6. Rural Development

6   Rural Development

Strategic Aim: To manage rural change and guide development to ensure vibrant and sustainable rural areas. 

6.1   Introduction

As can be seen from the results of the 2011 Census, County Kilkenny is still predominantly a rural county.  Sixty three percent of the county’s population live in rural areas[1].  In 2011 a total of 7.3% of Kilkenny’s labour force was classified into Broad Industrial Group A – Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing, compared with 4.1% nationally[2]

The Council recognises the need to manage rural change and to guide development and will work to:

  • Maintain and enhance the existing rural community to ensure vibrant sustainable rural areas,
  • Improve the attractiveness of the built environment in rural towns and villages as places in which to work and live and as locations for industry, services and tourism investment.
  • Ensure that the rural environment will be respected and that development in rural areas will take place in a sustainable manner
  • Promote a broad concept of rural development and not one based solely on agriculture or other dominant natural resource and encourage the sustainable development of resources in such sectors as agriculture, tourism including agri-tourism, forestry, farm diversification, and renewable energy resources.

6.2   Agriculture

Agriculture is a vital part of the economic life of the County and is a major driver for sustaining, enhancing and maintaining the rural economy and culture.  In recent years agriculture has contributed to the growth in export revenue.

Kilkenny has a well established agri-food sector with food and drink production and processing representing a sizeable proportion of the local economy.  The major companies operating in this sector within the county are Glanbia PLC and Connollys Redmills, complemented by an emerging artisan food producer base of approximately 40 micro and medium sized food producers.

6.2.1   Food Harvest 2020

The Food Harvest 2020 report[3] is a strategy for the medium-term development of the agri-food (including drinks), fisheries and forestry sector for the period to 2020. The Report sets out targets to achieve by 2020 relating to increases in the value of agri-food.  These financial targets are underpinned by the following sectoral targets:

• 50% increase in milk production

• 20% increase in value of beef output

• 20% increase in value of sheep output

• 50% increase in value of pigmeat output

• 10% increase in value of poultry output

• 78% increase in aquaculture production

 The Council will support the expansion of agriculture to meet these sectoral targets. 

Sustainable agricultural practices will be encouraged to ensure that development does not impinge on the visual amenity of the countryside and that watercourses, and areas of ecological importance are protected from the threat of pollution.  The implementation of schemes such as the Rural Environment Protection Scheme and the Agri-Environment Options Scheme will be supported. 

6.2.2   Equine

The Council recognises the role and importance of the equine industry and in particular the breeding, rearing and training of thoroughbred horses and will support the improvement and expansion of the equine industry within the county.

6.2.3   Diversification

Farming has been diversifying into areas such as horticulture, forestry and agri-tourism.  The Council will support the development of agriculturally related industries, which are environmentally sustainable and considered a suitable use, subject to the protection of heritage and amenities.  In particular, the Council will encourage the conversion of redundant farm buildings of vernacular importance for appropriate owner-run enterprises. Further detail on economic development within rural areas is included in Chapter 4 Economic Development. 

6.2.4   Development Management Standards

  • A high standard of design and maintenance will be required in all developments in rural areas. 
  • Agriculture developments will be constructed and located so as to ensure that there is no threat of pollution to ground or surface waters. 
  • Buildings and structures in visually sensitive areas will be required to:

o             be sited as unobtrusively as possible;

o             be clustered to form a distinct and unified feature in the landscape;

o             utilise suitable materials and colours; and

o             utilise native species in screen planting

6.3   Fishing

The Barrow, Nore and Suir are historically renowned as premier salmon and coarse fishing rivers in Ireland although salmon fishing no longer takes place on the River Barrow.  The Kings River is also an important fishing river.  Fishing remains an important natural resource for the county which has potential for development in its own right and as a resource for tourism development.  Fishing as a resource can assist in the development of tourism within the county and in rural diversification and appropriate angling-related tourism, fish farming and mariculture will be encouraged.  The Council will liaise with and facilitate the Southern Fisheries Board in this regard. 

6.3.1   Development Management Standards

  • Require that adequate provisions are made to accommodate free upstream and downstream migration of all fish in development proposals.
  • Protection of water quality will be a primary consideration in relation to assessing development proposals.


6.4   Extractive Industries

The County had a large lead–zinc deposit at Galmoy, which was worked as Galmoy mines, but which is now closed.  There are numerous sand and gravel and stone resources within the County currently in operation.  The Council recognises the importance of extractive industries to the local and national economy as valuable sources of raw material for industry in general and the construction industry in particular and as an important source of employment.  However the industry can have serious detrimental impacts on the landscape and amenities generally, including traffic generation, vibration, dust, noise, water pollution and visual intrusion.  Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Quarries and Ancillary Activities[4] were published in 2004. 


6.4.1   Aggregate Potential Mapping

As part of a National Development Plan funded programme, Aggregate Potential Mapping (APM) has been carried out by the Geological Survey of Ireland for County Kilkenny[5].  Aggregate consists of any hard, inert material, used in variously-sized fragments, either loose or in bound form, in the building of roads and other construction.  Aggregate in Ireland is acquired from (a) sands and gravels, known as granular, and (b) bedrock which is blasted and crushed in quarries.  The APM has identified both the Granular Aggregate Potential (GAP) and the Crushed Rock Aggregate Potential (CRP). 

