Eoghan Harris on one-off housing

Eoghan Harris on one-off housing

Postby Devin » Tue Jan 03, 2006 12:23 am

Well the end of another year - another 20,000 one-off houses built in the Irish countryside in 2005 ... deeply unsustainable, but it's what the government wants ...

This article (below) from October by Eoghan Harris makes many points - all very valid but generally heard before. But one aspect that generally hasn't figured much is where he says that, ideally, what we wrongly call the countryside would really be the country - a resource for renewing the physical and spiritual life of the people, while the cities, towns and villages would be thriving. This for me is the most savagely sad part of what's happening to the Irish countryside - the loss of a place for this physical and spiritual renewal of ourselves.


Image


GORGIAN MONSTERS GOBBLING UP THE GREEN

LAST weekend I went on a long drive, from Baltimore on the south coast of Cork, to Clifden in County Galway (to speak at the Clifden Arts Festival) and then across the country to Dublin to meet some old friends from Tyrone who had come down to support the greatest Gaelic football team of all time.

But in many ways it turned into an autopsy of the corpse of rural Ireland - a long, vertical, curving incision up the abdomen of the south, followed by a fairly straight slash across the chest of the country - that laid bare the destruction of the last of the Irish landscape by developers and builders.

As I drove through this landscape of what Galbraith called "private wealth and public squalor", I had a chance to ponder how the physical destruction of Ireland might soon be followed by its political and moral subversion.

In short, I was thinking about the implications of the impending IRA decommissioning and how it might assist the Raffia's strategy for subverting Irish Republic, and turning it into what Fiona O'Malley memorably calls "Sicily without the sun".

* * *

BECAUSE I never take foreign holidays, because I spent most of my 25 years in RTE roaming rural Ireland with reporters like Brendan O hEither, because I am now based in Baltimore, and spend much of my time travelling through what we wrongly call rural Ireland, I think I have a more complete picture of the country than most planners who only know their own patch.

And after that visual audit all I can say, to borrow from Conrad, is "the horror, the horror".

From Cork to Galway, from Galway to Dublin, the new Irish bourgeoisie flaunts its new-found wealth by turning farm and field into a stupendous, shoddy, sprawling suburbia studded with vast villas and brutalist bungalows and what I can only call Gorgian houses. Where wealth often refines, here it seems to retard. The new Celtic class has all the arrogance of the old Anglo-Irish with none of its visual taste.

* * *

MOST Irish people share the same ideal of Ireland. They imagine something like a small green hearth-rug on which are scattered some coins representing cities, towns and villages. A few two-euro coins mark cities like Dublin and Cork; a dozen one-euro coins to mark major towns like Athlone and Ennis; a handful of ten-cent pieces mark towns like Clifden and Clonakilty; and the five-, two- and one-cent pieces mark villages in descending order of size. In between, lots of green. It looks good and it looks right.

This ideal bears no relation to the reality. Increasingly, every coin on the rug is linked to every other coin by the garish glitter dust of Gorgian mansions raised up by a greedy rural bourgeoisie who have run out of the towns, found a field on a green hill, cut down the hedge for hundreds of yards, put up huge six-bedroomed bungalows to house their two-child families, and have no realneighbours.

And not even the most remote part of rural Ireland is now safe from the suburbanisation of which the supreme symbol is an SUV with a bullbar.

* * *

IN an ideal Ireland, we would plan for most of our people to live in thriving cities, towns and villages. What we wrongly call rural Ireland would really be rural - a resource for renewing the physical and spiritual life of the majority of our people. And I put my money where my planning politics are.

I live in the village of Baltimore. I believe I should be penalised if I left the village to build a monster Gorgian Mansion that destroys some green vista outside thevillage.

Such once-offs are a major drain on every kind of public service and debilitate the sense of community. Cocooned in their SUVs, the Gorgians no longer even carry out low-level social activities like shopping - they stock up as if they were American rednecks expecting Armageddon.

Again, I am prepared to put my money where my polemics are. While I strongly object to building on the few beauty spots outside Baltimore, I have never objected to any development in the village itself. And this approach comes from empirical experience. Constant objections to change in country villages - Sneem comes to mind - almost always end with the closing of the local national school.

Baltimore may be growing faster than finicky people like - but it does my heart good to hear the sound of children on the streets.

* * *

BUT if you really want to see how an ideal Ireland should look, take a trip next September through the Connemara National Park to the Clifden Arts Festival. Out of Galway you will travel for an hour through a landscape that has been left alone and which lifts the heart. But at the end you find a thriving town, packed with young people from all over the world, where Brendan Flynn and the Clifden Arts committee have created a real community arts week.

Kingsley Amis said that everything that went wrong since the war can be summed up in the word "workshop". And I must admit I felt the same way about combining the words "community" and "art" until Jan Hinde from the Arts Council gave me a pep talk and I saw with my own eyes people in Supervalu stand around arguing about the artistic event they had experienced the night before ...


- Eoghan Harris, The Sunday Independent, Oct. 02, 2005


Full article: http://www.unison.ie/irish_independent/stories.php3?ca=45&si=1480407&issue_id=13085
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Re: Eoghan Harris on one-off housing

Postby kite » Tue Jan 03, 2006 12:56 am

[I]GORGIAN MONSTERS GOBBLING UP THE GREEN

LAST weekend I went on a long drive, from Baltimore on the south coast of Cork, to Clifden in County Galway (to speak at the Clifden Arts Festival) and then across the country to Dublin to meet some old friends from Tyrone who had come down to support the greatest Gaelic football team of all time.

