Village Design Statement Programme
The Heritage Council’s National Village Design Statement (VDS) Programme provides an opportunity for meaningful public participation in the Irish planning system. The first phase of the programme, VDS: Programme I took place between 2000 and 2007, the current phase of the programme, VDS: Programme II, began in 2008, the VDS Toolkit was launched in 2012.
During the Celtic Tiger years, Irish small towns and villages faced enormous pressure for change. Rural villages in the east and urban villages within our towns and cities, particularly within Leinster, were under enormous pressure for development. Conversely, long established villages in the West faced significant problems associated with population migration and a parallel decline and decay of the built heritage.
In response to these forces for change, the Heritage Council introduced the VDS Programme in 2000 with a particular emphasis placed on the conservation and management of local heritage. The focus of these early VDSs was to raise public awareness of heritage assets and to provide design guidelines to enhance and protect local distinctiveness and local heritage features.
A Sense of Place
Our unique history and identity have provided us with villages whose street patterns today reflect the layout of early medieval monastic settlements, villages from the Plantation Period, ones that are planned estate villages dating from the 18th and 19th centuries, and others that are framed around long-established, if often now lost, industries. These settlements were also important market and social centres for the surrounding rural catchment areas. As a result, the sense of place created by a village’s cultural heritage links directly to a community’s sense of identity, which can ultimately enhance people’s overall sense of being and belonging and quality of life.
Our small towns and villages have for a long time created a significant sense of regional, and sometimes very local, character, based on the natural, built and cultural heritage. Put simply, each Irish village is distinctive in its own unique way. A village in the West of Ireland such as Tulla is clearly different from a village located in the East such as Julianstown or Slane, Co. Meath. One village may be focused around a central green space, e.g. Malin, Co. Donegal or Tyrrellpass, Co. Westmeath, while another will be clearly linear in pattern and layout, e.g. Glassan, Co. Westmeath.