1.0 Galway Metropolitan Area

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“Metropolitan Galway will be the driver of sustainable growth in the Northern and Western Region, providing a choice of housing typologies together with excellent public transport, employment, community, leisure and amenity facilities in a healthy environment that will attract the critical mass of population needed to support the establishment of strong local communities and ensure a strong local and regional economy”

1.1    Introduction

The National Planning Framework (NPF) is the strategic plan for shaping the future growth and development of the country to the year 2040 and establishes the Metropolitan Area of Galway. The NPF includes a national planning objective NPO 67 to prepare a Metropolitan Area Strategic Plan (MASP) for Galway through the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) process.

The Northern and Western Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) includes a high-level Metropolitan Area Strategic Plan for Galway. This sets out the strategic direction for the Metropolitan Area to achieve compact growth which is the first national strategic outcome (NSO) of the National Planning Framework. 

Within the RSES, ‘Placemaking’ is identified as a priority that will underpin the growth framework and ensure synergy between investments and planning for strategic interventions and maximise returns for ‘People and Place’. ‘Compact growth will be pursued to ensure sustainable growth of more compact urban and rural settlements, supported by jobs, houses, services and amenities, rather than continued sprawl and unplanned, uneconomic growth.’The concept of Placemaking and Urban Living is discussed in further detail in Chapter 3.

The Galway Metropolitan Area, the subject of the MASP, is illustrated below in Figure 1 and extends from Bearna in the west to include Galway City and suburbs and continuing eastwards to Baile Chláir and Oranmore. The eastern Metropolitan Area includes planned growth areas at Ardaun, Garraun and Briarhill. 

Garraun and Briarhill are identified as key strategic growth areas within County Galway that will contribute significantly to meeting the aspirations of the NPF and RSES.  Urban Framework Plans have been prepared by Galway County Council for both Garraun and Briarhill and are included in Section 3 of this plan.

The role of the Metropolitan Area is to accommodate population growth within the area that will ensure the vitality and appeal of Galway City and the surrounding towns and village settlements. A robust Metropolitan Area, incorporating high quality and integrated physical infrastructure and community facilities will strengthen the role of the Northern and Western region and help it to compete at a national level.

1.2    Strategic Aims

The Metropolitan Area Strategic Plan will have a pivotal function in the development of the Northern and Western region, ensuring capacity to accommodate significant population and employment  growth as set out in the NPF and RSES. This can be achieved as follows:

  • Supporting development in the Metropolitan Area that will deliver housing for the projected population by 2028;
  • Supporting the economic potential of the Metropolitan Area, including the development of the lands at the former Airport site and the employment zoned lands at Garraun;
  • Ensuring compact growth and consolidation within the Metropolitan settlements of Baile Chláir, Bearna and Oranmore and the planned growth areas at Briarhill and Garraun;
  • Leading a co-ordinated approach to the provision of infrastructure that facilitates compact and sustainable growth;
  • Aligning growth with existing and emerging public transport infrastructure and services, together with a focus of ensuring ‘10 minute’ walkable settlements;
  • Ensuring growth is consolidated with convenient access to established and planned employment, retail, community and amenity areas;
  • Promotion of regeneration as well as development of urban settlements in a manner that consolidated and enhances the identity, appeal and vitality of settlements as attractive places to live, work and invest.

1.3    Document Structure

There are three key components of this volume 2 which have been outlined below:

  • Section 1: This section contains the general outline of the County Metropolitan Area and policy objectives that apply throughout this area with a Land Use Matrix Table;
  • Section 2: This section provides the narrative for each of the MASP settlements, Baile Chláir,  Bearna & Oranmore with specific policy objectives and Land Use Zoning Maps for each settlement;
  • Section 3:  Details the Urban Framework Plans for Briarhill and Garraun, with associated policy objectives and Land Use Zoning Maps.

