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The Core Strategy & Settlement Hierarchy

Core Strategy

The County Development Plan must include a core strategy. This is a medium to longer term evidence based strategy for the spatial development of the County. The core strategy must demonstrate that the development plan is consistent with national and regional policy particularly in relation to the hierarchy of settlements and the setting of population targets. It must provide a transparent evidence-based rationale for the amount of land zoned for residential and mixed-use zonings.

This map shows the core strategy map included in the current County Development Plan 2016-2022. With the publication of the National Planning Framework and Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy the core strategy for County Wicklow will have to be reviewed.

In particular, it will be necessary to alter the designation, place in the hierarchy and the development strategy for the previously designated ‘growth towns’ of Bray, Wicklow – Rathnew, Arklow, Greystones-Delgany, Newtownmountkennedy and Blesssington to align with the new designations set out in the RSES. The RSES identifies Bray and Wicklow-Rathnew as key towns for the County; below this the County Development Plan will need to categorise towns into either ‘Self-Sustaining Growth Towns’ or ‘Self Sustaining Towns’ based on assessment criteria set out in the RSES.

Core 1


The population of County Wicklow increased from 136,640 in 2011 to 142,425 in 2016. The following table shows the change in population between 2011 and 2016 for Wicklow’s towns[1].

The population profile and the population growth strategy adopted in the new plan will have implications for the types of services required now and in the future, for example childcare facilities, schools, health services and housing for the elderly. The Core Strategy will identify population targets for each of the settlements within the County and for the rural area.

The current population growth target or the county as set out in the 2016 County Development Plan is 176,000 in 2028. The NPF has set a revised target of 164,000 in 2031. Accordingly this will require a change in our population growth strategy going forward.

[1] It should be noted that these are the population figures for these towns based on how the CSO defined the town boundary in the 2016 Census. Wicklow County Council’s boundaries for some of these towns differs quite significantly in some cases from the CSO’s.

Settlement Population Change 2011 – 2016
Wicklow Population 2016 2011 % Change
Bray 32600 31872 2.2
Wicklow - Rathnew 13954 13320 4.8
Greystones - Delgany 18140 17468 3.8
Arklow 13163 13009 1.1
Blessington 5520 5010 10.2
Newtownmountkennedy 2835 2410 17.6
Ashford 1425 1449 -1.7
Aughrim 1442 1364 5.7
Baltinglass 2137 2061 3.7
Carnew 1052 1091 -3.6
Dunlavin 838 830 1
Enniskerry 1889 1811 4.3
Kilcoole 4239 4049 4.7
Rathdrum 1663 1586 4.9
Tinahely 937 970 -3.4
Avoca 771 753 2.4
Donard 196 187 4.8
Kilmacanogue 1042 1028 1.4
Newcastle 924 951 -2.8
Roundwood 948 833 13.8
Shillelagh 337 341 -1.2


Settlement Hierarchy

The Core Strategy must include a settlement hierarchy. The following table sets out the existing settlement hierarchy for County Wicklow. The development plan will have a new settlement hierarchy which reflects the spatial framework set out in the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy.

Settlement Hierarchy in Existing County Development Plan
Level Description Town / Village
1 Consolidation Town Bray
2 Large Growth Town I Wicklow - Rathnew
3 Large Growth Towns II Arklow Greystones-Delgany
4 Moderate Growth Towns Blessington Newtownmountkennedy
5 Small Growth Towns Ashford, Aughrim, Baltinglass, Carnew, Dunlavin, Enniskerry, Kilcoole, Rathdrum, Tinahealy.
6 Rural Towns Avoca, Donard, Kilmacanogue, Newcastle, Roundwood, Shillelagh.
7 Large Villages Barndarrig, Ballinaclash, Coolboy, Glenealy Hollywood, Kilpedder, Willowgrove, Kiltegan, Knockananna, Laragh, Manor-Kilbride, Redcross, Stratford-on-Slaney.
8 Small Villages Annacurragh, Annamoe, Askanagap, Ballyconnell, Ballycoog, Ballyknockan, Ballynacarrig-Brittas Bay, Connary, Coolafancy, Coolattin, Coolkenno, Crossbridge, Donaghmore, Grangecon, Greenan, Johnstown, Kilquiggan, Kirikee, Knockanarrigan, Lackan, Moneystown, Rathdangan, Talbotstown, Thomastown, Valleymount
9 Rural Clusters Ballinglen, Ballyduff, Ballyfolan Ballynultagh, Baltyboys, Boleynass, Barraniskey, Carrigacurra, Crab Lane, Croneyhorn, Davidstown, Glenmalure, Goldenhill, Gorteen, Kilamoat, Kilcarra, Killiskey, Kilmurray (NMKY), Kilmurray (Kilmacanogue), Kingston, Macreddin, Moyne, Mullinacluff, Oldcourt, Park Bridge, Rathmoon, Redwells, Stranakelly, Tomacork, Tomriland.
10 Rural Area All rural areas outside of designated settlements.


The RSES includes a settlement hierarchy for the Region. The new settlement hierarchy for the County must be consistent with the RSES hierarchy and this will require changes to the current hierarchy that is in place. Bray and Wicklow-Rathnew are identified as Key Towns. The new County Development Plan will identify Self-Sustaining Growth Towns, Self-Sustaining Towns and Towns and Villages.

Settlement Hierarchy in Existing County Development Plan
Settlement Typology Description Area
    Met Core Gateway
Dublin City and Suburbs International business core with a highly concentrated and diversified employment base and higher order retail, arts, culture and leisure offer. Acts as national transport hub with strong inter and intra-regional connections and an extensive commuter catchment. Dublin City and suburbs    
Regional Growth Centres Regional Growth Centres are large towns with a high level of self-sustaining employment and services that act as regional economic drivers and play a significant role for a wide catchment area.   Drogheda Athlone Dundalk
Key Towns Large economically active service and/or county towns that provide employment for their surrounding areas and with high-quality transport links and the capacity to act as growth drivers to complement the Regional Growth Centres. Bray
Self-Sustaining Growth Towns Self-Sustaining Growth Towns with a moderate level of jobs and services – includes sub-county market towns and commuter towns with good transport links and capacity for continued commensurate growth to become more self-sustaining. To be definied by development plans
Self-Sustaining Towns ii) Self-Sustaining Towns with high levels of population growth and a weak employment base which are reliant on other areas for employment and/or services and which require targeted ‘catch up’ investment to become more self-sustaining. To be definied by development plans
Towns and Villages   To be definied by development plans
Rural   To be definied by development plans


Compact Growth

An efficient use of land is essential for sustainable development. The National Planning Framework (NPF) acknowledges that the physical format of urban development is one of our greatest national development challenges and identified compact growth as one of the National Strategic Outcomes. This entails delivering a greater proportion of residential development and other development within existing built-up area of settlements and moving away from a reliance on greenfield development to meet our development needs. Creating more compact development has been traditionally more difficult to achieve than a continuous process of pushing development onto Greenfield locations.

Specifically the NPF requires that 30% of all new homes will be delivered within the existing built up footprint of settlements. This applies to all scales of settlements within the County, from large towns to villages. This will require making better use of underutilised land including infill and brownfield sites.

Core 2

What do you think?

  • What is the best designation for your town?
  • What towns and villages should be promoted for population growth?
  • Do you think your town has the capacity to sustain more housing growth? If so, why?
  • Do you think that the level of housing development in your town has been matched by adequate infrastructure and services?
  • What are the service shortfalls in your area?
  • How should we deliver compact growth in each of the County’s towns and villages?
  • What is required to make our towns more self-sustaining?