The Skehan/Sirr plan

Re: The Skehan/Sirr plan

Postby gunter » Sun Nov 08, 2009 8:43 pm

It might be over a year since we talked about this, but I suspect that the thinking behind the Skeehan/Sirr Plan has filtered into the local authority mindset at a high level and I think I detect it's presence in the 'Core Strategy' of the draft new Dublin City Development Plan [2011 -17]

3.2.2.1 Making Dublin the Heart of the City Region.


[INDENT]''It is of crucial importance that Dublin, as the national gateway, employing almost half a million people, generates the critical mass to operate as a city region in Europe and worldwide. Dublin must operate effectively at regional, national and international level to attract creative talent and foreign investment. It is only by developing a strong city region, with polycentric economic clusters around a central city core that the necessary critical mass to compete and collaborate with other cities can be achieved''.[/INDENT]
Despite multiple, and very welcome, references in the new Development Plan to the need to create a ''compact city'' when it comes to key tracts in the Core Strategy, 'City' is replaced by 'City region' . . . . with 'infrastructural corridors' leaking urban density into the surrounding counties, like old fashioned ribbon development.

The gist of the Skeehan/Sirr planning analysis, as I understand it, was that current government policy on regional development and spatial planning on this island is all an exercise in futility, because it fails to recognise that the forces associated with inward investment, as well as the inherent demographic forces have, and will continue to, concentrate growth, and demand for growth, on the east coast and specifically in the greater Dublin region.

From that analysis, the Skeehan/Sirr strategy concluded that national resources should now be switched to planning for ''that future that is more likely to happen'' than trying to plan, and allocate resources, to a regional strategy that is hopelessly out of sync with reality.

On one level, there's an awful lot of sense in that, . . . for a start nobody wants to see scarce resources allocated to regional planning projects that may have more to do with constituency consolidation than addressing real needs, but the fundamental point is: should Planning be reactive, or should Planning be pro-active.

The Skeehan/Sirr Plan is reactive IMO, it analyses what is happening and proposes to react to the patterns of development that are clearly evident on the ground by tweaking them here and there to make them happen in a more planned way.

I would argue that 'Planning' needs to be much more aggressive than that. 'Planning' needs to take 'development' by the scruff of the neck. 'Planning' is the best tool we have yet we only ever seem to want to use it to sharpen zoning pencils. 'Planning' should be about envisaging the future, showing people what that vision is, and making sure that that's where we actually go and not some tame duplicate of where we'd go anyway, . . . . if there wasn't any 'Planning'.

All the good things in the draft new Dublin City Development Plan will amount to nothing, if we fudge the issue of whether Dublin is a city, or Dublin is a region.

Image
interpretation of the National Spatial Strategy in the draft Dublin City Development Plan
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Dublin at the crosswords

Postby keating » Mon Nov 09, 2009 2:33 pm

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Re: Dublin at the crosswords

Postby gunter » Mon Nov 09, 2009 6:06 pm

keating wrote:. . . . In his own words


That is an extraordinary presentation from the big man . . . . why are we just hearing about this now?

. . . . keating
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Re: The Skehan/Sirr plan

Postby gunter » Tue Nov 10, 2009 2:09 pm

Dublin at the crossroads

Conor Skehan is head of the 'Futures Academy' in Bolton Street and was head and shoulders above anyone else on the Bolton Street staff when I was there in the 80s.

That doesn't mean he's right :rolleyes:

The gist of his presentation . . . . . for anyone too lazy to view the YouTube clip posted by keating, . . . . . is summed up is this declaration:

[INDENT]''Ireland has virtually no chance of facing up to the extraordinary global challenges that are facing us, . . . . and if we are to have any chance at all, the only chance we have is to develop the only urban card we have to play, which is the city region, on the east coast, with a population of 2 or 3 million people.

That region has almost no chance if it continues to see itself as a city, it has only a chance if it starts to get it's act together and starts to act as a region''.[/INDENT]

That's the opening salvo in Dr Skehan's presentation to a group of visibly shell-shocked environmentalists in the YouTube clip from July. Skehan goes on to challenge our assumptions on everything from the eastern bypass to inner city car parks, global warming, falling polar bear numbers, the lot.

Skehan may be a bicycle toting, Brent geese loving, dyed in the woolly jumper, environmentalist, but that doesn't stop him letting the air out of the global warming bubble with a withering series of flat-line graphs that echo like an empty hostel dormitory being de-bunked.

In a fifteen minute presentation, all of our assumptions are held up, rigorously questioned, and many of them laid bare as groundless, woolly thinking, misdirected hysteria.

All of our assumptions, that is, except that first assumption . . . in line one . . . . the assumption that we are facing . . . . ''extraordinary global challenges''.

If all the other stuff is hysteria, what exactly are the 'extraordinary global challenges' ?

'Dublin at the Crossroads' itself is an assumption. The east coast 'Dublin Region' conurbation thesis is a response to the assumption that we will be living in some kind of new 'compete or die' global economic world where everyone else will have critical mass and we'll be out there on the edge dissipating our resources and dropping off the scope.