1.4    Galway Metropolitan Area

The establishment of the Galway Metropolitan Area, spanning the administrative areas of Galway City and County Galway, affords an opportunity for the co-ordination of growth and investment across both administrative areas that will secure the long-term future of the Metropolitan Area.

Analysis of the 2016 census confirms a significant population living outside the city administrative area who travel into the city on a daily basis for work or education. Similarly, there are people traveling from the city to the county. People living in the Galway Metropolitan Area and beyond already benefit from synergies and collaboration between both Local Authorities and other Statutory Agencies, including road, rail and wastewater infrastructure as well as health, education, employment, community facilities and other social infrastructure.

As the population of Northern and Western Region grows in accordance with the NPF and RSES, it is anticipated that a substantial proportion of the increased population will be located within the county Metropolitan Area where there is greater availability of development land with access to the city. The ultimate success of the Metropolitan Area depends on a co-ordinated and planned approach to securing investment for the delivery of essential infrastructure, services and community facilities.

Figure 1: Overview of MASP

1.5    Population Projections for County Galway Metropolitan Area

As outlined in NPO 68 of the NPF, the county Metropolitan Area could accommodate up to 20% of the projected population growth for the principal city and suburban area in addition to growth targeted for the county Metropolitan Area.

As set out in the RSES, population targets for the Galway Metropolitan Area are as follows:





Galway MASP




City and Suburbs




County Galway Metropolitan Area




Table 1.1 Population Projections from RSES

As identified in Chapter 2 Core Strategy, Settlement Hierarchy and Housing Strategy the population allocation for the MASP is in accordance with the RSES population targets. While the above table identifies population targets for 2026 and 2031, the lifetime of the Galway County Development Plan is 2022-2028, the population has been pro rata for the additional two years between 2026-2028 as follows:




County Galway Metropolitan Area



Table 1.2 Population for County Metropolitan Area

Table 2.1 in Chapter 2 Core Strategy, Settlement Strategy and Housing Strategy illustrates the population allocation of each settlement and growth area identified within the county Metropolitan Area. These correlate with the strategic growth areas identified in the RSES. The table below illustrates the population allocation as follows:


Census 2011

Census 2016

Population Projection 2022-2028

Baile Chláir




















Table 1.3              Population Allocation for Settlements and Growth Areas

*Urban Framework Plans

1.6    Density and Typology

Both the NPF and the RSES seek to accommodate compact residential development in proximity to infrastructure such as public transport corridors. Higher density levels will be promoted adjacent to public transport corridors as appropriate. Densities applied to the metropolitan settlements will be sufficient to accommodate the projected population growth up to 2028 and beyond. However, densities will vary across the metropolitan area to take account of site context. A Density Typology Study will be undertaken during the lifetime of the plan to identify the optimum range of building forms and densities that will deliver the objectives of the NFP and RSES in the settlements, including Garraun and Briarhill. This is also discussed in Chapter 3 Placemaking, Regeneration and Urban Living.

1.7    Tall Buildings

Compact growth is set to be achieved through more efficient use of land and careful consideration of higher density development. Taller buildings also have a role to play in this regard. It is anticipated that taller buildings will be considered at Metropolitan settlements where they contribute to their metropolitan role and ‘Placemaking’. This is discussed further in Chapter 3 Placemaking, Regeneration and Urban Living.

1.8    Connectivity within the Galway Metropolitan Area

Connectivity between Galway city and the county Metropolitan Area is already well established and is evidence of the inherent relationship and synergy between the two administrative areas.

The Galway Transport Strategy (GTS) was prepared in conjunction with both Galway City and Galway County Council.  The National Transport Strategy 2016 identified a range of priorities for public transport improvements across the Metropolitan Area as well as construction of the N6 GCRR. Implementation of these measures is key to establishing the Metropolitan Area on the ground and to supporting compact growth as anticipated by the NPF and the RSES.