But in many ways it turned into an autopsy of the corpse of rural Ireland - a long, vertical, curving incision up the abdomen of the south, followed by a fairly straight slash across the chest of the country - that laid bare the destruction of the last of the Irish landscape by developers and builders.

As I drove through this landscape of what Galbraith called "private wealth and public squalor", I had a chance to ponder how the physical destruction of Ireland might soon be followed by its political and moral subversion.

In short, I was thinking about the implications of the impending IRA decommissioning and how it might assist the Raffia's strategy for subverting Irish Republic, and turning it into what Fiona O'Malley memorably calls "Sicily without the sun".

* * *

BECAUSE I never take foreign holidays, because I spent most of my 25 years in RTE roaming rural Ireland with reporters like Brendan O hEither, because I am now based in Baltimore, and spend much of my time travelling through what we wrongly call rural Ireland, I think I have a more complete picture of the country than most planners who only know their own patch.

And after that visual audit all I can say, to borrow from Conrad, is "the horror, the horror".

From Cork to Galway, from Galway to Dublin, the new Irish bourgeoisie flaunts its new-found wealth by turning farm and field into a stupendous, shoddy, sprawling suburbia studded with vast villas and brutalist bungalows and what I can only call Gorgian houses. Where wealth often refines, here it seems to retard. The new Celtic class has all the arrogance of the old Anglo-Irish with none of its visual taste.



Full article: http://www.unison.ie/irish_independent/stories.php3?ca=45&si=1480407&issue_id=13085[/QUOTE]


If Mr.H feels like that he should stick to a flat in Ballymun or wherever rather than clogging the roads from West Cork to Dublin in his SUV...or maybe he lives like he preaches and rides the "boreens" on a pushbike?
What a self pontificating prat.
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Re: Eoghan Harris on one-off housing

Postby J. Seerski » Tue Jan 03, 2006 1:28 am

I cant see your point kite.

For the very first time in my life I agree with Eoghan Harris. I'm scared!!!!

It is disgusting that at a time of greater conservation awareness the countryside is being plundered for short-term gain with long term negative consequences.

I have the benefit of growing up in Dublin and spending my summers in the midlands - Lucan was a village at the time (1987) and there were long stretches of road from there to Mullingar without any housing. Then they started to appear like ragworth on the roadsides. Now nearly every road is infested with these ugly, visually insensitive, and environmentally unfriendly piles of poor design. You would be hard pressed to find a quarter-mile stretch without a vile bungalow. It is truly incredible that a process that started slowly in the 1980s has completely destroyed the delicate beauty of Irelands countryside. Its not a question of stopping it anymore - it has gone past the point of no return in my opinion....

Small boreens are now riddled with bungalows. Amazing vistas as disturbed if not destroyed by poor development. And still in many cases villages remain undeveloped, whereas a few miles beyond the bungalow plague manifests itself.

Eoghan Harris has written the obituary of Ireland's once cherished beauty. We still have well preserved beauty spots. However, spots is what they are - the general picture is defaced, bordering on the ugly. :(
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Re: Eoghan Harris on one-off housing

Postby PVC King » Tue Jan 03, 2006 2:40 am

kite wrote: If Mr.H feels like that he should stick to a flat in Ballymun or wherever rather than clogging the roads from West Cork to Dublin in his SUV...or maybe he lives like he preaches and rides the "boreens" on a pushbike? What a self pontificating prat.


I got to know Eoghan about 14 years ago and met him off and on for about 7 years; Whilst his views on Sinn Fein were quite a bit ahead of their time I would never accuse him of being pontificating. His style of speech is what I respect most about munster people (usually when they've had a few) it is direct and uncompromising. As for Eoghan's abode you will be happy to know he lived in a house when in Dublin; drove an old (even then) car and had a keen eye for design.

I for one feel his articles are saying the same as so many others such as David McWilliams although his takes a more visual perspective. Now that the Shinners are behaving themselves I hope he devotes more of his time to this subject it will go well with the ads in Sindo property supplement. ;)
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Re: Eoghan Harris on one-off housing

Postby GrahamH » Tue Jan 03, 2006 2:54 am

I travelled to Sligo recently for a weekend, to stay in the holiday home of a Dublin 4-based family - a cliché if ever there was one.
It really brought home to me the undoubted allure of this way of life, and why so many people do it, either in having a holiday home, or actually living in the countryside full time. On the holiday side of things, it is but a 2 hour zip up the motorway from any major centre now to a rural location that’s a decent distance from home. The rest and relaxation it offers one over the course of a weekend is wonderful, especially if you lead a busy life in the city (who doesn't), or are otherwise tied up in your working week - the change of scenery is a delight, even if in the depths of the misty, drizzly midlands or west coast.

Or if you live full time in an urban-generated pile, again it's much the same. You have the advantages of privacy, space, land to do what you like with (even if it's inevitably nothing), and piece and quiet - all a short minute drive away from the local town/village. I can see how young couples jump at the opportunity. It’s lovely.

