Chapter 3: Development Strategy

Closed15 Apr, 2023, 8:00am - 29 May, 2023, 5:00pm

3.1       Strategic Vision

The purpose of the Draft Abbeyfeale Local Area Plan is to set out the policies and objectives that will guide the sustainable future growth of the town to 2029 and beyond and to ensure alignment with the provisions of higher-level planning policy. The vision of the plan is to improve the local environment focusing on the sustainable growth of the built environment, employment generation, and the provision of community and social services together in a low carbon, compact, consolidated and connected manner.

The strategic vision for Abbeyfeale is to fulfil the role of a Level 3 settlement as identified in the Limerick Development Plan.  This will include the provision for growth in population, through a mix of high-quality residential development (choice and tenure), education and employment opportunities, sustainable mobility opportunities, a strengthened retail/commercial core for the town centre, enhanced community infrastructure, improved active lifestyles and recreational choices, while sustaining Abbeyfeale’s unique heritage assets.  The future development of Abbeyfeale will provide for low carbon, sustainable and consolidated growth in a coherent spatial manner.

In December 2021, Abbeyfeale was selected nationally and awarded funding to formulate a Town Centre First Plan, the initiative aims to create town centres that function as viable, vibrant and attractive locations for people to live, work and visit, while also functioning as the service, social, cultural and recreational hub for the local community. This new strategy seeks to tackle vacancy, combat dereliction and breathe new life into town centres. It provides a suite of supports and tools to help businesses and local communities deliver on their unique vision for their area. Limerick City and County Council are working with the local community to formulate a Town Centre First Plan, which will seek to revitalize Abbeyfeale and this will be incorporated into the Local Area Plan and will be at the heart of the overall development strategy for the town over the lifetime of the Local Area Plan.

3.2       Spatial Development Strategy

The overall development strategy for Abbeyfeale is to meet the population targets as set out in the Limerick Development Plan, by focusing growth within the settlement boundary and in doing so, assisting in the regeneration, repopulation and development of the town.  The future of Abbeyfeale is one where the quality of life and wellbeing of its inhabitants are enhanced, building a resilient and sustainable compact town, that supports improved local employment and economy, protects its local culture and heritage, while supporting the town’s transition to a low carbon society.

Overall Strategic Development Objectives

It is an objective of the Council to:

  1. Seek the sustainable intensification and consolidation of the existing built environment, in accordance with the objectives for compact growth in higher-level spatial plans, through appropriate infill and brownfield development, supported by the necessary physical and community infrastructure.    
  2. Promote sustainable economic development, including enterprise and employment opportunities, while, prioritising the town centre, as the primary location for retail and services.
  3. Promote and facilitate sustainable modes of transport, prioritising walking, cycling and public transport, whilst protecting and improving existing road infrastructure.
  4. Protect, conserve and enhance the built environment, through promoting awareness, utilising relevant heritage legislation and ensuring high quality urban design principles are applied to all new developments, respecting the historic and architectural heritage.
  5. Protect, enhance and connect areas of natural heritage, incorporate blue green infrastructure measures into developments and protect open space, while, seeking to improve the quality of life and biodiversity of the town, capitalising on climate action and flood risk measures.
  6. Ensure the highest quality of public realm and urban design principles apply to all new developments.
  7. Have cognisance of the Limerick Climate Change Adaptation Strategy 2019 - 2024, and any forthcoming Climate Action Plan, that may emerge during the lifetime of this plan.
  8. Guide the future development of Abbeyfeale, in accordance with the Town Centre First policy approach seeking to bring people and appropriate business/services back into the heart of Abbeyfeale through place-making, good quality urban design, and sustainable mobility as promoted by the Department of Housing, Local Government and the Heritage and the Department of Rural and Community Development. 
  9. Ensure the future development of Abbeyfeale supports the transition to a low carbon society and economy, implementing national policy to reduce gas emissions, improve environmental quality and contribute to national targets for climate change.
  10. Seek opportunities with relevant stakeholders for inward investment to the town, including national funding schemes and other initiatives, as they arise.

3.3       Population and Housing Growth

The Core Strategy for Limerick is set out in the Limerick Development Plan 2022 – 2028. The Core Strategy identifies the population projections for all settlements in Limerick over the lifetime of the Development Plan. Section 19 (2) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended) requires that: “A Local Area Plan shall be consistent with the objectives of the Development Plan, its Core Strategy, and any Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy that apply to the area of the plan...”