A key driver of successful and appealing compact growth in the Metropolitan Area will be the incorporation of strong connections within and between adjoining settlements and to and from employment areas, the city and amenity areas. Convenient and safe mobility alternatives will enable future populations to live with reduced dependency on private transport and with consequent benefits in combating climate change, living in healthier and more vibrant localities and with reduced monthly outgoings. A sustainable transport development model also establishes more inclusive and equitable communities.

The eastern Metropolitan Area already has the building blocks for the establishment of a highly connected metropolitan edge between the city and the countryside. Oranmore Train Station at Garraun is to be upgraded from a single to a twin platform station and a passing loop will facilitate doubling the frequency of train services between Athenry and Galway city. Oranmore train station will be the catalyst for sustainable travel within the eastern Metropolitan Area with opportunities for dedicated walking and cycling links as well as local bus services connecting people from Oranmore, Garraun, Ardaun and Briarhill to the railway and onwards to the city, or eastwards to Athenry and beyond.

The Metropolitan settlements can be connected via a north-south green corridor that provide attractive and safe routes within and between settlements as well as connecting with the primary east-west road and rail infrastructure and public transport services. Forward planning and early delivery of the north-south green link will underpin the future sustainable mobility profile of the eastern Metropolitan Area and further influence how development within these settlements is designed, delivered and used. The Urban Framework Plans for both Garraun and Briarhill have already anticipated this link and co-ordination between Galway City Council and Galway County Council can ensure this green link is also continued through Ardaun.

1.9    Growth Potential of the County Galway Metropolitan Area

As outlined in section 1.5, the population of the county Metropolitan Area is expected to grow significantly under the NPF and the RSES. This section provides an overview of the projected residential units and quantum of lands that will be required as per the core strategy outlined in Chapter 2 Core Strategy, Settlement Hierarchy and Housing Strategy.


 Census 2016

Population Projection

Residential Units

Potential Residential units within Town Centres

Quantum of Residential Lands required(ha)

Baile Chlair






























Table 2.4              Projected growth in population and settlement structure

*Urban Framework Plan (See Section 3 of this Metropolitan Plan)

Compact growth as set out in the NPF, is an intrinsic part of proper planning and sustainable development of urban settlements and will provide the optimum benefit from investment as well as ensuring establishment of appealing and healthy settlements. Compact settlements will derive greater value from investment in public transport, water and waste water infrastructure, and the provision of    and for employment and community facilities is essential to support the establishment of communities rather than dormitories.

As outlined in Sections 2 and 3, each of the settlement and Urban Framework Plan areas have been examined in the context of planning for compact growth to ensure alignment with the principles of the NPF and RSES .

1.9.1 Residential Potential

The Galway Metropolitan Area includes the city and its suburbs as well as a range of town settlements that are in the county area. The county towns include a broad range of residential dwelling types, from large detached properties set within large plots at the edge of settlements to apartment buildings that have been constructed in the last twenty years. Suburban style housing is also characteristic and ranges in design, style and age from the 1970’s to present day.

The population of the eastern Metropolitan Area has grown significantly in recent years and is attributed to the attractive living environment including a wide range of local services and amenities, together with access to Galway city and the main employment areas on the eastern side of the city at Parkmore and Oranmore.  These characteristics, together with access to the coast at Oranmore Bay and the wider rural landscape, offer exceptional potential for planned future growth.

As set out above, the planned upgrade of Oranmore train station will provide a significant public transport facility that will be a Growth Enabler for the eastern Metropolitan Area. Pedestrian, cycle and local bus services will allow connections between the eastern Metropolitan settlements and the railway line. The area around the train station has been designated as a Strategic Reserve Area under the Oranmore Local Area Plan 2012-2022 and a transport led Urban Framework Plan has been prepared for these lands at Garraun. Garraun, as set out in Section 3, will be a high quality compact new settlement area centred on an existing train station and will offer excellence in urban lifestyle incorporating immediate access to public transport as well as a host of community facilities and other amenities. Garraun will epitomise the growth objectives of the NPF and RSES to align growth with public transport facilities, including NPO 64 of the NPF that promotes integrated land use and spatial planning and public transport as more favourable mode of transport to the private car.