Well, not really. The pitfalls were only too evident also - though just to say, the house I was in was generally of the more sustainable variety, the owners coming from that area and taking an active interest in planting and developing the land – I wouldn't have gone otherwise of course :D

What hits you above all else though, and I'm sure everyone else sees this too, is that Irish people just seem to live in a happy happy world of 'interiorism', something that is manifestly evident in the countryside. It doesn't matter what your house looks like from the outside, it matters not in the slightest as to its impact on the environment, or on the landscape it’s sitting on. It's all about the interior. The negatives of narrow windy roads, of slushy drives, of churned up gardens, of windswept exposed sites, of nobody living nearby that you can enjoy the outdoors with, are all made up by oil-fired central heating, chic expensive-but-cheap-looking pine doors, skirting, architraving, 'Canadian oak flooring', vulgar marble bathrooms, vacuous bespoke fitted kitchens with designer appliances 'that we could afford because we built the house ourselves' etc etc etc.
Of course it is smug to highlight these things - we all covet luxuries of one kind or another - but it is this plastering over the cracks of one-off living that becomes so very evident when you experience it first hand, and even then you don't have to be that close to see what's going on.
As long as the interiors of these places are warm and toasty, and pasted with luxurious materials, faux-Tudor styling and furnishings, and perceived ‘quality’ goods, then who gives a toss about the exterior – provided of course factory churned trophy granite is featured somewhere along the line.

I don't apply this model incidentally to where I was staying of course :), but it was interesting nonetheless to note that we ran out of milk one evening. There was nowhere to go for milk. So we had no tea that night.
Not that any shop may have been closed anyway, but even to go to a neighbour that lived a few minutes walk away (don’t think they knew them), or the inconvenience of having to drive to the shop in the morning - it was a few minutes drive on a dodgy rural road that you certainly couldn't walk, mainly in safety terms but also the inconvenience of it too, esp in such a poor climate. Indeed the car was even taken to the pub, again a few minutes that could easily be walked in a safer semi-urban area but no way on a dark dangerous winding road.

Also the sheer loneliness and isolation is quite depressing in the evenings. Suppose you’d get used to it, but being surrounded by black, without a sound, in the middle of nowhere is no pleasant experience. I can certainly see how elderly people find it problematic living in such a way - and with the added lack of mobility and dependence on other people coming to see you.

The amount of mansions counted along the way was quite extraordinary, some of a scale nothing short of breathtaking, not to mention in vulgarity – the majority on exposed, featureless sites. Living something of a sheltered life on the east coast, I really didn't think things would be as bad as is often made out, though I know only too well the farcial state of affairs in the North East running up to the border, and beyond where arguably it's even worse that within the state - but really it is so very depressing. The garish hard white and yellow of so many houses in the sultry grey surroundings of the west is all the more horrific.

It is just sad above all else as J. Seerki says, not snobbish, to see the disintegration of our environment, our landscape, our architecture, our society, our future, under the current planning regime :(
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Re: Eoghan Harris on one-off housing

Postby anto » Tue Jan 03, 2006 2:39 pm

There's another school of thought that says our villages have been preserved by having development taking place outside, not a very convincing problem I know. Another problem is that new developments in our towns and villages are usually mind numbing cul de sac, could be anywhere rubbish that are not necessarily aimed at locals but commuters or holiday homes.
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Re: Eoghan Harris on one-off housing

Postby Maskhadov » Wed Jan 04, 2006 3:19 pm

i totally agree about his views on one off housing. Its an absolute disgrace and people shouldnt be allowed to build in the countryside. Far more apartment and town houses should be given the green light and it would make this miserable island a lot more sustanable.

I have travelled to lots of villages in ireland where most of the population is outside the actual village than inside it. What a pathetic joke that is.
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Re: Eoghan Harris on one-off housing

Postby Breen » Fri Jan 06, 2006 2:41 am

I can empathise with the dismay Harris feels at the enormous damage being done to the countryside because of the awful houses lined up along country roads in all parts of the country. Having grown up on a farm, then spent 5 years in Dublin while studying, and now a practising architect in “rural Ireland” I can see the issue from the perspectives of the farmer and the architect. With that in mind I’d like to make a few points giving reasons for the mess and some suggestions for amelioration…

Middle-class people do not want to live in towns/villages. In their mind, towns are for “townies” and for council houses. Also, traditional small townhouses along streets in the average provincial town don’t have the same appeal as comparable houses like artisan dwellings in Ringsend/Stoneybatter in Dublin. The reason is lack of parking. Everyone in provincial towns must have a car because there are no bus services, and if there is any the next bus is 7 hours away. Walk? You must be joking. It is written in rural statute that if you need to go to a shop on a particular street you MUST PARK ON THAT VERY SAME STREET. AT NO TIME SHALL YOU PARK ON A DIFFERENT STREET AND WALK AROUND THE BLOCK TO THE REQUIRED SHOP. But what if there are no parking spaces on that street. YOU SHALL POSITION YOUR VEHICLE ON A DOUBLE YELLOW LINE. But what if there are cars on either side so that there is no kerb against which to park. YOU SHALL DRIVE TO A POSITION OPPOSITE THE ENTRANCE TO THE SHOP, BRING THE VEHICLE TO A HALT ON THE CARRAIGEWAY , GET OUT, LOCK THE DOOR, GO DO YOUR BUSINESS, blocking the traffic all the time, UNTIL YOU RETURN, GET IN , AND CONTINUE YOUR JOURNEY. (I swear to God that last bit about parking your car out on the road, while the traffic is stuck waiting behind happens regularly outside Paddy Powers in a certain town in the south east.) I may have briefly gone off the point, but it’s a small illustration of the absolute lack of any community/civic spirit that is the root of the ruination of the countryside. To hell with everyone I’ll park where I like. To hell with everyone I’ll build where I like!

