Developing indicators for the estimation of sustainable settlement size in Ireland

Bernadette O’Regan (Centre for Environmental Research, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland)
Richard Moles (Centre for Environmental Research, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland)
Ruth Kelly (Centre for Environmental Research, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland)
Joe Ravetz (CURE, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Darryn McEvoy (CURE, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)

Environmental Management and Health

ISSN: 0956-6163

Publication date: 1 December 2002


Research was undertaken within the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Environmental RTDI Programme during the six‐month period from March to August 2001 by a partnership formed by the Centre for Environmental Research (CER), University of Limerick, and the Centre for Urban and Regional Ecology (CURE), University of Manchester. This project aimed to inform the development of spatial policies emerging from the National Spatial Strategy (NSS) aimed at finding optimal ways in which to accommodate Ireland’s growing population in a manner consistent with balanced regional development and environmental sustainability. To obtain data and information on settlements, three modes of analysis were adopted. First, for a single city and two villages, both quantitative and qualitative data were collected to provide a comprehensive analysis of the local social, economic and physical environments, track record in enhancing sustainability, current policies in place, and the likelihood of these policies proving successful. Second, for 11 Irish settlements selected to include a range of functions and locations, 29 quantified sustainability indicators were developed and used to compare the level of sustainability achieved by settlements of differing sizes. Third, a review of international literature was undertaken to search for comparable data, models and case studies, so as to provide a context for analysis of Irish data. The framework of significant environmental themes adopted here is taken from recent Irish EPA publications. Results based on all three research methods suggest that on balance larger settlements in the recent past, at present and in the foreseeable future are more likely to create conditions in which sustainability is enhanced. This work provides the basis for a large‐scale three‐year study which commenced in March 2002, which examines the sustainability and future development patterns of settlements in Ireland.



O’Regan, B., Moles, R., Kelly, R., Ravetz, J. and McEvoy, D. (2002), "Developing indicators for the estimation of sustainable settlement size in Ireland", Environmental Management and Health, Vol. 13 No. 5, pp. 450-466.

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