The problem with that thesis is that even if we pumped iron for the next twenty years, pumped all the steroids into one vein, we're not ever getting into the ring with Shanghai, or Kuala Lumpur, we're just not in that weight division. Our strength is that we still have a reasonably well balanced island with reasonably well distributed urban centres and despite our best efforts to destroy our environment with bungalows and low-grade urban sprawl, we haven't yet completely deformed the geography of our development patterns by concentrating all the growth on one side.

There's an argument that 'critical mass' itself is the next pseudo-scientific term that needs to be reappraised. Three guys in a room can be 'critical mass', and they don't even have to be in the same room. If globalisation has delivered anything, it's been in slashing communication times and removing the need to all be in the one place. Maybe 'critical mass' in regional terms, as an inward-investment pre-requisite, is an out-dated notion too. If you're a 'knowledge economy' guy in Lucan and I'm a 'knowledge economy' guy in Sandyford, how is that any different than if one of us is in Salthill?

I think we're missing the point here. We have a built environment and a natural environment, with deep inherent value, that we can repair, . . . . if we choose the right options. A lot of our 'competitors' don't have that.
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Re: The Skehan/Sirr plan

Postby reddy » Tue Nov 10, 2009 2:46 pm

Phew - thank God - I feared that everyone thought this guy was talking sense.
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Re: The Skehan/Sirr plan

Postby lostexpectation » Tue Nov 10, 2009 11:15 pm

yet this guy is

Dr. Conor Skehan is Head of the Environment and Planning Department in the School of Spatial Planning at DIT. As Managing Director of a number of environmental consultancies, Dr Skehan has practiced, lectured and published on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) within the planning system since 1989, advising the public and private sectors on the practicalities of assessment, decision-making and their integration with strategic and land-use planning. At DIT, he is now involved in assisting in the implementation of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in Ireland through the provision of training and guidance for agencies and planning authorities as well as collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency in the establishment of good practice in SEA.

so shouldn't we be worried about these projects?

should this guy not just quit and join a think tank...
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Re: The Skehan/Sirr plan

Postby gunter » Wed Nov 11, 2009 10:49 am

I imagine the Futures Academy is a 'think thank'.

What do you understand by the term 'Compact City'?

The term 'Compact City' occurs three times in the first two pages of the draft proposed Dublin City Development Plan 2011 - 17, this is potentially a real breakthrough.

The term doesn't occur in the current Developmt Plan, it's a new term, and it's use suggests a genuine change in thinking.

Here's an extract:

[INDENT]3.2 The Core Strategy to 2017 . . . . comprises 3 strongly interwoven strands, to make Dublin:[/INDENT]

[INDENT]1. A compact, quality, green, well-connected city, which generates a dynamic, mixed use environment for living, working and cultural interaction.

2. A smart city, creating real long term economic recovery.

3. A city of sustainable neighbourhoods and socially inclusive communities. [/INDENT]


No argument with any of that, but then, on the very next page, it starts to go off-message . . . .

Image

What has 'The Naas Road Corridor' got to do with developing a 'Compact City'?

Development Plans aren't used by benign, vision-sharing, philanthropists, they're used by 'scallywags', to use a memorable Conor Skehan term, speculative developers and grasping property owners, who will mercilessly search out any gaps in the joined-up thinking.

The term 'City Region' is in there too, right in the core of the document, the vision statement.

[INDENT]The vision for the city is that;[/INDENT]

[INDENT]''Within the next 25 to 30 years, Dublin will have an established international reputation as one of the most sustainable, dynamic and resourceful city regions in Europe. Dublin, through the shared vision of its citizens and civic leaders, will be a beautiful, compact city, with a distinct character and a vibrant culture and a diverse, smart, green, innovation-based economy. It will be a socially inclusive city of urban neighbourhoods, all connected by an exemplary public transport, cycling and walking system and interwoven with a quality bio-diverse greenspace network. In short, the vision is for a capital city where people will seek to live, work and experience as matter of choice''[/INDENT]
I don't buy this 'City Region' idea, I think it's the opposite of the 'Compact City' idea and if you interchange the terms like this you remove all the 'intent' from the statement of intent and it just becomes a meaningless piece of directionless waffle.
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Re: The Skehan/Sirr plan

Postby missarchi » Wed Nov 11, 2009 11:35 am

words are words...

metro north splitting into 2 on the south side? rte?
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Re: The Skehan/Sirr plan

Postby keating » Thu Nov 12, 2009 9:58 am

Our economic one card trick is soft touch regulation for Foreign direct investment. FDI has very specific requirements, Taxation is a minor factor, labour is the big cost. In order to get talent, they need access to 1 million people within 30 minutes. In Ireland we have localised agglomerations of specialist sectors. However none of these sectors can thrive in Ireland at the moment. Hanover Re couldn't find 1000 actuaries to work in Dublin, Johnsons Pharma couldn't locate in Galway because it couldnt provide clean water and now the whole north west of Dublin has reached maximum capacity for waste water, fresh water and power and our planning system failed to identify zones for these essential services as evidenced by the difficulties in the North East power lines. How and Where will we generate wealth in the future. We have a green knowledge economy plan, its politics not policy. Policy is steering the boat, implementation is rowing, we don't do implementation, no wonder we're getting nowhere.