Farmers make less and less living out of conventional farming, the Common Agricultural Policy is about to become history, so the selling of sites with outline permission is an alternative money spinner. You can’t buy half an acre in the south east for less than 100k anymore. The view is prevalent amongst farmers that where they own land, they, and only they have any moral right to decide how it’s developed. Planners occupy the same position in their mind as the Black & Tans once did.

Our clientilist politics mean that planners are often under pressure from councillors and T.D.s to get permission for applicant. I heard of one case where a planner was out in a field having a consultation with a farmer in relation to an application for outline permission for THREE SITES. A Junior Minister of the present government was present in the field to support the farmer instead of being at his desk in Dublin.

County development plans allow houses to be built on sites that are too small – half an acre, thereby leading to rows of house after house because only 50 metres or so road frontage is required for each one. It should be an absolute requirement that an applicant must have at least 10 acres of land in one holding, to build a house on it. That holding should not be reduced by selling of any part thereof.

Also, there is often a requirement in sensitive areas that the ridge height of houses not be greater than 6 metres. This means that a 2 storey house is out, so if the applicant doesn’t want a bungalow, well it’ll have to be a dormer-bungalow. The ‘dormers’ tend to look more dreadful is visually inappropriate than a 7 metre high 2 storey house could ever have been.

I agree with Graham Hickey about the emphasis on the interiors. They are paramount! In relation to the requirement for only half acre sites mentioned above, people often complain that even that’s too much to maintain. There are no gardens, just a lawn surround by post & rail fence.

I disagree with Graham about living in the countryside however. He painted a very bleak picture. I love living in the countryside. It’s not a bit lonely. Weekday evenings are for being alone sitting by the fire reading. You’ll see plenty of people during the day and at the weekend. Who cares if you run out of milk? Is there no wine in the fridge? Go out and milk a cow. Or ring the postman and ask him to bring you up a carton the next day. I don’t find the roads too dangerous. Neither do the horses. I know most of my neighbours.

Regarding design, as you all know the title ‘Architect’ is not registered and there are armies of technicians roaming the countryside offering ‘architectural services’, ‘architectural design’, calling themselves ‘architects’, ’planning consultants’, and other such subterfuge. Our education system’s lack of design education means that most people are design illiterate – it’s not their fault. Also, having spent more than several years’ wages just buying a site, they are loath to engage a properly qualified Architect to design and supervise the construction of a sustainable work of architecture. They just want a ‘set of plans’.

Meanwhile the concreting over continues…
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Re: Eoghan Harris on one-off housing

Postby GrahamH » Fri Jan 06, 2006 3:07 am

Breen wrote:armies of technicians roaming the countryside


lol :)
So very sad, but so very true.

That’s a frighteningly good point Breen about the phasing out of CAP – what the heck sort of impact is that going to have with sites being sold off willy nilly?
Can’t remember off the top of my head, but the figures for the amount of farmers anticipated to leave agriculture over the next twenty years are simply staggering – it’s only going to be large holdings that remain. Which is even worse, as it’s the smaller farms that seem to be more damaging with regard to site speculation.

Fair enough point about rural living Breen – just not for me I suppose! My point about the roads though is that as more houses are built, the more dangerous rural roads become as there’s an increased level of traffic, and usually speeding traffic to boot. Which in a vicious circle-like way simply encourages even more people to use their cars and avoid ever-more dangerous roads.
Not to lump the problem on the shoulders of one-offers, but I can certainly see how levels of drink driving are so high in this country. How many rural dwellers are willing to walk more than half a mile to their local and back?
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Re: Eoghan Harris on one-off housing

Postby anto » Fri Jan 06, 2006 3:09 am

great post, Breen, good to hear from a "man on the ground" as it were. Some counties have made more efforts than others though. County Cork isn't as bad as neighbouring Kerry or Limerick. Towns like Clonakilty seem like really nice towns to live in.

You're right about the townies thing though. People that grew up on farms never like to live in the town, it's just another manifestation of Ireland's housing apartheid, albeit one that isn't referred to. One thing I notice though is guys who grew up in the village are building out the country, social climbing, Irish style.

The culture of the self build is quite strong now in rural ireland, that's what people want. It's just a pity that this building isn't confined in zoned areas in around existing villages/towns.
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Re: Eoghan Harris on one-off housing

Postby GrahamH » Fri Jan 06, 2006 3:17 am

Yes - I thought it very interesting on another site that contributors were justifying their self-building by saying that they weren't going to be subjected to 'developer crap' that's going up everywhere. Now eh.....I know developers don't have the best architectural record going, but......coming from self-builders......

It really confirms it for me that the interior is king. I was in speculatively built houses in Kerry during the summer, put up by farmers as a 'nest-egg' because there's no real money in the farm anymore. Again, monstrous from the exterior, and completely unworkable exposed gardens on the side of a hill, but lavishly fitted out inside.
That's what I personally hate so much about most one-offs - a one metre perimeter is 'tamed' around the house with concrete paths and gravel and drains etc etc, as if the house has fallen down from outer space, and then the rest of the 'site' just falls away to scrub again.