This LAP aims to balance the provision of good quality housing that meets the needs of a diverse population, in a way that makes Abbeyfeale an attractive and inviting place to live. Adequate housing provision is essential for the creation of an environment which will attract business and enterprise to Abbeyfeale and the plan identifies the quantum of zoned lands to meet this demand. The Council is also informed by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage’s Town Centre First approach, seeking to create a vibrant community, which seeks to attract families back into the heart of the towns through enhanced place-making, good quality urban design and sustainable mobility options.

Abbeyfeale is identified as a Level 3 settlement in the Limerick Development Plan, with projected population growth of 566 additional persons to 2028, representing a 27.9% increase on the 2016 Census population.  This envisaged population increase seeks to ensure that the growth will be sustainable in line with service provision and development of community facilities. This ensures that the capacity of the town to accommodate this additional growth can occur without damage to the settlement’s character and the carrying capacity of its environment and infrastructure.

According to the Census, Abbeyfeale had a population of 2,023 persons in 2016, representing a 0.8% increase on the 2011 population. Despite this negligible increase, the Planning Authority through the Core Strategy, as established by the Limerick Development Plan envisages that Abbeyfeale is capable of achieving significant population growth, over the lifetime of this LAP. This is supported by the level of services in the town, its location on the N21 with connectivity to Limerick City, Newcastle West, Killarney/ Tralee, Listowel, Glin and the Shannon Estuary, supporting economic opportunities and the potential synergies that may develop.  Abbeyfeale’s tourism potential as a hub on the Limerick Greenway, and its location on the N21, a major tourist route between Limerick and Kerry also affords opportunities for the town, to grow and sustain additional population.

The Core Strategy of the Limerick Development Plan makes assumptions with respect to population projections and allocation of population throughout Limerick. These assumptions include the additional residential units and zoned land requirements for each settlement in accordance with the NPF, the Implementation Roadmap for the NPF and the RSES. The assumed Abbeyfeale population growth allocation is an additional 566 persons to 2028 (+27.9% on the 2016 Census figure) which equates to an additional 211 residential units.  For the purposes of this Local Area Plan, the projected requirement for population growth is 246 units to 2029. The provision of 246 units is determined by taking the proposed population growth per annum (35.16 units per annum), as outlined in the Core Strategy of the Limerick Development Plan, and applying this figure for the seven-year period (from 2022-2029) as illustrated in Figure 3.1 below. The calculation of the quantum of lands required for housing units in Figure 3.1 also accounts for the most recent vacancy analysis in the town in 2022 and the estimated housing unit yield of the opportunity areas in Chapter 4 which priorities the town centre of redevelopment and re-use of underused lands for a mix of uses including residential.

In the interests of securing a compact settlement, prioritising brownfield, infill development, addressing vacancy and dereliction, and the protection of the existing built-up area of the settlement, existing vacancy must be considered to in delivering on the projected population growth. Details in relation to vacancy are dealt with further in Chapter 4.

In June 2022, The Development Plan Guidelines for Planning Authorities were published by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. The Guidelines identifies the potential provision for additional lands in the order of 20-25% above the required quantum of zoned residential or a mix of residential and other land uses, in certain circumstances. These lands which are considered as “Additional Provision” must be identified, quantified and explained. In this instance an additional 25% has been included in Table 3.1 above for the purposes of New Residential zoning.  The rationale to support the inclusion of these lands is to build on the strategic location of the town on the Limerick – Kerry border, enhance its inter-urban synergies with settlements in North Kerry and West Limerick to support employment opportunities and also to build on the Town Centre First Initiative, to revitalise the town centre, to offer real opportunities to introduce high quality residential development in the centre of the town. The location of lands zoned New Residential are within the  settlement boundary, within a 10-minute walking distance of the town centre, bus stops, on serviced lands, which have been assessed sequentially from the town centre.

In the interest of delivering high quality housing at appropriate densities for the settlement and to support sustainable development, the Draft Plan outlines an allocation of 85% of units to New Residential and 15% to Serviced Sites to support the development of a variety of housing, in terms of tenure and mix.

Furthermore, in line with the Development Plan Guidelines, regard must be had to the extent of extant permissions for residential development permitted in Abbeyfeale town, these units are outlined in Table 3.2 below.  Live permissions are in place for 85 units within the town and have been considered in the formulation of zoning requirements.

Planning Ref:


No. of Units

Type of unit

Current Status

21/594 and ABP 31313822

St. Ita’s Road Abbeyfeale West


44 no. houses and 24 no. apartments, all two storey in height – a mix of 1, 2, 3 and 4 bedroom units.

