Sustainable Rural Development : Managing Housing in the Countryside

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Resource or Project Abstract

Rural Ireland is not a homogenous area with a single common shared experience. Depending on economic circumstances and geographic location, rural areas face contrasting challenges and experiences. Areas close to large cities and regional towns are experiencing rapid population growth, which increases pressures for development. In contrast, the structurally weaker areas, with low or zero population growth rates, have been affected most negatively by the decline in the economic importance and employment potential of the agriculture sector. There is a significant legacy of dispersed rural settlement throughout most rural areas.
From an economic perspective, the buoyancy in the Irish economy since the mid-1990s, particularly in the construction sector, has enabled rural economies to absorb the decline in the primary sectors of agriculture and fisheries, as well as in industrial employment in certain regions. As employment opportunities grew, many rural areas gained population. However, with the most recent downturn in construction activity, employment in rural areas is already under significant pressure.

It was found from the case studies in Kildare, South Tipperary and Clare that rural housing and settlement patterns were generally underpinned by a fairly stable community with 35.5 per cent of respondents in the survey have been resident in their current dwelling for over 20 years. Moreover, of the more recent "movers", 29 per cent of this group had moved to their current property from within the local area, while a further 20.6 per cent of recent movers had moved from another rural locality. Significantly, over half of recent movers had moved to their current rural dwelling from a more urban location (which was significantly higher in the peri-urban case study). Interestingly, approximately half of this "urban-to-rural" group were originally from a rural background, suggesting a "return-to-the-rural" pattern of movement. In all, 82 per cent of all respondents in three case studies were from a rural background.

The social and physical characteristics of rural areas were reported as the main reasons for moving to a current dwelling. When this was explored further, factors such as the perception of the countryside as a good place to raise children, the presence of social networks and a perceived sense of community were cited. It was also found that rural dwellers report high levels of life satisfaction.

The research revealed too the importance of dwelling type in the decision-making process. For example, of the sample of respondents who were considering making a move, the results suggested that they were influenced by practical considerations (e.g. journey times to work), but were subsequently diverted by the attractions of house design or views. The opportunity for individuals to influence their house design was often a further incentive to move to a new dwelling in the countryside.

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Contact Information for This Resource

Dr. Mark Scott
University College Dublin

Dr. Finbarr Brereton
University College Dublin

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Data, Files, Information Objects Related To This Project Resource

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Attachment Name and Download Link
Att: 1    STRIVE_44_Executive_Summary.pdf  (0.1 Mb)
End of Project Report    STRIVE_44_Scott_SustainableDevelopment_epr.pdf  (46.11 Mb)
Project Report Optimised For Online Viewing    STRIVE_44_Scott_SustainableDevelopment_syn.web.pdf  (2.1 Mb)
Offline Print Quality Version    STRIVE_44_Scott_SustainableDevelopment_syn_prn.pdf  (6.07 Mb)

Suggested Citation Information

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Author(s)Scott, M. Brereton, F.
Title Of WebsiteSecure Archive For Environmental Research Data
Publication InformationSustainable Rural Development : Managing Housing in the Countryside
Name of OrganisationEnvironmental Protection Agency Ireland
Electronic Address or URL
Unique Identifierbd5309b8-774a-102d-b891-8d8f2407b579
Date of AccessLast Updated on SAFER: 2024-06-25

An example of this citation in proper usage:

Scott, M. Brereton, F.   "Sustainable Rural Development : Managing Housing in the Countryside". Associated datasets and digitial information objects connected to this resource are available at: Secure Archive For Environmental Research Data (SAFER) managed by Environmental Protection Agency Ireland (Last Accessed: 2024-06-25)


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Access Information For This Resource

SAFER-Data Display URL
Resource KeywordsSustainable development, houses, one-off housing, countryside, rural, settlements
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project Code2005-SD-MS-41-M2
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project ThemeSocio-Economics
Resource Availability: Any User Can Download Files From This Resource
Limitations on the use of this ResourceThere is no data attached to this resource. However further usage of the reports in any significant way should be properly cited or acknowledged in any further publications. A citation is provided below.
Number of Attached Files (Publicly and Openly Available for Download): 4
Project Start Date Saturday 1st January 2005 (01-01-2005)
Earliest Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Saturday 1st January 2005 (01-01-2005)
Most Recent Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Thursday 31st December 2009 (31-12-2009)
Published on SAFERTuesday 2nd March 2010 (02-03-2010)
Date of Last EditWednesday 3rd March 2010 at 09:11:48 (03-03-2010)
Datasets or Files Updated On Wednesday 3rd March 2010 at 09:11:48 (03-03-2010)