Quality of life is a big attractor for talent and a good education system for the kids of these high paid professionals is a major attraction. Our cities lack the cultural and lifestyle attractions of our compeditor cities. We have never had the conversation of what type of city we want. A creative dynamic city, because our system of governance inhibits vision.

Our city has no revenue, no money =no power. It is divided into four municipalities with no cross cutting functions outside of waste. The cities functional area extends from Gorey to Cavan town, but yet the hinterland controls the city. The midlands political dynasties drive policy for the City. The inertia in the political system has hamstrung our ability to have a dynamic creative global city. Its funny that Cork with one tenth the population of Dublin is emerging as a second tier global city. Its a city of education, Its well planned, Cork is such a big county that it acts like a miniature region. The city and councils make plans coherently and most importantly its planning supports the city and towns. Maybe we should make Cork the new capital, its might be an idea if only cork people could be tolerated.

How will we generate wealth 'going forward' with our wealth creators living in mcMansions 20 minutes from the nearest town? We need to reevaluate how we can global city regions from a rural political base.
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Re: The Skehan/Sirr plan

Postby gunter » Sun Nov 15, 2009 11:49 pm

keating wrote:Our economic one card trick is soft touch regulation for Foreign Direct Investment. FDI has very specific requirements, Taxation is a minor factor, labour is the big cost. In order to get talent, they need access to 1 million people within 30 minutes.


I've heard that ''1 million people within 30 minutes'' equation before, It seems to be part of the paraphernalia of the Foreign-Direct-Investment circus. Personally I've no idea whether it's a fundamental truth, or a piece of fluff, . . . but I suspect it's a piece of fluff.

Ok, we know there are location criteria, investment thresholds. Your average, planet-devouring, global corporation probably does indeed have a check list, with tick-boxes on it, when it comes to stick a pin in the map for it's new squillion dollar techno-facility, but are we sure that this is the same check list we want to use to guide our spatial planning, to guide our urban development?

Do we really want to try and out-do Mombai, by trying to re-inventing the Pale as an east-coast conurbation, a 'city-region' planned around a population meter, and a global investment model that will probably have changed long before we've concreted over the last acre of Meath.

The vision of the future that the Skehan/Sirr Plan provided, by all accounts, did rock the political boat last year, but ironically not because it proposed a radical alternative vision for the future development of this island, but because it let the cat out of the bag and told people exactly what we'll end up with if we continue on the path we're on.

We just can't afford to fudge this issue, we either drift towards an east-coast conurbation, with or without a veneer of planning, or we put down a serious marker that we're going to address urban sprawl, once and for all, and pursue a new vision of compact and distinct urban centres served by high speed transportation and information connections.

keating wrote:Quality of life is a big attractor for talent and a good education system for the kids of these high paid professionals is a major attraction. Our cities lack the cultural and lifestyle attractions of our compeditor cities. We have never had the conversation of what type of city we want. A creative dynamic city, because our system of governance inhibits vision.


Good points keating. I sense that DCC are working on the vision thing, but the attempts to home in on a vision are being diluted by this 'city region' notion lurking in the background, and an unwillingness to really deal with the discipline that will be necessary if we want to deliver on the 'compact city' idea.
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Re: The Skehan/Sirr plan

Postby missarchi » Mon Nov 16, 2009 8:44 am

It's all very simple you draw a red line... and share some functions of different authorities...
amend the building regulations and yadda yadda yadda
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Re: Dublin at the crosswords

Postby gunter » Wed Dec 02, 2009 11:27 am



Worth posting again that link to the Conor Skehan presentation we talked about before

Did anyone catch some of that climate change fist-fight on Pat Kenny this morning? . . . . great stuff :). Have to look up a link to that later.

The problem I have with this ''man is causing climate change'' argument is that I want it to be true, just to jolt us into cleaning up our act, but at the same time, I hate people shoving orthodoxy down my throat, especially nasty, unpleasant, people like that Irish Times scribe.

Did anyone see that bizarre juxtaposition of climate change articles in the Irish Times on Nov. 19?

''Kenny stirs up bogus climate change debate'' by the same scribe [John Gibbons] and right next to it ''Myths of Global Warming Skilfully debunked'' a book review of ''The Real Global Warming Disaster'' by Christopher Booker.

All very comical, lets hope nothing important is at stake :rolleyes:
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Re: The Skehan/Sirr plan

Postby gunter » Tue Oct 05, 2010 12:01 pm

Growth cannot happen everywhere, says architect calling for emphasis on Dublin

from The Irish Times

Ireland’s economic recovery is being damaged by the delusion that growth can happen everywhere under the National Spatial Strategy, according to a leading landscape architect and planning consultant. Addressing the annual conference of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI), Dr Conor Skehan said “misplaced notions of ‘fairness’ are doing untold damage to Ireland by pretending to offer something for everyone in the audience”. With the economy “in freefall”, the Government needed to “start being realistic and not give people false expectations that there’ll ever be an Intel plant in Castlebar”, when in reality Dublin was the only internationally competitive city we have. Describing Westport as “an artifact” and Dublin as “an organism”, Dr Skehan said official thinking “needs to move to the correct scale”. And while there were Ministers for the Gaeltacht and rural affairs, he complained that there was no minister for Dublin. Dr Edgar Morgenroth, of the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), told the conference that “parish pump politics tends to dominate”, with often bruising competition between different towns. “They can’t all have a university or an international airport,” he said.