The GAP map shows very high potential in the north of the county, along the Rivers Nore, Dinin and Nuenna, see Figure 6.1.  The CRP map shows great variation throughout the county in levels of potential[6], see Figure 6.2.  These maps are acknowledged to be preliminary, as further detailed data can be added to the analysis.   

Because the extraction industry is a very significant industry serving the construction, industrial and energy sectors, it is important to facilitate development, particularly by safeguarding mineral reserves so that inappropriate development does not occur in the vicinity and cause difficulties in exploiting the resource. The Council will therefore seek to safeguard these valuable resources for future extraction.

6.4.2   Development Management Standards

6.5   Forestry

Forestry has direct benefits for local communities through the establishment of plantations, in spin-off effects in support services, through industries ranging from woodcraft to industrial processing, to rural tourism, and contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gases by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 

The Strategic Plan for forestry in Ireland, set out in the document Growing for the Future - A Strategic Plan for the Development of the Forestry Sector in Ireland[10], published in 1996, foresaw the output of timber from Irish forests increasing four-fold between 1996 and 2030.  The Government’s strategy for the development of forestry is to substantially increase the land area under forestry.  According to the Forest Service, 7.8% of the county was in forest cover in 2007[11]. This has increased since then to 9.98% which is a total of 20,573ha in 2011[12].  Nationally, 10.92% of land is under forest cover. 

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Forest Service published an Indicative Forest Statement in 2008[13].  This Forestry Statement provides high-level, national guidance in relation to the suitability of land for afforestation.  It contains a map which gives an overview of all the opportunities and constraints which exist for forestry at a national level. 

Forestry activities must be appropriate in terms of nature and scale to the surrounding area, so that they are not visually obtrusive in the landscape.  The Landscape Character Assessment in Chapter 8 should be consulted to facilitate guidance on areas which contain opportunities for the creation of new woodland and areas which might be sensitive to new forestry proposals. 

The Council will encourage the provision of public access to new forests through walking and bridle paths, recreational areas and other similar facilities, see Chapter 7. 

6.5.1   Sustainable Forest Management (SFM)

Sustainable forest management is the sustainable development and management of forests and forest lands in a way that maintains their biodiversity, productivity, regeneration capacity, vitality and their potential to fulfil now and in the future, relevant ecological, economic and social functions, at local national and global levels and that does not cause damage to other ecosystems.  The Forest Service is implementing SFM with a view to ensuring that all timber produced in Ireland is derived from sustainably managed forests.  This is supported by the Irish National Forest Standard[14], the Code of Best Forest Practice[15] and a suite of environmental guidelines (relating to water quality, landscape, archaeology, biodiversity and harvesting) as well as the work of the Forestry Inspectorate and the ongoing review of Irish forest legislation.

To ensure that SFM is implemented, the Forest Service published a suite of six Guidelines as follows:


6.5.2   Development Management Standard

  • To have regard to the Indicative Forest Statement and the suite of Forest Service Guidelines in the assessment of any forestry applications.
  • To encourage sustainable forest management and require a diversity of species in afforestation proposals and in particular to require a proportion of all new forestry development to consist of native hardwood species in order to extend the range of potential end uses and to reduce the potential for adverse impact on the landscape resulting from monoculture.

6.6   Rural Transport

Bus services are particularly important in low-population density, dispersed, rural areas, where population mobility levels can be low.  Rural transport projects, such as ‘Ring-a-Link’, have a key role to play in providing public transport services, particularly in peripheral areas, and in providing access to the services located in towns. Ring-a-Link is a rural transport initiative which serves rural communities in County Kilkenny. This community-based rural transport service provides flexible, door to door services to meet the needs of people who cannot access public or private transport locally.

Rural bus services play a vital social role in urban and rural communities, linking rural areas with settlements and essential services, such as schools and healthcare facilities. Bus services, both public and private, will continue to be the principal form of public transportation service in the region. To improve the effectiveness of rural transport services, the following measures are required:-

(a) Improved connectivity to inter-regional bus services at connection points.

(b) Development and use of new technology to support demand response services.

The Council will support and facilitate local and community based initiatives, to provide rural transport services within the County. This will improve accessibility and promote social inclusion.


[1] CSO 2011, Population by Area, Table 3: Persons, males and females in the aggregate town and aggregate rural areas of each province, county and city and the percentage of the population in the aggregate town area

[2] CSO 2011, Profile 3, At Work - Employment, Occupations and Industry Table 3: Persons aged 15 years and over at work in each county and city, classified by broad industrial group (NACE Rev. 2)



[3] Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Food Harvest 2020, A vision for Irish agri-food and fisheries, 2010

[4] Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Quarries and Ancillary Activities, Guidelines for Planning Authorities, 2004

[6] The maps are available for viewing on the GSI’s website here

[7] Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Quarries and Ancillary Activities, Guidelines for Planning Authorities, 2004

[8] Irish Concrete Federation, Environmental Code, 2005

[11] Forest Service, National Forest Inventory, 2007

[12] Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Forest Service, Afforestation Statistics, 2011

[13] Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Forest Service, Indicative Forest Statement, 2008

[14] Department of Marine and Natural Resources, Forest Service, Irish National Forest Standard, 2000

[15] Department of Marine and Natural Resources, Forest Service, Code of Best Forest Practice, Ireland, 2000


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