Not commenced

20/830 and 17/561

Abbeyfeale West


10 Serviced Sites

Not commenced

18/8013 – Part 8

Colbert Terrace


7 no. two storey two-bedroom units


Not commenced

Total units extant


Table 3.2 Permission for housing development granted, but not commenced

A Settlement Capacity Audit (SCA) in Chapter 10 outlines availability of key infrastructure in each of the individual sites zoned for the provision of residential development and serviced sites. The SCA identifies the infrastructure necessary to support future development along with an indicative timeframe for the delivery of critical infrastructure i.e. short, medium or long term and the costing to provide necessary infrastructure to support development.

 Policy DS 1: Core Strategy: It is policy of the Council to:

Ensure compliance with the population projections of the Core Strategy (or any revision thereof). The Planning Authority will monitor the type of developments permitted in Abbeyfeale, including the number of residential units constructed on an annual basis.

3.4       Housing and Residential Development Strategy

Central to the implementation of the NPF, RSES and the Limerick Development Plan, is a focus on sustainable development across Limerick, compact growth of urban areas, optimising the use of serviced lands by focusing development on infill, brownfield, backland and vacant/derelict sites and in doing so, maximising the viability of investment in social and physical infrastructure. A key focus of the Department of Rural and Community Development’s Rural Development Policy 2021 – 2025 is the Town Centre First Approach, which supports the regeneration, repopulation and development of rural towns.  The primary focus behind the Town Centre First Approach is to create the conditions for individuals and families to move back into the heart of the towns through place-making, high quality urban design and sustainable mobility.

This LAP seeks to balance the provision of good quality housing that meets the needs of a diverse population, in a way that makes Abbeyfeale an attractive and inviting place to live in.  In this regard, 8.83 ha of lands have been zoned New Residential and 2.95ha Serviced Sties, and the development of infill opportunity sites, zoned Town Centre will also contribute to the sustainable growth of Abbeyfeale.  Adequate housing provision is also essential for the creation of an environment to attract business and enterprise to Abbeyfeale.

Settlement Tier

Census Pop. 2016

Additional households forecasted 2023-2029

Quantum of land required  - ha

Total land zoned Serviced Sites

  • ha

Total Land  zoned New Residential

  • ha










*Refer to Table 3.1 Core Strategy Units Allocated












Table 3.3: Residential units and land quantum required in Abbeyfeale in line with the Core Strategy projections of Limerick Development Plan 2022 – 2028 including Additional Provision Lands in line with The Development Plan Guidelines for Planning Authorities June 2022

Policy DS2: Development Strategy: It is policy of the Council to:

Deliver new residential development, in accordance with the Limerick Development Plan 2022 – 2028, supporting a choice of quality housing, mixed tenure and unit size/type designed for ease of adaption to the lifecycle and universally accessible.

Objective H 01: Residential Development: It is an objective of the Council to

  1. Require the use of Design Briefs, Masterplans, Sustainability Statements, Social Infrastructure Assessments and any other supporting documents deemed necessary to ensure the coherent planning of residential development. Early engagement with all utility providers, including Uisce Eireann is strongly advised.
  2. No one proposal for residential development shall increase the existing housing stock by more than 10 – 15% within the lifetime of the Plan, unless the applicant can demonstrate that the settlement has adequate capacity, in terms of both physical and social infrastructure to support additional growth.
  3. Ensure all new residential layouts prioritise walking and cycling and are fully permeable for pedestrians and cyclists to access a range of local services.
  4. Ensure new residential development provides high quality public open space and play lots proportional to the number of residential units, having cognisance to accessibility, safety, permeability and public realm.

Objective H 02: Residential Compact Growth: It is an objective of the Council to:

a)   Ensure the sequential development of the serviced residential lands identified to cater for the envisaged population growth.

b)    Ensure that at least 30% of all new housing development is delivered within existing built-up areas, including infill, brownfield and greenfield sites.

c)   Consolidate existing development and increase existing residential density, through a range of measures, including re-use of existing buildings and infill development schemes.

d)   Ensure that in any proposed alterations to the streetscape of the town centre, adequate consideration is given to conservation, restoration and reconstruction, where it would affect the settings of protected structures, or the integrity of the eighteenth and nineteenth century streetscapes.

