour Centres at Killybegs, Ros an Mhíl, An Daingean, Castletownbere, Dunmore East and Howth through the Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme.

Northern Ireland

What makes Northern Ireland the happiest region in these islands?  This LGIU blog examines possible drivers behind the North’s wellbeing and how this sits with the regions long-standing socio-economic issues.

In less-jolly news, Belfast City Council are to provide Irish speaking tours of City Cemetery and will focus on the city’s development in the nineteenth century and the people behind the revival of the Irish language, including the role of Protestant Irish enthusiasts.

In a similar less-jolly news, rates in Belfast are to rise by 7.99% following a heated Council meeting on Wednesday evening (which you can find a live reporting of here).

Finally, Used by 10/11 NI Councils, the BBC reports on the prolonged frustration with the new planning portal.

Transport and Infrastructure

How are local governments across the world advancing active travel?

This Global Local bulletin examines how local governments “weather proof” active travel solutions with a focus on nordic countries.

Keep your eyes peeled for new transport infrastructure projects in February. The National Transport Authority (NTA) has allocated funds to Ireland’s local authorities with a view to spending €290 million on walking and cycling infrastructure in 2023, and you can find the full local authority and project breakdown here!

Greater Dublin Area, 2022-2042 from the National Transport Authority outlines a key focus on sustainable active travel. Other key proposals include a Luas extensions to Finglas, Lucan, Poolbeg and Bray, 100km of electrified rail under DART+ Programme and the Metrolink from north of Swords to Charlemont.

Two senior county council officials hammered home the impacts of climate change on Cork County’s roads, as rainfall in the last three months has had a severe impact on the condition of Cork’s 12 000km of roads.

Following January’s new Electric Vehicles Charging Infrastructure Strategy 2022 – 2025, a new €15 million scheme, resourced through the government’s Shared Island Fund, will support the roll-out of publicly accessible, fast-charging for sports clubs and communities across the island of Ireland, in line with the recently launched National EV Charging Infrastructure Strategy.

Whats on in Scottish local governments?

So many of the challenges faced by local governments are shared with their colleagues across countries and across continents. To promote the sharing of local government best practice and innovation, this week we picked two updates from Scotland’s weekly policy round up.

Leading the weeks news was a report from the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee announcing that Scotland will not meet its ambitious target of being net zero by 2045 without a more empowered local government sector. Focusing on the relationship between local democracy and climate action by highlighting local governments democratic credentials, local knowledge, a capacity to lead by example and well-placed partnerships.

Working at home or in the office? The growth of hybrid working in local government. Using case studies from two Scottish local authorities, this briefing looks at home and hybrid working, exploring how local governments face this evolving and change landscape.

Stay tuned!

Next week LGIU Ireland will bring you a new briefing in our series that how Clare County Council was 2022’s Local Authority of the year.

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