Extensive work is currently underway on a number of 'strand one' research projects. We have set out hereunder a brief summary of the work that is being advanced in accordance with the OPR’s Planning Research Framework and Strategic Planning Research Programme.




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OPR- Climate Action and the Local Authority Development Plan

This Case Study Paper (CSP05) is the fifth in a series of OPR Case Study Papers. It focuses on 'Climate Action and the Local Authority Development Plan' and acknowledges the fact that climate action has become a major influence on planning policy. While climate action includes both mitigation and adaptation the policies needed to adapt to the effects of climate change have received more focus in recent times (e.g. flood risk) whereas the planning policies dealing with mitigation have not received the same focus. This Case Study Paper seeks to offer insights into the challenges local authorities experience when incorporating climate mitigation into development plans and highlights exemplary aspects of existing development plans that include climate mitigation measures.

In preparing the CSP three key steps were taken. Firstly, emerging and existing examples of how local authorities have incorporated Renewable Energy Strategies and other climate mitigation measures into their development plans were reviewed. Secondly 'pathfinder' local authorities were identified. The third step was engagement with a number of officials from the 'pathfinder' local authorities in order to gain an insight into their experience and learnings.

The main objective of the CSP is to support planning authorities and to provide practical comparative information that can be used for incorporating evidence-based and realistic climate mitigation measures into development plans.

The research was undertaken by the team at MaREI, the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine coordinated by the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) at University College Cork and was funded by the OPR.

International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD) Research Project-‘The InPLACE Project- Investigating Place, Planning and Commuting’

The OPR entered into a Research Partnership Agreement with the International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD) in 2021 to conduct research into the economic, social and spatial impacts of pre- and post-COVID commuting on communities and districts across Ireland.

The project title is 'The InPLACE Project' and the subtitle is 'Investigating Place, Planning and Commuting'.

The study is supported by the OPR, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, the Local Government Management Agency, Clare County Council, the Department of Infrastructure in Northern Ireland, the Department of Transportation in Maryland, US and the Tomar Trust (a private philanthropic trust/organisation).

The purpose of the study is to assess the impact of out-commuting on settlements, and the impact of the pandemic with the enforced switch to home-working and tele-commuting.

The project is case study based and seeks to get an in-depth picture of what happened pre-pandemic and is happening post-pandemic in a number of case study areas throughout the island of Ireland and the US. The case study areas are commuter towns that were selected for their scale and by reason of the fact that they are affected by out-commuting.

The project comprises of two phases. The first phase comprises the towns of Ennistymon, Lahinch, Co. Clare, Newtownmountkennedy, Co. Wicklow and Dundrum (Newry, Mourne and Down District Council). The second phase will comprise towns in counties Cork, Galway and Kildare and a town in Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council. The case study towns in Maryland are North Beach in Calvert County and Middletown in Frederick County.

The study commenced in April 2021 and will take 24 months to complete. It is envisaged that the findings from the research will have significance for a range of public policies, many of which are within the remit of local authorities, and all of which will influence local communities such as health, housing, environment, community development, social policy, transportation and spatial planning.

The researchers will invite commuters, transport providers, community groups, local businesses, local government employees and elected members to share their experience of travel and transport since the arrival of the pandemic in 2020, and the impact on their quality of life and well-being. It will investigate similarities and divergences between short and long-distance commuters, where a long distance commute is identified as lasting in excess of 45 minutes.

The research report will ultimately set out the findings from the study regarding the costs of commuting to individuals, families and communites; how planning approaches may be failing; the effects of the pandemic on commuting patterns, well-being, lifestyle and flexible models of working, and recommendations on how to redress the costs of commuting.

EPA- Five-Year Assessment Report- Achieving Climate Neutrality by 2050

In 2021 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) commenced the preparation of a five-year Assessment Report (5YAR), the purpose of which is to develop an understanding of climate change, its impacts and the options for dealing with these impacts. The 5YAR will consist of four volumes.

One of the OPR's key statutory functions is to evaluate and assess the development plans and to ensure that these plans contain specific objectives in relation to a number of key issues including proposals for dealing with climate change. In this context the EPA invited the OPR to join the steering committee for volume 2 'Achieving Climate Neutrality by 2050' of the 5YAR.

In March 2022 the OPR provided a written commentary on the 'zero order draft' of volume 2 of the 5YAR. The OPR also engaged in workshops with the authors and steering committee for volume 2. The 'first order draft' for volume 2 is due in mid-September 2022 at which time the OPR will review the draft and will provide further comments, as necessary. Following the completion of the drafting phases and coordination of the four volumes, it is anticipated that the 5YAR (volumes 1-4) will be published in mid-2023.

EPA- Landscape Project

In late 2021 the Enivornmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a call for a research proposals to address certain topics. One of these topics related to the development of a national landscape characterisation toolkit. Landscape character assessment is a tool that is used to describe the character of a landscape in ecological, cultural, social and economic terms. These are the features that give a locality its 'sense of place'. Landscape character assessment aids sustainable development and the protection of biodiversity including the enchancement, restoration and improvement of habitats. The overall objective of this particular research project is to develop a landscape character assessment toolkit that can be used as a descision support tool for land-use planning and environmental management. The intention is to ensure that landscape considerations are recognised as a key environmental component. This research project is funded by the EPA and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The project is being led by Minogue & Associates, environmental consultants, and it commenced in February 2022. It is an 18-month project and is scheduled for completion in August 2023. The OPR is a member of the steering committee providing advice to the research team and the EPA on the direction and approach to the project and an external view of the research. This project is consistent with 'Strand One- Planning Issues' of the OPR's Strategic Planning Research Programme.