There are two propositions here:

1. That the government don't understand urban dynamics and are capable of exploiting that happy ignorance by promoting development growth in hopelessly unsuitable places . . . . . - which is probably true, and . . .

2. That, when it comes to the field of international competition for inward global investment, Dublin is the only card that this country has to play . . . . - which people who know about these things will tell us is also probably true.

What Conor Skehan would have us do with these two propositions is fuse them together into a national planning strategy and that's where I think future gazing could benefit from some historical perspective.

Consider Britain at the close of the 17th century, on the cusp of empire:

Britain had one mega-city, London, which is estimated to have had a population of circa 1.2 million in 1700. The next biggest city in England at the time was probably Norwich, with a population of something like 25,000. London at the time is estimated to have controlled 80% of all British trade. For the next fifty years, London continued to grow exponentially while the title of second city of England was fought over by places like Bristol and York, with barely 50,000 inhabitants.

Did this impede, or pre-determine, the growth and development of Britain? . . . . . . .

. . . apparently not.

In 18th century Britain, an agricultural revolution was quickly followed by an industrial revolution and within little more than a century, half a dozen British cities from Glasgow in the north to Liverpool and Manchester in the north-west to Birmingham in the midlands, had risen to rival the scale and dynamism of London and had effectively balanced out the development map of Britain.

What I would attempt to learn from this is that ''planning for a future that is more likely to happen'', which is the Skehan mantra, is actually a blinkered mindset that, if it were allowed to become policy, could be as damaging as the haphazard planning free-for-all that we have now.

The alternative strategy should not be about promising Intel plants to Castlebar, it should be about reinforcing the urban dynamism of the already beautifully distributed regional cities of Ireland:- Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Derry [if we're being inclusive]. The rightful place of towns like Castlebar, Westport and Ennis etc. in the planning and development pecking order is in secondary orbit around their own regional city where the growth and prosperity of the city has a knock-on effect on the prosperity of the setelite town.

Focusing on a Dublin-centric strategy for the future development of this country would supplant what's left of the reasonably well distributed pattern of urban growth that we've inherited and would have only one lasting consequence, in my opinion, the suburbanization of the east coast.

Not allowing that to happen is what 'Planning' should be all about.
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Re: The Skehan/Sirr plan

Postby onq » Fri Oct 15, 2010 6:06 pm

With a strategy like that Gunter you're running two arguments - distributed urban densification around historic centres and building world-class capital.
There is a third, currently playing at Adamstown - build entirely new urban centres, defined in scope, "sprawl-proof" as far as they go, and build more of them as the need arises.

There is the need to concentrate growth to allow specialization and centres of excellence to occur in our capital to allow it to compete on equal terms with other world capitals.
This needs strength in depth to achieve it, not just the odd token "harp" masquerading as a bridge or a tipping beer glass masquerading as a convention centre.
Cultural and historical diversity supporting communities and tourism industries may be the growth engines in other centres.
But remember there is a world class producer of medical "yokes" somewhere down in Cork that doesn't need to be sat beside Trinity or UCD to do its business or expand it.
So let;s not overplay the need for physical proximity in the era of video conferencing and skype phones.

More important is the generation of in-country competition between secondary and yes even tertiary centres.
You can view the Tidy Towns awards as a form of grass roots version of this at a basic level, but there is no reason why the National Spatial strategy cannot be slimmed down a little, but still create competition between centres at all levels.
This urge to compete and be better than the next fellow is endemic to the national character as anyone who has ever watched a GAA season will tell you.
Instead of Skehan's criticism of people's expectations, we need to manage people's dreams better and treading lightly on them in a recession is a better approach.

Conor's problem always seemed to be that he was one of the smartest guys in the room, but in my experience "very smart" does not equate to "comes up with good ideas" or "understands the effect he has on people".
That having been said, the National Spatial Strategy *is* a joke, with centres for this that and the other scattered around the country like a pin cushion.
Some of Skehan's comment *do* need to be taken on board, because otherwise some centres won't reach critical mass.

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Re: The Skehan/Sirr plan

Postby gunter » Sun Oct 17, 2010 11:08 pm

I don't know about you onq, but I'm completely unconvinced by the Adamstown model. To me the argument for Adamstown sounds very similar to the argument architects use to justify an 'architect designed' one-off house in the countryside, while condemning all other one-off houses in the countryside as bungalow blight. With the same application of seemingly parallel standards, we can decree that a dormitory town is actually a new eco-urban model just by plonking it on one side of an existing railway line, giving it some three storey corners and lots of triple glazing.

Apparently it's not the road to urban sprawl, if it's paved with semi-permeable blocks.

Bottom line though, a better designed satellite town is still a satellite town, it still creates a commuter population outside the city, on farm land, instead of in-filling some of the multiple gaps within the urban core and harnessing that home buying population to bolster the many faltering communities within of the city. If the city was bursting at the seams there would be a case for an Adamstown, but the city is anything but bursting at the seams and the professional classes that have apparently been attracted to Adamstown with it's make believe urbanism, it's shiny train station and it's multi-denominational crèches are the kind of people that should be living on Newmarket and Cork Street and places where urban regeneration is desperately needed.