As long as the interior is high-spec, and a safety net 'moat' of concrete is built around the house, then you're protected from the wilds of the countryside.
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Re: Eoghan Harris on one-off housing

Postby bitasean » Fri Jan 06, 2006 5:23 pm

indeed great post Breen,
incidentally as an architect working in the countryside do you ever find yourself contributing to the blight simply because of the overwhelming amount of debilitating factors which affect rural development, such as road engineer guidelines, setback distances etc.? I've just convinced a client who's building in Co. Sligo to rotate their house so that the gable faces the road but I've no idea what the planner's going to think yet, it may be simply against the regional policy despite the fact that most vernacular farmhouses are orientated this way.

I've included some images I put together of how a one-off is perceived in rural Tipperary where they've somehow been allowed to keep the roadside ditch, a rare occurance and probably semi-illegal but it greatly reduces the impact of the development.

also, just to bug the townies (graham), I find that rural living calls for very little beyond a hi-viz vest and some water-proof boots, and my most enjoyable moment of this Christmas was probably walking down the road to a neighbours house for a drink not being able to see my hand in front of my face and not a care in the world for drink drivers, that's what grass verges are for.

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Re: Eoghan Harris on one-off housing

Postby bitasean » Fri Jan 06, 2006 5:27 pm

bugger, my attachment doesnt work, how do I insert an image into the body of the text as Devin has done above, it keeps asking me for a URL but the image is on my desktop,

advice anyone?
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Re: Eoghan Harris on one-off housing

Postby MT » Sat Jan 07, 2006 1:09 am

I'm no environmentalist buts what is happening in Ireland now has turned me into a bit of a green. The one off housing blight is quite simply horrendous. It's becoming an increasing problem here in Northern Ireland but seems to be at a much more advanced stage in the Republic. Places such as Donegal - which people in Belfast have shamefully contributed to with their holiday 'villas' - has been nothing short of ruined by such development. Houses seem to stream out like the strands of a spider’s web for miles along every road leaving towns and villages. Very soon the entire county will have become a low density suburb of higgledy-piggledy one-offs plonked along every lane and over every hill-top. It's environmental vandalism on gigantic scale. And if NI and the rest of the south are going to end up looking like the Donegal-sprawl (it even rhymes:o ) then I'll simply emigrate.

At the current rate Ireland is going to end up as one of the most spoilt and downright ugly environments in Europe. Indeed, just compare this place to the island next door. There, towns and villages stop at clear boundaries and beautiful rolling countryside is left unspoilt in between. Indeed, I'd go as far to say that if we have to have a choice between sprawl at the edge of towns and cities and the McMansion blitz the former is vastly preferable. Yes, some countryside would be lost but not on the scale that the current low density carpet-bombing is wreaking. Indeed, if you rounded up all the one-offs to be built across the Republic over the next ten years and placed them in a dense thin circle around the various large cities most of the country would remain verdant and unscathed.

But why is it that Irish people - North and South - seem to have no sense of the common good when it comes to the environment like the Scottish, English, Dutch, Germans and almost everyone else in Europe? Why have we treated this island's stunning natural heritage with the contempt that's so evident in the ribbons of bungalows and valleys speckled in mock Tudor mansions? Such permanent disfigurement is not just disgusting but immoral IMO.

Not wishing to be petty but one thing I will add is that our one-offs seem to be better integrated with the landscape than yours - if that's possible. (You know we've really reached the bottom of the barrel when the state of our respective sprawls becomes a pissing contest :rolleyes: ) But anyway, when recently travelling to Donegal I deliberately drove up a few house lined rural roads in Fermanagh simply for comparison's sake. The differences while small in print had quite a substantial effect on the ground. On our side of the border, the one-offs were set further back from the roads edge, hill-side and hill-top sites had clearly been placed off-limits (indeed the planners had often steered development into much less obtrusive hollows) and there were no boundary walls with hedge and wooden fence used instead. Indeed, the original roadside shrub had often been retained. Furthermore, there was considerably greater spacing between the sites. All of this seemed to combine to soften the impact of the sprawl.

Then came Donegal.

Hill-side, hill-top and anywhere you want seemingly. For that matter it appeared that planners had deliberately steered builders away from less damaging locations. Houses are often so close together as to seem almost piled on top of each other. Almost every one has a disproportionately large boundary wall that’s often completely out of character with the property. Frequently these are placed at all sorts of different angles destroying the continuity of the road verge and furthermore they quite often lie unfinished or poorly maintained. Then there’s the thing which has been banned in NI and that’s ribbon development along major roads. This surely must add to the accident rate. Accordingly, I propose the incorporation of a new town in Donegal – N56ville. This ‘linear’ settlement begins at Donegal town (now seemingly a commuter village of the former) and continues seemingly without end. It must have the longest high-street in Europe.

The other feature which we seem to have avoided up here but one which Donegal has managed to turn into a recurring speciality is the isolated housing estate. In NI most housing estates tend to be in or attached to towns but that’s not how they do things in Donegal. Oh no, housing estates there tend to get thrown up in fields in the middle of nowhere. You turn a corner and are confronted with a little oasis of 20 or so semi-ds all on their lonesome surrounded by cow pats and the distant shimmer of the expanse of one-offs.

Letterkenny isn’t so much a town as an explosion: like something that hurtled from outer space and was splattered over the county’s northern landscape. Towns like this tend to follow you around – usually to the next village and beyond. I imagine that there’ll come a time when Letterkenny will spread its tentacles of ribbon development to every nook and cranny in the county.

If this sort of development is replicated all along the western sea-board then how unearth will the government’s proposed west coast railway line ever be feasible. The trains won’t be running from one concentrated urban core to another but simply through a sparsely populated splurge.

