Re: Re: The Skehan/Sirr plan

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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] Making Dublin the Heart of the City Region.

”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”.

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.

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

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