Predictably we didn't hear too many dissenting voices from among the line-up of architectural practices charged with delivering the crates of plans for Adamstown. The architectural community's commitment to be advocates for good planning and urban values doesn't extend to declining commissions for dormitory towns, and in any case, we have Conor Skehan telling us it's OK because it might be outside Dublin, but it's within 'the Dublin region' and it's going to happen anyway so you might as well do it properly with a bit of design . . . . and take a slice of the action :rolleyes:
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Re: The Skehan/Sirr plan

Postby GrahamH » Mon Oct 18, 2010 12:20 am

Ha funny you should say this. I spent the afternoon thinking precisely the same thing while availing of the newly opened stretch of the Luas Green Line running out to Brides Glen in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains. It is baffling, indeed nigh on frightening, to see the extent to which planners have encouraged this new model of development, based on spurious 'sustainable' grounds through the provision of a light rail line. Vast, high density, dormitory residential developments are clustered, or proposed to be clustered, around light rails stops many miles from Dublin, one of them already with a preposterous 18-storey tower at Central Park, quite literally surrounded by agricultural land. And intended to be surrounded by rural lands, as if building another contained finger of densely developed Copenhagen.

Why would anybody want to, or be encouraged to, live in an urban apartment a tedious, overcrowded and uncomfortable 40 minute journey from Dublin, surrounded by fields, and serviced by a Spar, a hairdressers and a creche? Even if populated by multiple retail units, this in no way accounts to anything even approaching the variety of the urban experience, never mind its social, cultural and economic vibrancy and inherent optimal sustainability. This is Suburban Living Round II and everyone is pulling their hats over their eyes pretending they're living in eco-towns. You might as well be driving from Kells or Sallins.

Yet this is precisely what is also proposed with Metro North - not supporting Dublin, but diluting incentive to built in the city and develop the city, in favour of its hinterlands. Providing a rail line instead of a motorway, and building apartments instead of semi-ds, does not make a sustainable town or a sustainable community - or a town at all for that matter. All of these developments depend on ‘somewhere else’, in most cases Dublin, no matter what. Most people who live there are going to work somewhere else, while the few places that do sustain employment - inevitably through office use - are surely not going to act as home to the same workforce. Who on earth would want to live and work in one of these places? And on a long-term basis?

Long after Frank McDonald’s well-beaten drum about the hoards commuting from Virginia and Laois, when one presumed the message was now tired and well digested, it is extraordinary to see this policy of far-flung dormitory suburbs in the Dublin Mountains being actively pursued as an ‘enlightened’ policy and template for future development. The discussion of the two ladies opposite me on the tram summed matters up concisely when they said they preferred to drive than use the Red Line to Tallaght, as the journey from the city centre – only on an occasional basis - was too arduous and convoluted to make it worthwhile. I would contend that what we are now doing, and proposing to rank up on a vast scale in future years in Dublin’s hinterlands, will be as damaging, if even more destructive, than the crazed planning policy we have pursued over the past two decades. Dublin needs to be condensed, not expanded. We must not allow competing, leeching local authorities to suck the lifeblood out of Dublin for their own ends. As with all cities, the capital needs to be protected from its inherent magnetism and the counties that claim to be serving it.
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Re: The Skehan/Sirr plan

Postby missarchi » Mon Oct 18, 2010 7:26 am

GrahamH wrote:We must not allow competing, leeching local authorities to suck the lifeblood out of Dublin for their own ends. As with all cities, the capital needs to be protected from its inherent magnetism and the counties that claim to be serving it.


Will never happen we bailed out this system...

It's as simple as a red line and one simple formula that would link wages, taxs ect to land/housing...

fixed or variable? oh wait it's a global system...
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Re: The Skehan/Sirr plan

Postby Frank Taylor » Mon Oct 18, 2010 1:58 pm

GrahamH wrote:one of them already with a preposterous 18-storey tower at Central Park, quite literally surrounded by agricultural land.
This tower is surrounded by office blocks a hospital, a hotel and a school. There are thousands of workers, students and patients and hotel guests already located here, and capacity for thousands more. It makes sense to place a railway stop here. There is plenty of landscaped green space around Leopardstown hospital and playing fields around the school but it would be inaccurate to describe this as agricultural land.

Why would anybody want to, or be encouraged to, live in an urban apartment a tedious, overcrowded and uncomfortable 40 minute journey from Dublin, surrounded by fields, and serviced by a Spar, a hairdressers and a creche?
Central Park (stupid name) is 22 minutes from St Stephen's Green. Being within a half hour reliable commute of work and the city is important because we know that people with long commutes tend to be unhappy. http://ideas.repec.org/p/zur/iewwpx/151.html

Even if populated by multiple retail units, this in no way accounts to anything even approaching the variety of the urban experience, never mind its social, cultural and economic vibrancy and inherent optimal sustainability. This is Suburban Living Round II and everyone is pulling their hats over their eyes pretending they're living in eco-towns. You might as well be driving from Kells or Sallins.
Kells is 131km from Dublin. Driving a 262km round trip every day is less sustainable in every way than taking a 22 minute tram journey. Do you really believe there is no difference between these two living patterns?
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Re: The Skehan/Sirr plan

Postby gunter » Mon Oct 18, 2010 5:45 pm

I think these are Graham's central points:

GrahamH wrote:It is baffling . . . . to see the extent to which planners have encouraged this new model of development, based on spurious 'sustainable' grounds through the provision of a light rail line. . . . This is Suburban Living Round II and everyone is pulling their hats over their eyes pretending they're living in eco-towns.