Quality of living is fundamental to compact living, and Sections 2 and 3 below describe how compact growth will be subject to good quality and integrated design being employed that provides a high standard of living and residential amenity.

Consolidation of existing settlements will also be promoted to develop brownfield and infill sites so as to enhance the vitality of the settlements. Oranmore has limited availability in this regard however Bearna and Baile Chláir have opportunity for delivering growth through consolidation.

1.9.2 Town Centres and Retail

Town centres are important focal points for each of the settlements and are the traditional location for trading of goods and services. They also provide an important and valued source of employment in each respective area.  While the retail function of town centres has been challenged in recent years, consolidation of these centre including the development of brownfield and infill sites and the provision of local and community facilities will contribute to revitalising these centres.

Chapter 3 Placemaking, Regeneration and Urban Living puts significant emphasis on ‘Placemaking’ as a means of enhancing and maintaining the vibrancy and appeal of the town centres as places that will provide an attractive quality of life. This is in accordance with NPO 4 of the NPF which seeks to ensure the creation of attractive, liveable, well designed, high quality urban places that are home to diverse and integrated communities that enjoy a high quality of life and wellbeing. The town centre areas in Metropolitan County Galway vary in size scale and function and the approach to sustainable regeneration must be tailored to each town.

Along with commercial services the town centres are also established locations for providing entertainment, healthcare and community uses such as places of worship. This myriad of uses makes for increased footfall which encourages improvements in public realm and other physical infrastructure.

As well as being attractive and vibrant places to work and visit, each town centre within the Metropolitan Area must be accessible to all by a variety of sustainable modes of transport. With that in mind, residential areas and employment sites must be well connected to the town centres, ideally by means of walking, cycling or public transport. The town centres must prioritise visitors who travel on foot and those with impaired mobility. This sustainable approach would be in accordance with RPO 4.46 of the RSES which encourages new retail developments to locate close to public transport corridors to enable sustainable travel to and from town centres.

The ever-changing town centres of Metropolitan County Galway are zoned for town centre type uses where a sequential approach will be applied in accordance with the Retail Planning Guidelines and RPO 4.45 of the RSES.  Town centre uses include a mix of commercial with residential uses, usually on the upper floors of commercial buildings.  As such, town centre living will be encouraged to improve vibrancy and provide a town centre-based community to maintain the traditional living over the shop that has historically been a feature in towns and villages all over Ireland.  This would be in compliance with NPO 6 of the NPF which states in relation to town centre locations that they can accommodate roles and functions, increased residential population and employment and enhanced levels of amenity and design quality.

The planned settlements at Garraun and Briarhill will complement rather than compete with existing settlements. Re-use of Metropolitan town centre buildings will be encouraged, and any public realm improvement works to town centres will be supported and funding streams will be utilised where available whether this is through the URDF or other similar regeneration funding programme.

1.9.3 Economic and Enterprise Development

The Metropolitan Area of County Galway includes and is adjacent to significant tracts of employment lands within the Galway City and County administrative area. It is envisaged as identified in Chapter 5 Economic, Enterprise and Retail that this area will be a major focal point for employment development. The existing employment centres especially on the eastern side of Galway city provide a sustainable, competitive and robust employment base serving the populations of the city and county and beyond. It is therefore considered that this employment base should be advanced further with appropriate lands zoned for employment uses and in tandem the residential growth should also occur in proximity to this employment bases in the settlements referred to above. The identification of these employment lands is in accordance with the RSES and specifically RPO 3.6.5 which seeks to support the delivery of lands for employment uses at Briarhill, Parkmore, former Airport lands and Oranmore, including Garraun.  As detailed in Sections 2 and 3 it is considered that the settlements and Garraun and Briarhill will be attractive, dynamic and cutting-edge locations that have an integrated and modern provision of infrastructure, set within desirable living environments in which local, national and international companies will want to locate. 

