Case Study: Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage
Planning the development of more homes in Ireland
In its ‘Housing for All’ plan, published in 2021, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage set an ambitious target for the building of new homes. To meet the housing needs of Ireland’s growing population, the department needs to increase the number of new homes built each year from around 20,000 to 33,000 by 2031.
The department has long recognised the importance of geospatial information for policy development and planning. However, it wanted to make location-based data more available to the general public, developers and other organisations involved in the development industry, to improve their understanding of the wider planning system context of housing policies and successfully plan for new sustainable housing.
Like other central government departments and public service bodies, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage avails of geospatial data from Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi) through the National Mapping Agreement. It uses a range of OSi products, including MapGenie and Prime2, to embed accurate, standardised geospatial information into a broad range of public-facing solutions and internal systems.
The department uses the GeoHive platform, developed by OSi, to make its data and applications available to public sector organisations and the general public. As the national geospatial data platform for Ireland, GeoHive provides a secure and easy way to connect decision makers with authoritative data. “We enjoy a high level of support from OSi,” says Stewart Logan, Senior Advisor at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. “OSi, via GeoHive and a managed service agreement, provides the geospatial backing that helps us to support the planning system and deliver more homes in the right place.”
Here are just a few ways in which OSi is helping the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage to achieve its planning goals.
Greater awareness of housing policy
The department has developed a web map portal called Myplan.ie that provides critical data on the planning system in Ireland. Whether interested in housing development in Cork or Donegal, users can employ Myplan.ie to access the information they need in a standardised format, in one place. This public-facing service enables people to explore development zonings on an interactive map, improving their awareness of housing policy and development potential at national, regional and local level.
Improved decision making and investment planning
The department has also collaborated with OSi in the creation of the National Planning Application Database (NPAD) Map Viewer, which, for the first time, makes all planning applications visible on a single, interactive, digital map. Developers can see current planning applications for everything from small house extensions to large residential developments, across 31 local authority areas. Meanwhile utilities and other organisations can integrate data directly from NPAD, or via open data, into their own systems to help them plan future investments in water supply, electricity distribution, transport and other services needed to support housing growth. “There are 40-50 million requests to the service every year, which demonstrates the value that spatial data has in supporting decision making and investment planning,” Logan says.
“OSi […] provides the geospatial backing that helps us to support the planning system and deliver more homes in the right place.”
Stewart Logan, Senior Advisor, Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage
Standardised, high quality planning data
Given the importance of spatial data for housing development, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is keen to improve the quality and consistency of data captured in the planning application process. It is therefore working with OSi and a commercial partner, Esri Ireland, on a bespoke product, called the Planning Application Capture Environment (PACE), that will ensure accurate location data is provided for all planning applications. Following a successful pilot with Galway County Council, the solution is now being rolled out to other local authorities. When used nationwide, PACE will significantly advance the quality of the information available via NPAD.
Effective implementation of government policy
In another project, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is drawing on OSi’s expertise to help it implement government housing policy. OSi data will be assisting in the creation of a National Zoned Land Register to identify land that is zoned for housing development nationally. The register will support the implementation of the new Residential Zoned Land Tax that will be levied on the owners of underutilised land, to try to accelerate homebuilding activity. “This new government policy is in its infancy at present, but we will be developing systems to support the implementation of the new tax, working with local authorities and OSi,” Logan says. “OSi is a key partner for us in this and other future projects.”