Yet this is precisely what is also proposed with Metro North - not supporting Dublin, but diluting incentive to built in the city and develop the city, in favour of its hinterlands.

Long after Frank McDonald’s well-beaten drum . . . . it is extraordinary to see this policy of far-flung dormitory suburbs in the Dublin Mountains being actively pursued as an ‘enlightened’ policy and template for future development.


All nail-on-the-head stuff as far as I can see.

Frank Taylor wrote:Central Park is 22 minutes from St Stephen's Green. Being within a half hour reliable commute of work and the city is important because we know that people with long commutes tend to be unhappy.

Kells is 131km from Dublin. Driving a 262km round trip every day is less sustainable in every way than taking a 22 minute tram journey. Do you really believe there is no difference between these two living patterns?


OK, but the point is; if people choose to commute to Dublin from Kells, that's bad enough, but to deliberately develop a satellite town like Sandyford, or Adamstown, to urban densities, using urban typologies, and sell it using urban imagery, this is a planning obscenity when huge tracts of the city remain squandered to low grade and low density uses.

If there was a shred of strategic planning in this country, places like Sandyford, Adamstown and Cherrywood [whatever that is] would never have got beyond being a glint in a property developer's eye, but we don't have strategic planning we have some kind of mapping service that seems to think it's role is to record what's happening and facilitate more of it happening by zoning contiguous lands.

We can pretend that if we only had an elected mayor, or a unified metropolitan authority, or a city czar, then everything would change, but I suspect that our problems are much deeper than that. If 90% of Joe Duffy listeners think that the National Children’s Hospitals shouldn't be built in the north inner city, because it'll be too difficult to find a car parking space, the inescapable conclusion is that through our record of tolerating urban decay, botched planning, and crude standards of public realm, we have succeeded in poisoning society against the city and the whole urban project.

We're dealing with a loss of faith, a czar won't be enough to fix this, I think we're going to need a messiah.
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Re: The Skehan/Sirr plan

Postby Frank Taylor » Mon Oct 18, 2010 7:57 pm

gunter wrote:OK, but the point is; if people choose to commute to Dublin from Kells, that's bad enough, but to deliberately develop a satellite town like Sandyford, or Adamstown, to urban densities, using urban typologies, and sell it using urban imagery, this is a planning obscenity when huge tracts of the city remain squandered to low grade and low density uses.
Leopardstown isn't a satellite town. It's a contiguous city suburb 10km from the centre that's now being densified. Which specific area of the city should be developed in preference?

If there was a shred of strategic planning in this country, places like Sandyford, Adamstown and Cherrywood [whatever that is] would never have got beyond being a glint in a property developer's eye, but we don't have strategic planning we have some kind of mapping service that seems to think it's role is to record what's happening and facilitate more of it happening by zoning contiguous lands.
We have endless planners and levels of planning authorities and strategic plans. We have public consultations and professional and political input at every stage. Planning is so detailed that planning permissions come with conditions specifying the texture and colour of paint for the walls of ordinary suburban houses. I can't imagine how we could have any more planning.

We can pretend that if we only had an elected mayor, ...
sorry but that's a strawman

Yes Sandyford Industrial estate looks like it's not the nicest part of Dublin to live in and it won't match the vibrancy of the city centre, but how does it compare with the old 1970s model of living in the surrounding suburban housing estates of Balally or Leopardstown? These places were monumentally boring to live in and by their nature they could not support more than bus transport and sparse public amenities. It could take more than an hour to get into town on a steamy bus and at night there was nothing to do. Very few people had the luxury of working near to home.

In the 70s, Sandyford industrial estate consisted of a number of manufacturing sheds This morphed into low rise offices in the 1990s when there was just one bus out of the estate in the evenings. Now there are separate office and residential developments in Sandyford Business Estate, Stillorgan Industrial Park, South County Business Park, Central Park and Leopardstown Retail Park. There are schools and hospitals and shops and hotels and restaurants. Road and rail links are much improved, the place is even landscaped now and signposted. Every single bit of it was agreed by a local authority planner & a board pleanala board member, All of it was built according to local authority county development plans, local area plans, regional guidelines, national guidelines, & rafts of reports on everything from aesthetics to energy use.
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Re: The Skehan/Sirr plan

Postby gunter » Mon Oct 18, 2010 9:08 pm

Frank Taylor wrote:Leopardstown isn't a satellite town. It's a contiguous city suburb 10km from the centre that's now being densified. Which specific area of the city should be developed in preference?


Leopardstown was a race track and a pitch+putt course, Sandyford was the big smoke, it had a post office and a rural library.

