02. Core & Settlement Strategy

opendate_range23 Dec, 2020, 9:00am - 16 Mar, 2021, 4:00pm


2.1   Introduction

The Core Strategy and Settlement Strategy for the County Development Plan has been prepared through extensive collaboration between the Forward Planning team, Elected Members and all relevant sections of the Council. It has also been informed by the National Planning Framework (NPF), the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) for the Northern and Western Region, the UN Sustainable Goals and the Strategic Economic Drivers influencing the sustainable future growth of County Mayo over the lifetime of the plan and beyond. 

The challenge is to build on the unique dispersed settlement characteristics of Mayo, in order to provide a balance, link and synergy between the rural countryside and urban settlements of the County.  This will be realised through the following vision for County Mayo and the strategic aims set out below.

2.2   Vision of County Mayo

To create a sustainable and competitive county that supports the health and well-being of the people of Mayo, providing an attractive destination, as a place in which to live, work, invest, do business and visit, offering high quality employment and educational opportunities within strong and vibrant sustainable communities, whilst ensuring a transition to a low carbon and climate resilient county that supports high environmental quality.’

2.3   Strategic Aims

The strategic aims which relate to the advancement of this vision, are set out hereunder for each chapter of Volume 1 of the County Development Plan. The Plan aims to build on previous successes and to strengthen Mayo’s strategic advantage as a county, to ensure that we meet the needs of our citizens, communities, built and natural environments, infrastructure and economic/employment development to their full potential, while combatting and adapting to climate change.

  • Housing - To facilitate the sustainable growth of all rural areas, towns and villages throughout the county by seeking to accommodate, as far as possible, all persons in their choices to live in our rural areas, towns and villages; by supporting and strengthening the rural economy to sustain vibrant rural communities and by promoting consolidation and compact development of all urban and rural settlements in an attractive setting that provides a suitable mix of housing with supporting amenities; and by ensuring coordinated investment in infrastructure that will support economic competitiveness and create a high quality living and working environment.
  • Economic Development - To promote and enhance Mayo’s economic development potential through increased resilience in the county’s enterprise, underpinned by talent and innovation, thereby ensuring that Mayo is best placed to excel in the long-term delivery of sustainable jobs and an enhanced standard of living for all.
  • Tourism Development - To develop Mayo as a leading tourism destination through continued sustainable expansion of the tourism sector, with a focus on creating high-quality visitor services and the continued development and enhancement of visitor attractions and activities, capitalising on our natural and cultural heritage assets, whilst safeguarding these resources for future generations.
  • Movement and Transport - To support increased use of sustainable modes of transport; the integration of spatial planning with transport planning; enhanced county and regional accessibility; the transition to a low carbon energy efficient transport system; and the development of a safer, more efficient, effective and connected transport system within Mayo.
  • Infrastructural Development - To protect, improve and provide water, wastewater, surface water and flood alleviation services throughout the county, and to facilitate the provision of high quality information communication technology, broadband, telecommunication information and electricity network required to support and enhance the key aims of best place to live, work, visit and invest.
  • Sustainable Communities - To develop and support vibrant sustainable communities in Mayo where people can live, work and enjoy access to a wide range of community, health, educational facilities and amenities, suitable to all ages and needs, in both urban and rural areas, thereby supporting a high quality of life for all to enjoy.
  • Built Environment - To recognise and enhance the unique identity, character and built heritage of Mayo's towns, village and rural areas, to improve quality of life through the application of healthy placemaking, underpinned by good urban design with the creation of attractive public spaces that are vibrant, distinctive, safe and accessible and which promote and facilitate positive social interaction.
  • Natural Environment - Continue to protect and enhance the county’s natural heritage and biodiversity and ensure that networks of green and blue infrastructure are identified, created, protected and enhanced to provide a wide range of environmental, social and economic benefits to communities; To also improve the knowledge and understanding of the county’s landscape and coast, and enhance the overall characteristics, qualities and diversity of landscape character, its sense of place and local distinctiveness in recognition of the amenity potential of the county.
  • Climate Action and Renewable Energy - To transition to a low carbon and climate resilient county, with an emphasis on reduction in energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions, through a combination of effective mitigation and adaptation responses to climate change; in addition to maximising the opportunities to become a national leader in renewable energy generation, whilst increasing the resilience of our Natural and Cultural Capital to climate change by planning and implementing appropriate adaptation measure.
  • Settlements - To develop Mayo's settlements as a network of attractive, livable towns and villages in the county with sustainable levels of population, employment activity and enhanced levels of amenity which encourage a high quality of life and well-being and support a sustainable synergy with the rural countryside.