Ireland is being destroyed – and it’s all very depressing. In the space of a generation this island will have went from containing some of the most outstanding landscapes in Europe to some of the most disfigured. If you’re in any doubt take a trip to the mess that is the trip to Malin Head. In England or Scotland the area would’ve been preserved unspoilt as a national park. But here in Ireland the development that’s been allowed to go on there is nothing short of sickening.

Welcome to the Ireland of tomorrow: the ugly isle.
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Re: Eoghan Harris on one-off housing

Postby GrahamH » Sat Jan 07, 2006 4:07 am

This needs to be retitled the polemic thread.
So very well articulated MT, and humourously, albeit such a depressing issue.

Perhaps the problem is not as bad in Northern Ireland because of the generally more prudent, urban-oriented mindset that permeates British administration. And yet even then they find NI appalling.
I'll never forget the mortification felt when watching the BBC's 'Restoration' series and the episode where they came to NI. First thing on the list was to convey the 'curious' nature of planning on this island - aptly demonstrated by Griff standing in front of a dilapidated thatched cottage, extolling its charms, and how things are changing - 'to this'...camera swings round to reveal glaring squat bungalow at the end of a sweeping drive with full scale heritage lanterns populating the front garden.

Similarly, as mentioned before, the highly embarrassing 'Location Location Location' visit to Ireland. As much as the novelty of the programme wore off after the 76th series, it was nonetheless so very notable to see the difference between rural property in Ireland and Britain. It's a series that encapsulates British residential architecture and planning so well - you just don't get the one-off housing over there that you get here. It just doesn't happen. Virtually every house they visited here was a one-off in a field, in contrast to tightly knitted villages, genuine farmhouses and small towns usually featured on the British version. Both on television, and from experience of travelling through Britain so many times I can certainly say which model I prefer.

The UK is for the most part made up of small villages in rural areas, many thousands by all accounts, but not sprawling one-off houses. The fact that they have come through three major economic booms since the War and still have emerged relatively unscathed is a shocking indictment of the state of affairs in this country. Housing there is grouped around villages, or in villages. You also do not get ribbon development to the extent you get here, nor isolated housing estates which are simply everywhere in this country.
Not all is perfect over there of course - yes they still build low-density housing estates, yes the standard of houses and their design is arguably even worse than here, but it is nothing like the scale we have to put up with in Ireland.

The fact that things are continuing here after ten years of explosive construction, and are worse than ever, is all the more embarrassing. It is a national pride issue as much as it is of environmental and aesthetic concern.
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Re: Eoghan Harris on one-off housing

Postby Devin » Sat Jan 07, 2006 7:39 am

... aptly demonstrated by Griff standing in front of a dilapidated thatched cottage, extolling its charms, and how things are changing - 'to this'...camera swings round to reveal glaring squat bungalow ...
Here's a similar example from down here: A vernacular farmhouse with its gable to the road (just out of picture on the right) slowly crumbles away, while a brash new bungalow fronts the road:


Image
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Re: Eoghan Harris on one-off housing

Postby anto » Sat Jan 07, 2006 9:23 pm

God that image says it all. A lot of folk associate vernacular with primitive thatched cottages and poverty so they'll take the shiny new bungalow thanks very much!

Yeah it's a pity that hedgerows or ditches as we call them in rural Ireland aren't preserved. Some place like Clare compell people to build stone faced walls as if these cod traditional features look well. The bungalow builders if they do plant a hedge it's usually of the leylandia variety which of couse look as out of place as any bungalow in the irish counrtyside. When was the last time you saw someone plant a mixed Irish hedge with whitethorn, ash, etc in the mix?
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Postby Devin » Mon Jan 09, 2006 1:35 am

The thing is the old house could have been extended and upgraded for modern use, a la Dirk Cove in Cork
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Re: Eoghan Harris on one-off housing

Postby Devin » Mon Jan 09, 2006 4:13 am

MT,

Most interesting post. As I am involved with an organization that is dealing daily with rural development in the Republic, I can possibly throw some light on some of the reasons for the differences you observe between NI and here, and why the one-off housing blight here seems so much more advanced than in NI:


1. County Manager Overturnings of Decisions to Refuse Permission

I don’t know if this is common in NI - I imagine it is not. Here, it happens ALL THE TIME: a professional planner has recommended refusal for a house on solid planning grounds and the decision is overturned by the County Manager or Director of Services, usually as a result of undocumented direct lobbying either by a landowner or county councillor on behalf of a landowner. Here is a recent example from Westmeath:

Image

In this case the trouble was taken to actually write a letter giving reasons, but it’s often just done by means of a handwritten scribble over a planner’s or engineer's recommendation, instructing that planning permission be granted.


2. Serial Applicants

You hear rural TDs and councillors baying over “serial objectors” – they never mention serial applicants; applicants who continue to lodge applications in cases where there have been previous refusals until either the local authority caves in and grants permission or a concerned third party can no longer bear the expense of appeals or misses out on one of the numerous deadlines and obstacle courses placed by the Planning & Development Act 2000 on the taking of appeals.


3. Rural Councillors

95% of rural county councillors in the Republic are cretinous imbeciles whose sole purpose is to lobby for constituents who want to build bungalows and publicly attack anybody who objects to this.