What are the alternatives? Pick anywhere within the Liberties LAP

Frank Taylor wrote:We have endless planners and levels of planning authorities and strategic plans. We have public consultations and professional and political input at every stage. Planning is so detailed that planning permissions come with conditions specifying the texture and colour of paint for the walls of ordinary suburban houses. I can't imagine how we could have any more planning.


'. . . strategic plans . . .' ??
What strategy is advanced by turning the agricultural lands of Leopardstown and Sandyford into this satellite town/city suburb?

Does it represent an investment in the City? No. Does it contribute to the regeneration of the city? No. Does it contribute to the coherence of the city? No.

Who gains from the development of these satellite tows/city suburbs?
The city? No. The developers? Yes. The local authorities? Yes

Frank Taylor wrote:There are schools and hospitals and shops and hotels and restaurants.


. . . and all 10km out of the city, great

Frank Taylor wrote:Every single bit of it was agreed by a local authority planner & a board pleanala board member, All of it was built according to local authority county development plans, local area plans, regional guidelines, national guidelines, & rafts of reports on everything from aesthetics to energy use.


Yeh, same with Adamstown. What you describe is where we are. That's not in dispute. What's in dispute is whether this is sane or insane.
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Re: The Skehan/Sirr plan

Postby GrahamH » Tue Oct 19, 2010 11:04 pm

That sums it up really. This distance to these places is not in dispute Frank - though the end destination of Brides Glen where development is proposed is a full 40 minutes from St. Stephen's Green - rather it is the commuting model it generates. Indeed, the fact that this line was paid for, or eventually will be paid for, by private developers merely confirms the developer-led nature of this 'planning'. I reject the notion that this even is planning - a 13 year old in geography class can come up with a case study of light rail line and 'clusters' or 'hubs' of development around stations. But it is not real planning in a comprehensive, rounded sense, based on principles of building communities around local employment, services, leisure and recreational facilities, nor about caring for the health of the nation's capital. Yes, these hubs may have an office block or three and an hotel, suggesting town or urban status, but token speculative ventures mixed in with overwhelmingly residential content does not make a sustainable town. They still depend on somewhere else to make living there bearable.

I'm not saying we're the only ones struggling with this - many European cities are using the same model as we speak, with soulless, planned high density residential suburbs with a token office building connected by a purpose-built rail line to the nearby urban centre. But at least the urban centre in question is generally vibrant, dense and well populated - Dublin city is not. And these new suburbs, if dull, are at least cycling and highly family friendly, making strong nods towards sustainability. This I would wager is not the case in the Dublin instance.

Furthermore, at Brides Glen, a vast park and ride facility has been built to cater for the immediate residential population who still need to drive there, but also the vast swathe of one-off housing and low density housing estates built over the past thirty years in the hinterlands. The line actively encourages long distance commuting to Dublin city and in turn negates the development potential of the city it claims to serve. In addition to the journey times mentioned earlier, even the 22 minutes from Central Park quoted by Frank, add at least ten minutes at either end to that for real door-to-door commuting time, and it tips over the comfortable 30 minute commute recognised internationally. The stations further beyond this point, and if aided by a car, can easily tip over an hour. Compare the same journey within the city from home door to office door - not to mention the potential to be done by bicycle - and the contrast is marked.

Brian Cowen stated at the opening that: “This new extension of the Green Luas Line is a further development in our infrastructure investment programme which offers sustainable public transport and paves the way for the creation of a fully integrated network.” Neither of the two principal points can be said to be true. Indeed, if this line could only have been built by public money, very simply it would never have been built. Because it should not have been built if we were serious about consolidating Dublin city. An 'integrated network' would involve the rollout of Luas within the city. This disintegrates whatever limited network Dublin has, and the chances for a better one.
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Re: The Skehan/Sirr plan

Postby jimg » Thu Oct 21, 2010 9:57 pm

Well observed Graham. I struggled to make a similar point myself on a different forum about a year or two ago but found it difficult to express it convincingly. I tried attacking the circularity in the reasoning used to justify the green line extension, metro west and the city west extension; i.e that building along these routes allowed the construction of higher densities which in turn would support for public transport provision. However it's more difficult than you'd think to attack a circular argument; all I could do was ask the question what are we trying to achieve? And point out that public transport was a means to an end not an end in itself.
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Re: The Skehan/Sirr plan

Postby onq » Fri Oct 22, 2010 3:37 pm

Well I have to be honest here guys.

Yes, I have done my fair share of housing estates, three in Gorey, one in Ratoath, none huge, all under 150 units, most in independent private practice.
At the time these were seen as progressive, going well above the previously imposed 6 houses per acre density for rural towns.

Going back further to my earlier incarnation working with another roffice it was all brownfield redevelopment in urban areas, both residential of circa 100 ot 200 units and commercial from 20,000 to 40,000 sq.ft.
Between feasibility studies, designing, building and certifying I have been involved in many urban renewal schemes: one in Parnell Street, one in Merrion Street Upper, two in Barrow Street, two or maybe three in Gardiner Street, one in Fitzwilliam Quay, one in Ushers Quay, one in Arran Quay.

