Wicklow County Councillors have voted this week to impose distance restrictions between fast-food outlets and children facilities including schools and playgrounds in an aim to tackling rising obesity. This means that no new fast-food outlets will be allowed to open within 400 metres of the gates and boundaries of schools and playgrounds in Wicklow once the County Development plan has been finalised later this year. The move came following a campaign by parents of a Wicklow school to prevent the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant in Greystones and the introduction of “No Fry” zones in County Wexford and Fingal and Dun Laoghaire in Dublin.

The decision of Wicklow County Council is likely to have a knock on effect on other county development plans as the rise in obesity amongst Ireland’s younger generation begins to reach crisis point. This means the amendment to numerous development plans across the country and leads the question as to what a Development Plan actually is?

Local Authorities are required to create a Development Plan based on Ireland’s planning laws and national and regional guidelines that will guide the future growth and development of each county. A development plan details the overall strategy of a county council for the proper planning and sustainable development of an area and generally consists of a written statement and accompanying maps. The plan usually includes the broad aims of the council for specific topics, including housing, infrastructure, community facilities which are reinforced by more detailed policies and objectives. The development plan will provide the main public statement of planning policies and objectives at county level. These policies and objectives can often be vital in the determining of the appropriate location and form of different types of development as a development plan is one of the factors against which planning applications are assessed.

The preparation and finalisation of a development plan is carried out in three distinct stages:

  • Pre-Draft Plan Consultation (invites submissions and observations);
  • Preparation of the Draft Plan; and
  • Material Alterations.

Once the material alterations have been considered by a county’s elected members they will be finalised and the development plan will be made. From the date of official effect of the development plan it will be used in the determination of all planning applications in that particular county from the operational date.