2.4   Cross-Cutting Themes

The following cross-cutting themes also inform the plan:

  • Sustainable Communities
  • Placemaking
  • Social Inclusion
  • Regeneration
  • Green Infrastructure
  • Climate Action

These six-key cross-cutting principles reflect the three pillars of sustainability: Social, Environmental and Economic. The policy context and central objective of this plan is people focussed, recognising that ‘quality of life’ encapsulates strong economic output and stability, good environmental performance and a good standard of living for all, through the creation of healthy, sustainable and attractive places to live, work, invest and visit.

MapDescription automatically generatedMap 2.1: Strategic Economic Drivers in County Mayo.

2.5   Strategic Economic Drivers with County Mayo

The core and settlement strategies are shaped by the key strategic economic drivers within the county and the wider region. These strategic economic drivers have the potential to drive real transformational change for Mayo, making the county one of the most attractive places to live, work, invest and visit in Ireland. Map 2.1 above illustrates the spatial influence of the strategic economic drivers for County Mayo. The map highlights the influence of the Coastal Corridor to the west and north of the county; the influence of the Atlantic Economic Corridor to the east of the county, including Ireland West Airport Knock and its economic Strategic Development Zone; and the influence of Economic Growth Clusters corridors to the south and through the central reach of the county. The increase of ‘Smarter-working’ options such as remote working and co-working hubs also has real potential to sustain strong and vibrant rural communities throughout the county.

2.5.1   Coastal Zone Corridor

County Mayo has an extensive and varied coastline, which is one of the most valuable and sensitive resources in the county. Coastal areas also support a diverse array of related industries such as fisheries and aquaculture, tourism, shipping and gas industries, which generate enormous economic productivity. The Wild Atlantic Way has also been an important initiative that has showcased how the natural beauty of this landscape has contributed to the economic development of the coastal corridor in recent years. Significant potential exists to harness the marine resources along the County Mayo coastline for recreation and leisure; transport; renewable energy; and appropriate industry. Mayo is strategically located to grow the ‘blue economy’ not only in County Mayo but also at a regional and national level. Economic growth in the marine sector also has the potential to create employment and increase prosperity in all parts of the County, most particularly in coastal communities

2.5.2   Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC)   

Mayo is strategically located along the Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC). The AEC aims to combine the economic hubs, clusters and catchments of the area to attract investment, improve competitiveness, support job creation and contribute to an improved quality of life for the people who live there.  The AEC has significant potential for future economic growth of/in County Mayo and wider region. The advancement of Mayo’s economic growth clusters; Ireland West Airport Knock and its Strategic Development Zone; key capital infrastructural projects under Project 2040; and the potential future reopening of the Western Rail Corridor will all consolidate the AEC. The success of the AEC initiative will attract more enterprise and people to the county and the region, progressing balanced regional development, whilst sustaining strong and vibrant communities.

2.5.3   Ireland West Airport Knock (IWAK) and Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) 

Ireland West Airport Knock acts as a magnet to draw people and investment to the county and the region, driving economic activity in the form of business and investment as well as tourism and travel. The airport acts as an international gateway to the West of Ireland as well as the North, North West and Midlands areas. The role of IWAK as a county and regional driver has been further enhanced through the designation of IWAK as an economic Strategic Development Zone (SDZ). The SDZ secures the future development and expansion of the airport and surrounding lands and will form an enterprise and employment hub for the region.

2.5.4   Growth Clusters

The economic development of Mayo will be further enhanced through the development of economic growth clusters for Castlebar-Westport; Ballina and its catchment; and Ballinrobe-Ballyhaunis-Claremorris. These economic growth clusters seek to harness and develop the complementary strengths and synergies between the settlements and their functional hinterland, to create highly connected centres of scale, with the necessary critical mass, in terms of population and employment, to enable them to compete and grow to fulfil their potential and drive regional and national development in tandem with regional and national policy.

2.5.5   Smarter-Working

The growth of digitalisation and the rising accessibility of new technology is having a significant influence on where people live and work. Flexible, smarter-working options such as remote working at home or in a co-working space within a local town or village, will play a critical role in maintaining strong and vibrant rural communities in County Mayo over the plan period and beyond. Such options will retain and attract skilled workers to live, work and invest in Mayo, driving sustainable economic activity, building communities and supporting the transition to a greener economy.

2.6   Strategic County Development Plan Objectives

The overarching strategic county development plan objectives, as set out hereunder, are predominantly underpinned by the strategic aims of the Mayo County Development Plan 2021-2027 and the Mayo County Council’s Corporate Plan 2019-2024.

Strategic County Development Plan Objectives

SO 1

Population Growth

To plan for a population increase in County Mayo during the plan period of 15,200 persons

SO 2

Quality of Life for Citizens and Communities

To promote the well-being and quality of life of all citizens and communities in Mayo and to enhance the attractiveness of the county as a place in which to live, work, visit, invest in and enjoy.