4. Inaction of Prescribed Bodies

None of the prescribed bodies in the Republic (except An Taisce) carry out their role under the planning acts. Bord Failte don’t make any planning submissions/appeals. The Arts Council don’t. The NRA has taken one appeal so far (after prodding). The Heritage Council has virtually abandoned its planning function. The small number of appeals made by the Department of the Environment have been uneven, and they’re under the thumb of Dick Roche anyway.


5. Sham of Local Authority Planning Administration

Local authority planning administration in the Republic is unreliable, inconsistent and a sham. With something as serious as planning, where permanent imprints on the landscape are at stake, an administration system needs to be running like clockwork. But they fail to send referrals to prescribed bodies, send referrals too late (i.e. after the 5 week period when you can’t respond anymore), fail to acknowledge submissions by prescribed bodies or other third parties (preventing/narrowing the opportunity for appeal) and don’t publish lists of planning applications and decisions on the 3rd working day of each week as they are legally required to. Some even obstruct and deny access to planning files at their public counter (e.g. Cavan). The Department of the Environment don't want to intervene and the only recourse would be to take legal action on a case by case basis.


6. No Occupancy Enforcement

This is one of the biggest contributors to the ruination of the countryside: Decisions are granted on the basis of the applicant being able to show 'local need' and occupation of the house by the applicant for up to seven years, but occupation conditions are NEVER enforced and the site is for sale even before the house is built …There is no vetting of information provided by applicants to justify proposals; it’s just ‘get that PP for that site and sell it on by whatever means possible’ - so you have applications in the name of 3yr. old children, applications in the name of people who have permanently moved abroad, or an applicant for whom 5 bungalows in the area have already been built (!) ...
There’s just a massive fiddling of the system going on all the time (county councillors are not interested in this of course).


7. The '[un]Sustainable Rural Housing Guidelines'

Finally, the unbelievable :eek: publication last year by the government of guidelines that actually increase the pace of – rather than slow down or stop – the destruction of the Irish countryside by one-off housing. The guidelines have led to (a) a huge increase in new one-off house applications everywhere, (b) the encouragement of applicants who had previously been refused for a site to reapply and (c) a reduction in the number of local authority decisions that are overturned by An Bord Pleanala.

In the case of An Taisce appeals, the "success" rate for overturning of local authority one-off house approvals had reportedly been circa 90%, but has now I understand gone down to circa 75%. But “success” is the wrong word anyway; all An Taisce appeals are based on local, national or European policy. The (still) huge number of appeals upheld shows that the application should never have been granted in the first place.

So, the government, instead of looking at this and saying ‘Why are such a huge number of local authority one-off house approvals overturned on appeal? - There must be something seriously wrong with the Irish Planning system at local authority level’ has instead said ‘We need to make it easier for people to get permission for one-off houses’ – hence the '[un]Sustainable Rural Housing Guidelines' … you just wouldn’t get away with it anywhere else …
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Re: Eoghan Harris on one-off housing

Postby section4 » Thu Jan 12, 2006 5:20 am

and of course section 140's.
I agree with evrything you say becaue that is exactly how it is up here in donegal.
In fact the council are virtually impossibleto deal with if you are objecting or putting a submission in.
They will not supply files , they will say they cant find them etc etc, they will say you cant copy files.
the people, the council and most people are here are interested in one thing above all else Money.
They remind me of the buffalo hunters in america who kept killing buffalo until the buffalo hide was worth less than the bullet, they will keep building and selling until it does not pay anymore.
there is still some beautiful spots left in donega; inspite of them but they are going fast.
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Re: Eoghan Harris on one-off housing

Postby Shane Clarke » Thu Jan 12, 2006 3:53 pm

Devin - Your two posts are right on the nose. The original farmhouse in your attached image would make a magnificent home with some time and effort (and money of course). Why this obsession the country over with nauseous yellow bungalow shrapnel?

All - For a longer (rather too long) and even more depressing account of the rape of our green and presant land I would recommend Frank McDonald's 'Choas at the Cross Roads'. As with his previous books (on Dublin) this latest publication is a sad and sorry tale of our venal, philistine, clientist political class and of our collective disregard of the environment (both urban and rural) as citizens. In a hundred years times I could imagine a definition of unsustainable - see Ireland.

http://www.lovingarchitecture.com/index.php?294&tx_mjseventpro_pi1%5BshowUid%5D=158
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Re: Eoghan Harris on one-off housing

Postby fergalr » Tue Jan 17, 2006 4:59 pm

I agree with the article wholeheartedly. The land of Ireland, as specifically stated in the Constitution, belongs to the people of Ireland.

All of us.

Obviously a thriving rural economy and thriving countryside regions are what we would all like to see in Ireland. All the money shouldn't be staying in the Pale and other financial outposts. So I've always been of the opinion that new housing in and around existing urban settlements is the way to go down the country.
The one-off housing is destroying our little island. Selfish, ugly, thoughtless bungalows, being strewn across the fields of Ireland will do irreperable damage environmentally, socially and economically (tourism..).

I was hiking in Kerry this time last year. Some friends and I were climbing near Mangerton, just south of Killarney National Park.
As far as the eye could see, one-off housing proliferated. I'm not exagerrating when I say that in one direction it was one-off housing to the horizon.

