It looks like this year, giving the collapse of certain sectors and components of the construction industry, that Ireland will finally acquire a development and planning system that is of actual benefit to the nation and its people, as opposed to just for cowboy builders.
While it looks like large-scale projects like the Dublin docklands, and inner-M50 areas will continue to be developed (under newer, stricter standards of course); what do you think we should do with the current building stock; housing estates in particular. Housing estates get a lot of stick from many quarters of our society, and are frowned upon by individuals, both urban and rural, and from many walks of life. But the truth of the matter is that housing estates are where many people have set up residence in recent years; and whilst I would love to see less of this sort of development occurring in future; I still think it's possible to make our built housing estates (including the hundreds around Dublin) nice, descent places to live.
For instance, let's take the density dividend. Traditionally Irish built areas were knitted together tightly, and this had many advantages, not least from a commercial perspective. All of the currently wasted areas in housing estates should be put to good use in future. For instance any given road with gaps in between the housing- the owners in such areas, should be encouraged to do part with this space and give it over to developing a property, so as to fill in the missing teeth so to speak, and likewise form proper streets in the process (whether joined townhouses, or semi-detached houses). All large green areas (particularly green strips along roads; or across from other houses) should be put to more productive use, with a new line of housing built (well planned, and well designed of course) along the road boundaries, so as to give the appearance of an actual street, as well as giving the benefit of having people keeping an eye on green areas (which to be honest at the moment, are completely neglected; particularly with regard to the crime element). Also the money that would be made from any such developments should also be put toward developing part of these estate same green areas into letâ€™s say a playground, tennis court, or some other such facility.
With regards to vegetation, all local councils should take it upon themselves to do something as simple as lining all streets in housing estates with trees- just as you would find in older, and more dense two storey streets. This has many advantages, not just from an aesthetic consideration; but from a privacy and property value perspective. Also, getting back to the wasted, under-used and under-utilised green spaces in Irish housing estates- would it not be better that these areas were heavily planted with trees, and artificial water features such as ponds or streams be added, so as to give them somewhat of an urban park form, and feel? Tree lined streets, and properly developed green areas; unlike actual development, is so much easier to implement- not least because the cost isnâ€™t even a fraction in terms of funding.
A last point for now would be, the colouring scheme in Irish housing estates. Apart from residential areas which where constructed using masonry; a lot of Irish housing estates are either a form of magnolia, or in more recent times- a dreadful form of yellow. In fact in many cases, it seems that Irish housing estates are been mauled by such additives as yellow paint. So whatâ€™s up for question is this; should local councils either (i) liberalise external paint colouring laws in our housing estates, or (ii) develop house colouring pilot schemes which would be akin to some of our older villages, and hence, give incentives to people for turning some of our dull housing estates into multi-coloured streetscapes? Perhaps a scheme somewhat similar to the tidy towns association for towns and villages could be envisaged; not least for encouraging people to develop well-kept gardens, and to provide floral features (window boxes, hanging baskets) for the fronts of houses.
So to summarise it; I would like to think that our councils would consider the areas, where a great part of our workforce and electorate live, are worth turning into proper streetscapes with colourful housing, well kept gardens and housing frontages, with dense tree lined streetscapes (with latter development enveloping to provide for such a case), and lastly of course actual parks and recreational areas, as opposed to simply having patches of shrub lands tacked on to the edge of housing schemes. Iâ€™m all for the latest improvements in planning, and building regulations. However I think we should also work on our current building stock in the form of housing estates. This way we can make something of them. Something the cowboy builders who simply tacked them onto older villages and towns never bothered, or made an effort to do. And they can be made descent enough, as many older corporation areas such as Crumlin, and many other 1930â€™s/40â€™s quarters, are of course, high density semi-detached housing areas which have somewhat of a developed urban form.