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Geographical and Spatial Information Related To This Resource

Description of Geographical Characteristics of This Project or Dataset
A range of novel methodologies and the collection of significant new data in relation to rural change and housing in Ireland have underpinned this report. This included a national representative survey of rural households (N = 800), a series of household surveys in three case-study locations (Kildare, South Tipperary and Clare) (N = 1,200), a survey of county councillors (N = 300), a series of focus groups with rural and professional stakeholders, and qualitative interviews with planners, councillors, rural development stakeholders and civil society representatives. The case studies were selected on the basis of location, population dynamics and economic contexts: Kildare local authority: peri-urban rural areas that experienced significant population growth; South Tipperary local authority: agriculturally based rural area with average population growth, in line with national population growth trends; Clare local authority: remote coastal rural area that has experienced population decline in some areas.

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Supplementary Information About This Resource

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Lineage information about this project or dataset
The background to this report is the increasing difficulty being experienced in addressing the question of housing development in rural areas. An issue for many years, the debate has become increasingly contentious and polarised. This stems from an accelerating pace of development, the changing population dynamics of rural areas, and a growing recognition of the need to include environmental considerations in the planning process. Central to this debate is the concept of sustainability and its interpretation and application in rural areas; however, currently there is insufficient evidence to allow a more complete understanding of rural housing dynamics and Perhaps one of the most characteristic features of Irish rural areas is the distinctive dispersed settlement pattern. Approximately 70 per cent of the rural population live in single, dispersed houses built in the open countryside (i.e. outside towns and villages) (Keaveney and Walsh, 2005), often referred to as "one-off" houses. Over the course of Ireland's economic growth experienced from the early 1990s to the mid-2000s, rural Ireland witnessed vast changes. In line with the demographic recovery of many rural areas (particularly those in close proximity to urban centres), an unprecedented boom in house building occurred, with government estimates suggesting that between 35 and 40 per cent of total house completions in the state were built as single houses in the open countryside (Gkartzios and Scott, 2009). sustainable rural development.
Supplementary Information
The research project did not investigate issues surrounding groundwater protection and on-site treatment systems for rural housing. In this regard, there was no wish to replicate existing policy advice and tools such as the EPA?s Wastewater Treatment Manual: Treatment Systems for Single Houses (2000), which provides a methodology for assessing the suitability of on-site systems for a range of hydrogeological Although the issue of assessing costs and benefits of rural housing is addressed, this proved to be a challenging task. This was for several reasons: (i) considerable data constraints were experienced in developing a reasonable assessment of costs and benefits. For example, different public agencies collect data at different spatial scales which often prevents a ?fine-grain? approach. (ii) There were significant data gaps in relation to public data. (iii) There is the issue of scale and study area. In this sense, the work package examined costs and benefits of accommodating future rural housing. Additional research should address the issue of environmental carrying capacity in relation to accommodating further housing development in rural areas. Housing in the countryside competes with other land uses for rural resource use. Since the completion of the research fieldwork underpinning this report, there have been dramatic changes in the Irish economy and in the housing market in particular. conditions.

This report includes contributes from a large number of authors. They are listed below with the current email address. Please refer to the attached reports ffor full contact details. All authors are from School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Policy except where stated otherwise. Finbarr Brereton (Urban Institute Ireland, Vivienne Brophy (, Craig Bullock (, Peter Clinch (, Karen Foley (, Dan Gilbert (, Menelaos Gkartzios (, Jim Kinsella (School of Biology and Environmental Sciences , Michelle Norris (School of Applied Social Sciences, Deirdre O?Connor (School of Biology and Environmental Sciences,, Geraldine O?Daly (Energy Research Group, Declan Redmond, Paula Russell (, Mark Scott ( and Nessa Winston (School of Applied Social Sciences,
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