It's deeply depressing, and I don't mean that in a hand-wringing urban liberal sort of way.
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Re: Eoghan Harris on one-off housing

Postby PDLL » Tue Jan 17, 2006 5:34 pm

On a broader note and momentarily putting aside issues such as sustainability, economic viability and aesthetics, to deny people the right to build one-off houses on land which they legally possess in a democratic state has deeper implications for personal freedom in Ireland. It is comparable, in some respects, to other debates concerning state control vs. personal freedom (e.g. previous debates over abortion, contraception, pornography and so on). This is also a matter of how much power the state should have over the people. Should, for example, a person who has a genuine desire to live on their own land in relative seclusion and with a modest budget be denied what some would see as a basic constitutional right? Should the state be allowed to deny what many would see as a reasonable lifestyle choice. What then of the itinerant community and their personal choice to live in the manner in which they do. Should the settled community also not enjoy the right to chose where and how they live within the bounds of the law? Greater issues are at stake here - issues which I have a feeling some planners simply have not considered in a more philosophical sense.
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Re: Eoghan Harris on one-off housing

Postby PVC King » Tue Jan 17, 2006 5:48 pm

PDLL wrote: On a broader note and momentarily putting aside issues such as sustainability, economic viability and aesthetics, to deny people the right to build one-off houses on land which they legally possess in a democratic state has deeper implications for personal freedom in Ireland.


How can you put aside every relevant determinate of the process and start again? Would you wish to see the entire traffic code ditched for drunk drivers or fire regs dumped for the leisure sector?

PDLL wrote: It is comparable, in some respects, to other debates concerning state control vs. personal freedom (e.g. previous debates over abortion, contraception, pornography and so on).


What about the right to have a tax base that doesn't involve subsidising those who wish to build houses of 2000 - 4000 sq feet and ofetn have no link to the land in question whatsoever


PDLL wrote:This is also a matter of how much power the state should have over the people.


The responsibilty of the State is to govern in accordance with all the laws ans EU directives which this type of development pattern flaunts in abundance

PDLL wrote:Should, for example, a person who has a genuine desire to live on their own land in relative seclusion and with a modest budget be denied what some would see as a basic constitutional right?


There is nothing to stop anyone living on the land within the constraints of the existing planning designation]Should the state be allowed to deny what many would see as a reasonable lifestyle choice. [/QUOTE]

If they buy the sanctioned product they get the lifestyle; I've always wanted a particular house in Dublin 4 but until I have the resources it is an unattainable aspiration which I am only denying myself.

PDLL wrote:What then of the itinerant community and their personal choice to live in the manner in which they do. Should the settled community also not enjoy the right to chose where and how they live within the bounds of the law?


Ironically the group who scream loudest for a free for all are also the same people who tend to be most anti unsettled person and often appear to be the first to cry for the police and courts when 'the knackers' arrive.

PDLL wrote:Greater issues are at stake here - issues which I have a feeling some planners simply have not considered in a more philosophical sense.


Planners are technicians who are employed to oversee local, regional, nationaland European Law and regulations they are not agony aunts.
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Re: Eoghan Harris on one-off housing

Postby PDLL » Tue Jan 17, 2006 6:15 pm

Thomond Park wrote:How can you put aside every relevant determinate of the process and start again? Would you wish to see the entire traffic code ditched for drunk drivers or fire regs dumped for the leisure sector?.


I was not suggesting that they should be permanently ruled out of consideration, merely that they should be 'momentarily' put aside for the sake of elaborating another possible element for consideration.

Thomond Park wrote:What about the right to have a tax base that doesn't involve subsidising those who wish to build houses of 2000 - 4000 sq feet and ofetn have no link to the land in question whatsoever ?.


I still reject this simplistic view of Dubliner subsidizing one-off house country dweller argument. Lets consider other factors: take a working class high density housing estate in Tallaght or whereever and compare it to an area comprising 100 one-off houses in Co Mayo. Yes, the one-off houses cost a little more in terms of services (telephone cabling, postal deliveries etc). However, how much do you think the corpo houses in Dublin cost the irish tax payer, how much does the tax payer pay for the consequences of ghetto style housing areas in cities (higher crime rate, higher drugs rate, higher unemployment, increased cost of policing, increased cost of social workers, increased cost of maintanence due to vandalism etc. lets face it, take the whole thing as a package and the expense to the tax payer per head of capita is probably similar when comparing large urban areas to one-off housing.

Thomond Park wrote:The responsibilty of the State is to govern in accordance with all the laws ans EU directives which this type of development pattern flaunts in abundance


The state also has the responsibility to allow people to choose their lifestyle within the bounds of reasonable laws. Have you been to any former Soviet State lately?? Lets just stick everyone in 10 huge big tower blocks along O'Connell street and we would have the most sustainable and cost-effective city in the world. People should not have the right to live as they chose? Sounds a bit totalitarian to me. Ireland is a free state - if a person is free to buy an over-powered car, then they should be free to live in a one-off house. Lets deal with all of the problems related to the excesses of personal freedom before we start focussing on just one. That is what I meant when I said that this is not just about sustainability - it is about broader issues of personal freedom and the relationship between the person and the State.

Thomond Park wrote: 'Constitution' the major function of which is to give the government power to legislate for the benefit of the common good to the exclusion of vested interests.


people could argue that living in higher densities is not for the common good of the people - it often brings increased crime, drug abuse, unemployment and so on as noted above. All of these cost the tax payer in terms of policing, accident and emergency, lost productivity, unemployment money etc. Lets see the bigger picture.

Thomond Park wrote: Planners are technicians who are employed to oversee local, regional, nationaland European Law and regulations they are not agony aunts.


Bureaucrats who think in a utilitarian robotic manner?
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