People may have fogotten that the first phase of the Celtic Tiger from 1992 to 2002 was largely concerned with such urban infill schemes.
Perhaps they were/are distracted by the battle of the regional shopping centres of Blanchardstown and Liffey Valley which was also carried on around the same time.

As for the apparent preciousness about new towns, I think that's a kind of intellectual snobbery based on a misunderstanding of people's wants and needs and what a city has come to be.
Irish people prefer houses to apartments, their "own bit of land" - its well known, don't ask me why. Live with it.

A well designed new town will look much like an old town, and a low density new town will still provide the timely provision of services - this is vitally important
Some years back I attended the Smart Growth Workshops in Kevin Street run by Dorothy Stewart under the guidance of Professor Kirk [he of the Power of One Street website].
Rory Deegan, assisant City Planning Officer attended thes workshops also and offered the following comment in relation to the workability of comnuity building through the planning process.
"I can get developers to provide whatever building I want - Garda Station, School, Health Centre - to support a community. But I cannot arrange for any of them to be staffed or run."

The comments to this thread betray the common lack of understanding of many people both within and without the archtiectural profession.
Our own hubris seems to blind us to the fact that our masterpieces merely reflect and support human endeavour and activities. Without the political and local will to build a community, it doesn't happen.
You can redesign the bejaysus out of point blocks and high density social housing [now up to a dizzying four stories in DTA's excellent Santry Demense scheme] but merely offering good buildings is never enough.

The significance of the Luas connection should not be minimised.
Its like broadband is to teh internet - its ahigh volume thread to connect people to a city.
A city, which is something that is more of an idea than a location - a head space where people meet and things happen.

It doesn't matter in real terms whether you're walking 20 minutes from your compact and bijou in Rathmines or commuting for 20 minutes on a LUAS line, in Dublin.
it dosn't matter whether you've walked or taxied in from Chelsea or Kensington or tubed in from Kingsbury in the north, or cycled or driven in from Between the Commons in the south west - its all London.

You identify with the city in terms of distance travelled and your state of mind.
Land use and density can never be the sole determinants of urbanization and certainly not of quality of life.
The idea of architecture and urban form being the sole determinant of urbanisation is a defunct as the idea of nationhood in a globalised society.
And all the time you have to balance the concepts of personal self-sufficiency [see FKL's study on this] with that of self-sufficiency of a civilisation as a whole.

ONQ.
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Re: The Skehan/Sirr plan

Postby gunter » Tue Oct 26, 2010 10:14 pm

You've got a lot of anecdotes there Onq mixed in with quite a few sound bites, what does it all mean?

It seems to me that there's this innate belief in the heart of most architects that bad planning can somehow by nullified if the design of what is badly planned is [supposedly] good enough. Your average architect might know in his soul that the very concept of building a housing estate on the distant outskirts of a distant dormitory town is fundamentally wrong, but within two seconds of taking a phone call asking him to put in a planning application for one, he’ll have managed to turn it around in his head until it presents itself as a design challenge, a simple matter of raising the density of dwellings per acre and upping the U-values.

The case that some of us are attempting to make here is that you can’t design away a fundamental flaw and that developing more far-flung dormitory districts at the expense of consolidating the density and urban form of the existing primary urban centres is a fundamental flaw. Conor Skehan might be the smartest guy in the room, but the planning strategy that he propounds is a fatalist vision that provides unwitting validation for local authorities who continue to fudge the fundamental planning issues for their own ends and paper over them with seemingly progressive design guidelines.

That Beacon South Quarter is a case in point. It was reported recently that the cash-strapped developer had defaulted on a €12.8m financial contribution to Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, the planning authority, having already paid out €7.9m.

So the local authority’s take from that one development was over €20m. Of course a suburban local authority is going to be tempted to hand out urban scale planning permissions on green field sites if it gets to scoop in over €20m in planning levies, together with a never ending revenue stream from commercial rates.

The big lie is that these out-lying developments are created to be nice, well rounded, places to live and work and that they are sustainably linked to the city centre by a quality bus corridor or a future tram, when in fact these developments are urban parasites sucking the development energy out of the city where it should be focused and where the task of creating nice, well rounded, places to live and work is in return made all the more difficult.

All we’ve done after three decades of Frank McDonald is address the problem of low density [and low yield] urban sprawl by replacing it with higher density [and higher yield] conurbations, when we should have been using the considerable powers available to central and local government to control development and focus development energies on compacting and consolidating the existing centres to release their real urban potential and then maybe people might start to see that the city itself can be a nice, well rounded, place to live and work, and not some barren hostile place where the average Joe thinks it’s insane to build a children’s hospital there because there won’t be enough parking spaces and you can’t turn right.

If the ‘Futures Academy’ was doing it’s job, it would drop this 'Dublin Region' - Pale for the 21st century - work out strategies to tie off these back-of-beyond urban sink holes in the least damaging way possible, start advocating a freeze on any further out lying development and begin putting together a vision for what Dublin and the regional centres could be in twenty or fifty years time, if we restricted ourselves to the compact, well serviced, model that we know works superbly well wherever it’s been tried and whenever care has been taken to balance the dynamism of urban regeneration with the protection of the many layers of built heritage that give any place depth.
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