As outlined in Section 1.4 above there are trips generated from the county into the city every day for work purposes, however analysis undertaken with the results of the CSO 2016 census there are trips from the city and suburbs to the metropolitan settlements of Baile Chláir and Oranmore. The findings also indicated there are trips to other parts of the county namely Athenry which has been identified as an area of Strategic Potential in the RSES as well as the Key Towns of Tuam and Ballinasloe

In addition to the lands zoned for various employment uses in the settlements and Urban Framework Plan areas there has also been a study carried out on the employment potential of the former Galway Airport Land, which is attached in Appendix A in Chapter 5 Economic, Enterprise and Retail Development. The study has identified that there is significant potential for long-term employment generation on these brown field lands that would be of sufficient scale and appeal to attract large scale business, employment and research investment to Galway that could have a significant national and international appeal. This is detailed further in Chapter 5.

The Metropolitan Area straddles the Strategic Economic Corridor and the Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC). These areas promote employment development in Galway in the case of the Strategic Economic Corridor and the western counties in the case of the AEC. Chapter 5 Economic, Enterprise and Retail provides greater detail on these areas.  In addition, in Chapter 15 Development Management Standards there are provisions for reduced car parking spaces for employment uses within the County Metropolitan Area and a Traffic Mobility Plan will be required to be submitted for new or existing employment developments.

1.9.4 Community Facilities

Provision of community facilities and social infrastructure within settlements will be an essential component of the compact growth envisaged with the Metropolitan Area to underpin the growth and establishment of vibrant and healthy communities.

The NPF recognises that compact living centres can more readily facilitate the effective provision of a wider range of accessible services to the local community. Quality childcare, education and healthcare services will be a key component of each settlement and will complement the larger scale services that are provided jointly across Galway City and County and are accessible from the metropolitan settlements.

RPO 3.6.10 of the RSES supports the delivery of childcare, education, community and health services in tandem with residential and employment development. In the MASP of area County Galway co-location of creches with other uses such as schools or within employment sites or close to residential areas will be supported to reduce journey numbers and create a pleasant living environment for existing and future inhabitants.

The existing settlements and Urban Framework Plans within the Metropolitan Area have been considered and planned with RPO 9.1 of the RSES in mind which states that inclusive and compact places should be built by accommodating growth and delivering housing through compact growth where housing opportunities are close to schools, community facilities, health facilities, shopping and employment. 

For the most part, the provision of community facilities will be provided by developers in agreement with the relevant stakeholders.  Funding for the provision and improvement of community facilities will be sought out where possible.

1.9.5 Open Space/Green Infrastructure

Along with access to community facilities such as sports grounds, community centres, libraries, creches and schools there is also a requirement for passive open space that provides access to the natural environment and open countryside within the metropolitan hinterland.  Open space affords many benefits to an area including the provision of an attractive and healthy environment for those living and visiting the area and also supporting wildlife and biodiversity.  The provision of open space also has the effect of protecting high amenity and scenic locations in the metropolitan area as set out in the Landscape Character Assessment for the county and within Chapter 7 Tourism and Landscape.

As illustrated also on figure 2 above there are complimentary green areas/open spaces that are utilised by residents and visitors across the two administrative areas. A key priority of this plan is the promotion of a Metropolitan network of open spaces, parks, green corridors and trails.  As identified in RPO 3.6.13 of the RSES there is support for the delivery of a strategic Greenway Network for the areas to include the National Dublin to Galway Cycleway.  Oranmore to Bearna Coastal Greenway and the Galway to Clifden Greenway. The importance of green infrastructure is outlined further in Chapter 9 Natural Heritage, Biodiversity and Green Infrastructure.