3.4.1    Density, Housing Type and Mix

This LAP places a strong emphasis on providing high quality residential developments with mixed type and tenure provided on brownfield, infill, vacant sites and greenfield sites. Changing demographic trends such as changing household size and formation have consequences for housing type demands and this sees an increased demand for 1 and 2 bedroomed units, and smaller units to facilitate downsizing for an increasing older population. According, to the Limerick Housing Delivery Action Plan 2022 – 2026, 77% of first choice demand requests for Local Authority accommodation in Abbeyfeale are for single or two bedroomed units.  These are important considerations for future housing delivery in the town. A statement demonstrating an appropriate mix of units shall be submitted as a requirement of a planning application to demonstrate that consideration has been given by the developer to meeting this requirement in all residential applications. 

The following minimum densities shall apply to residentially zoned lands in Abbeyfeale.


Minimum Densities

New and Existing Residential

22 uph

Residential Serviced Sites

10 uph

Table 3.4: Density Standards

Objective H 03: Density and New Residential Development: It is an objective of the Council to:

Ensure that all residential development complies with the residential density requirements set out in Table 3.4 and encourage a range of densities on all New Residential and other mixed-use lands, in accordance with the Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Sustainable Residential Development in Urban Areas: Cities, Towns and Villages (2009).

3.4.2    Serviced Low-density Sites

Ten serviced sites have been granted planning permission in Abbeyfeale West as a low-density serviced alternative to the unserviced one-off rural house in the open countryside.  These individual residential plots will have access to services, such as utility connections, water and sewerage, footpaths, lighting and are within walking distance of the town centre, which demonstrates a demand for this type of development in Abbeyfeale. The Draft LAP zones lands specifically for serviced sites, where the density shall generally be 10 housing units per hectare.  Whilst individual house design on serviced sites is encouraged, the overall design of the scheme must be consistent in terms of boundary treatments and landscaping.

Objective H 04: Serviced Sites: It is an objective of the Council to:

Permit serviced sites on adequately zoned lands within the settlement boundary of Abbeyfeale in line with the requirements outlined in the Limerick Development Plan.  The Council requires a minimum net density of 10 dwelling units per hectare on lands zoned Serviced Sites.

3.4.3    Specialised Housing

The need for older persons’ dwellings, sheltered housing, nursing homes, modular homes and residential care homes in Abbeyfeale is anticipated to grow into the future, by reason of a general aging of the population, the need to cater for those wishing to downsize and reside in proximity to services and amenities, and those in need of refugee in times of war and unrest. These facilities shall be integrated into the established or planned residential areas, well served by appropriate levels of infrastructure, and within walking distance of shopping and other community services, public transport and open space.  They should be designed based on the principles of universal design and accessibility for all.  St. Ita’s Voluntary Housing provides 23 residential units in Abbeyfeale, beside The Glórach Theatre, off Convent Street for independent living for elderly and vulnerable adults.

Limerick City and County Council has an adopted Traveller Accommodation Programme 2019-2024, which outlines the accommodation needs, policy and implementation measures to address the accommodation needs of the Traveller Community.  The current Traveller Accommodation Plan does not identify a need for specialised traveller accommodation in Abbeyfeale, at present. Objective HO O15 of the Limerick Development Plan 2022 – 2028 outlines an objective to support the quantity and quality of delivery of traveller-specific accommodation with the relevant agencies, in accordance with the Traveller Accommodation Programme and any subsequent updates.

3.4.4    Social Housing and Affordable Housing

‘Housing for All - A New Housing Plan for Ireland’ is the Government’s housing plan to 2030.  The plan includes ambitious actions to address homelessness, the provision of affordable housing and accelerating the delivery of social and affordable housing schemes. The Housing Delivery Plan for Limerick 2022 – 2026 identifies Abbeyfeale as having a social housing requirement of 48 units to be delivered by 2026.  Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended) is one of the means through which Limerick City and County Council can seek to address demand for social housing in Limerick. According to the Housing Delivery Plan, the focus is on refurbishing vacant dwellings through the Buy and Renew Scheme, or leasing through the Repair and Release Scheme and the activation of the unfinished units at Cois na Feile.  The Council works in partnership with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and Approved Housing Bodies to deliver and manage social housing requirements.  The Council will continue to seek residential units in Abbeyfeale for affordable housing through advance purchase arrangements with developers and other means, as opportunities arise.


Objective H 05: Social and Affordable Housing: It is an objective of the Council to:

Promote the provision of social and affordable housing in accordance with Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000(as amended), Objective HO13 of the Limerick Development Plan and Government housing policy ‘Housing for All’ (2021), Limerick City and County Council’s Housing Delivery Action Plan 2022 – 2026 and any subsequent replacements thereof.