SO 3

Employment and Investment

To support employment, encourage enterprise, maximise investment and create an environment that will establish Mayo as a premier investment location, capitalising on the county’s existing and emerging key economic drivers, such as the Coastal Corridor and Marine Environment, the Atlantic Economic Corridor, Ireland West Airport Knock (IWAK),  the IWAK Strategic Development Zone and the Economic Growth Clusters of Ballina, Castlebar-Westport, Ballinrobe, Ballyhaunis and Claremorris and Ballina-Killala.

SO 4

Low Carbon and Climate Resilient County

To transition to a low carbon and climate resilient county, by promoting sustainable settlement patterns, the integration of land-use and sustainable modes of transport,  encouraging walking, cycling and public transport, increasing reliance on green energy sources, encouraging urban and rural communities to facilitate effective change and by building climate change resilience and climate action into all services and functions of Mayo County Council.

SO 5

Development of Sustainable Communities

To support and develop sustainable communities and a competitive county that enhances the health and wellbeing of our people and places from rural to urban, with access to employment opportunities, accessibility to high quality housing and physical, social and community infrastructure, including quality transport infrastructure and new digital technologies, where people of all ages can enjoy a good quality of life and a sense of pride in their place.

SO 6

Inclusive Society

To promote and assist an inclusive county, to ensure that all people of Mayo have access to the range of resources to allow them to fully participate in their local communities, to tackle poverty and social exclusion.

SO 7

Protection of Natural and Built Environment

To create a sustainable Mayo that protects and enhances the natural and built environment, which underpins Mayo’s unique identity, environmental character and quality of life and also creates a vibrant county that is an attractive destination for business and enterprise, tourists, residents of the county and creative industries alike.

SO 8

Supporting Rural Areas

To promote the role of Mayo’s rural countryside, by developing a sustainable synergy between the rural area and network of settlements, enhancing the rural economy with improved connectivity, broadband, rural economic development opportunities and smarter working opportunities, all within the context of the sustainable management of land and resources

SO 9

Appropriate Assessment, Strategic Environmental Assessment and Strategic Flood Risk Assessment

a) To ensure the assessment of all planning applications in the Plan area have regard to the information, data and requirements of the Appropriate Assessment Natura Impact Report, SEA Environmental Report and Strategic Flood Risk Assessment Report contained in Volume 5 of the Mayo CDP 2021-2027

b) To require project planning to be fully informed by ecological and environmental constraints at the earliest stage of project development and any necessary assessment to be undertaken, including assessments of disturbance to species protected under the Wildlife Act and/or the Flora Protection Act.

c) To comply with the objectives and requirements of the Habitats Directive, specifically Article 6(3) and where necessary 6(4), Birds, Water Framework, and all other relevant EU Directives and all relevant transposing national legislation.

d) Ensure that proposals for developments located within identified or potential flood risk areas, or which may exacerbate the risk of flooding elsewhere, are assessed in accordance with the provisions of the Flood Risk Management Guidelines (DoEHLG/OPW 2009) and Circular PL2/2014 (or any updated/superseding document), the relevant policies, objectives and guidelines within this plan and shall also take account of the National CFRAM Programme Flood Hazard Mapping and Flood Risk Management Plans when they become available.

 SO 10

Implementation of National and Regional Objectives

To contribute and progress, as practicable, towards achievement of the National Strategic Objectives of Project 2040, the Regional Growth Ambitions of the Northern and Western Regional Assembly’s RSES, and the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

SO 11

Urban Renewal and Regeneration

Continue to enhance the towns and villages of County Mayo, through renewal and regeneration, improvements to public realm infrastructure, healthy place-making and by improving the visual amenity, urban design, viability, vibrancy of these areas so that people can live, work and invest in the these areas.

SO 12

Integrated Land Use and Transportation Planning

Integrate land use planning and sustainable transportation planning, promote the consolidation of development, encourage sustainable travel patterns by reducing the need to travel particularly by private transport, while prioritising walking, cycling and public transport.

2.7   Core Strategy

The Core Strategy is intended to set out high level policy to direct the future spatial development of County Mayo, consistent with the NPF, RSES and the Planning Acts. Under the Act, a Core Strategy focuses on:

  • Defining a settlement hierarchy for the County that is consistent with the NPF and RSES.
  • Transposing the prescribed NPF and RSES housing and population targets set at county level for the rural and urban centres identified within the settlement hierarchy.
  • Providing an evidence-based rationale for the land proposed to be zoned for residential and mixed-use development, having regard to the capacity of existing zoned land and the phasing of development and taking account of the location of public transport and services.
  • Demonstrating how the Planning Authority has had regard to the statutory Retail Planning Guidelines in setting out objectives for retail development.

