Developers are being banned from tacking Dublin-style housing estates onto small rural villages unless they first provide extra schools and facilities for proper public transport.
The radical move by Environment Minister John Gormley yesterday puts him on a direct collision course with hundreds of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael councillors who have been backing developer-led housing at the expense of their local communities.
Tough new guidelines, which must be adhered to by local authorities and An Bord Pleanala, demand that builders must install the infrastructure before they build the houses.
It will be also be illegal for councillors and council planners to ride roughshod over the guidelines.
Mr Gormley is taking on developers who have made a fortune at the expense of small rural communities hit by a rapidly increasing population in areas without adequate infrastructure to cope.
He is also reining in councillors who give the green light to unsustainable, inappropriate housing which makes a fortune for developers, but leaves locals picking up the cost in the form of traffic jams, overcrowded schools, poor water quality, and sometimes flooding where houses are built on flood plains.
Councillors will be furious at Mr Gormley's legal move to curb their planning free-for-all.
Hundreds of small villages around the country have seen an explosion of Dublin-style suburban housing estates without adequate provision for schools, public transport or even adequate roads or lighting and are now playing catch-up.
New families are being forced to commute long distances for work and school on dangerous unsuitable, clogged roads
In an unprecedented move a letter will be sent to every local authority from the Environment Minister ordering them to have regard to the guidelines.
And, in a follow up move, the minister is introducing legislation making it illegal for councillors or council planners to breach the guidelines.
Mr Gormley yesterday launched new draft new planning guidelines on sustainable residential development in urban areas
He also released a best practice urban design manual for local authorities which illustrates how the guidelines can be implemented across the different types of development around the country.
The aim is to provide better quality houses and more sustainable communities.
By 2020, the population of Dublin city is expected to increase by 12pc to almost 1.5 million, Cork city by 25pc to almost 150,000 people, Galway city by 45pc to 105,000 people and Mallow, which is currently a medium-sized town, could double to almost 20,000 people over the period.
Mr Gormley said yesterday that an ever-expanding footprint of our urban areas is not sustainable into the future.
The target was to provide high-density development only in the right locations which are well serviced in terms of public transport and community facilities and also built to the highest possible standards.
The Irish Planning Institute (IPI) last night praised the guidelines, particularly the attempt to secure better co-ordination between the development of new housing and the provision of essential infrastructure, such as schools and other social facilities.
But county councillors dismissed the Minister's plans as "tinkering around the edges" of a system in crisis.
Councillor Tom Kelleher, president of the Association of County and City Councils said local authorities need funding and resources to provide adequate infrastructure.
Treacy Hogan Environment Correspondent
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