Growth cannot happen everywhere, says architect calling for emphasis on Dublin
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.
Ireland’s weak urban structure – with only Dublin registering on the international scale – and its relatively dispersed settlement pattern had been “reinforced during boom”. As a result, transport costs here “will always be higher than other places – that’s now built-in”. Dr Morgenroth said the real problem with the National Spatial Strategy, adopted in 2002, was that “it is largely aspirational, with few concrete measures. What’s really missing is any adequate thought about what are we really trying to achieve and how do we make it happen.”