Mayo is a rural county with a dispersed settlement pattern which is reflective of Mayo’s agrarian history and which demonstrates the relationship between Mayo people and the rural countryside.  The Core Strategy underpins and builds on this rural settlement pattern, whilst strengthening the role played by the towns and villages in establishing a sustainable synergy between both rural and urban areas of the county.  The Core Strategy provides a sustainable choice for development between rural and urban areas, increasing the attractiveness of Mayo as a place to live, work, visit and invest

2.7.1   Population Projections for County Mayo

The Implementation Roadmap for the NPF highlights the Governments focus on achieving alignment between national, regional and local planning policy and practice. The Roadmap provides transitional population projections at a regional and county scale, in order to inform Development Plans for the period 2026 and 2031 (Table 2.1). It also sets out mechanisms to assist Development Plans in addressing the six-year period up to 2026/2027.The transitional population projections from the Roadmap for Mayo are listed below:

Transitional Population Projections for County Mayo







Table 2.1 Transitional Population Projections for County Mayo

2.7.2   Population Scenarios at Settlement/County Level

Several population growth scenarios were examined in formulating a settlement strategy for Mayo[1]. The growth scenarios reviewed the key determinants of birth, death and migration rate in the county up to the period 2031, including non-policy-based intervention and policy-based intervention scenarios. The non-intervention scenario does not envisage any policy-based intervention but instead assumes the continuation of the prevailing trends in mortality, fertility and migration. The policy intervention scenario utilises an interpolated forecast of population and assumes a level of policy-based interaction.  This scenario was chosen as it aligns with the NPF implementation roadmap population targets. Specifically, the scenario aligns with the NPF projected higher population growth rate for the county, and this is achieved by developing complementary policies and objectives devised to retain 30% of the population that would otherwise migrate out of the county.  A central tenet of the chosen scenario is the inclusion of complementary policies and objectives in the plan to enhance the attractiveness of the county for remote working, smarter work practices, and the provision of infrastructure at appropriate locations and scale to facilitate same.

2.7.3   Population Targets for County Mayo

Utilising the policy intervention scenario, which is aimed at reducing migration out of the county and Increasing migration into Mayo, the population target for the Plan period to 2027 is set out below in Table 2.2.

Population Target for County Mayo



Increase (%)



15,200 (+11.6)

Table 2.2 Population Targets for County Mayo

The key principle of the Core Strategy is to build on the unique dispersed settlement characteristics of Mayo. In order to provide a balance, link and synergy between the rural countryside and urban settlements of the county, the population ratio between rural and urban will be targeted at 60:40.

Target Population Ratio to 2027


Rural (60%)

Urban (40%)

Total (100%)




Table 2.3 Targeted Population Ratio to 2027

2.7.4   Housing Land Requirements 

The national and regional NPF Implementation Roadmap population targets account for 50% more growth (headroom) than is required up to 2026/27. Therefore, there is limited further requirement for ‘headroom’ for population growth to be incorporated into statutory development plans in most cases.  Projected population growth should be planned in accordance with NPF requirements. These requirements target a minimum of 30% of all new development on infill and brownfield sites within the existing built footprint of urban settlements of over 1,500, with a minimum of 20% of all development on infill and brownfield sites within the existing built footprint of rural settlements. In this regard, lands have only been identified in the Core Strategy for development that can connect to existing development services, i.e. road and footpath access including public lighting, foul sewer drainage, surface water drainage and water supply, for which there is service capacity available, and can therefore accommodate new development. These lands are also positioned within the existing built-up footprint of established settlements or contiguous to existing developed lands.

2.7.5   Average Household Size  

The Census 2016 data indicates that Mayo has a population to household size of 2.62, which is lower than the state average of 2.75. However, the NPF states that this state average is expected to decline to around 2.5 by 2040, while also acknowledging that household sizes in urban areas tend to be smaller than in the suburbs or rural parts of the country. In line with this projected trend, a graduated average household size is utilised within this plan to 2040. As shown in the Housing Strategy (Volume 4), in 2027, the average household size is thus projected to be 2.56. By applying the relevant household size to projected population increases, it is possible to forecast required household numbers to 2027 and beyond. 

2.7.6   Household Composition  

As set out in Section 6.6 of the NPF, information on household composition and projections in relation to household size are informative evidence inputs that can assist with understanding stock profile pressures. Analysis of the historic household sizes (i.e. household size cohort per household from the historic Census data) has therefore been undertaken to help discern and forecast how the composition of households may change during the plan period and is presented in the Housing Strategy (see Volume 4). This analysis (as summarised in Figure 2.1) demonstrates a trend towards 1 and 2 person households over the plan period, which are projected to form a combined total of 62.1% of all households by 2027. In contrast, the number of households comprising of 4 people or more will continue to decline between 2021-2027. Households with four or more people will amount to approximately 22.6% of total households by 2027.