Liberty, competition and the greater good

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    • #708055
      Frank Taylor

      @Thomond Park wrote:

      It is time that retail zoning becomes less broad and more specific with specific zonings for:

      1> Take Away / fast food
      2> Betting Shop
      3> Cafe
      4> Convenience Store
      5> Call shop/Internet Cafe
      6> Discount goods/household

      Planning rules, like all laws, restrict liberty with the aim of furthering the greater good. If the laws become too extreme, the restrictions to public freedom outweigh the positive effects.

      Imagine a planning scheme that determines where each individual should live. You could arrange that everyone lives close to their jobs to minimise traffic. Something tells me people mightn’t like this arrangement, despite the greater good.

      If zoning actually determined where every type of business could be set up, competition between these businesses would be non-existent with resultant high prices and poor service. Every retail sector would become like pharmacies and pubs.

      I would tend towards the other extreme of planning rules, allowing just about anything anywhere with restrictions on the locations of very noisy or smelly businesses. I’d like to see planning-lite zones tried out to see if the removal on freedom to live and transact business within reason had a good or a bad effect.

      Some years ago I lived in a suburban house in a 3rd world country. My host family had setup a cafe/shop/bar in the side garden and made a hole in the wall to allow for a shop front. As I sat one evening having a bottle of beer with my neighbours, I knew that this could never happy in a regime with strict zoning not to mention a fetish for hyper-restrictive rules on selling alcohol. And as for the argument ‘How would you like it if your neighbour opened a cafe or a shop in their garden?’ – I’d love it.

      Where do you think the correct balance lies between restricting freedom and urban chaos? Do you think Irelad should tighten or loosen up? Should planning rules be equally strict everywhere in the country or should we try out planning-lite areas where you can do most things without first getting permission?

    • #760372

      We have ‘top heavy’ planning code in Ireland, too much at the high end, and nothing at the low end – except for the ‘Building Regulations’. The Building Regulations, served to join Architectural Draughtspeople together with planners, but not Architects and Planners. Built into the notion of ‘Building Regulations’, is a negative association, to do with unfortunate Technicians, re-visiting their built work, to notice something they are held liable for – and then perhaps, getting fired by their employer! The Buildling Regulations have failed, in one way, because they have not forced Architectural professionals to think. In short, the Reg’s did pave the way for Architects to commit much larger atrocities – confident, they are covered by the Building Regulations. The retail boxes placed all along Capel Street bridge, is a classic example of this.

      The low end, is exactly where you need your code to be thorough, in order to generate the ‘beer garden’ idea you spoke of. You can see, something emerging in inner suburban Dublin, Ranelagh and Churchtown, two village centres that spring to mind – which isn’t very well regulated either. The project to contribute better fine-grained code, seems to be orphaned by planners at the present. You are aware of this, when you look at Cow’s Lane, and it’s failure to take off as anything sucessful. Too many bars and restaurants, having been allowed to happen, before the Cow’s Lane end, had gotten off the ground. This is a mistake, as that end of the Temple Bar region, always had much more to offer, than in it’s current state. Just like the West of Ireland was under developed or poorly developed, compared with the East. The planning system in Ireland has a lot of trouble, working with these things, due to a ‘forking’ of the sourse stream. Architects and Planners, should have a fat pipe of communication between each other, and should overlay, their respective solutions, to find where the gaps are – in time as well as space. I don’t know exactly, how one regulates to create that fat pipe for communication, but I hope it happens soon. In the third level spatial design faculties perhaps? Here is a quote from from Jet-Li’s latest movie, ‘Unleashed’.

      Get ’em young, and the possibilities are endless!

      Planners using their code to define things, and architects using their drawings. That is the only difference between the two traditions, and it is silly how neither one talks to the other. Both should learn to speak the others language, from a young age. That is really how Ireland is going to see progress, on the environmental front, I am sure. I try, today, to see the integration of these systems as the top priority. I would like to see more people undertaking design work here in Ireland, to view their task in the same hybrid way. This is really needed, ‘to get the max’ from your investment in any project – from a long term social, financial and environmental point of view. It was interesting lately, to hear Merit Bucholtz speak of Manhattan as a sustainable environment, on a radio talk show programme. Manhattan, is getting better as a sustainable environment, it would seem. Can the same be said of Dublin, Cork, Limerick or Galway nowadays? Manhattan you should remember, was regulated to a very strict pattern, repeated across a whole pennisula. In some ways, like the Aran Islands field system, was also a ‘coded landscape’.

      I would tend towards the other extreme of planning rules, allowing just about anything anywhere with restrictions on the locations of very noisy or smelly businesses.

      Take the tax on chairs on side walks for instance, a necessary measure at the fine-grained level of the planning system. It was needed to ‘patch up’ another badly executed piece of urban design code – pedestrianisation. Having given the business folk here in Dublin, pedestrianisation, their response was to think of a street as a ‘free piece of property’ outside their door – to be used to generate a revenue windfall – like the Quays pub on New Square, Temple Bar so painfully demonstrates today. What is more, the newly pedestrianised street became this piece of land, upon which no further liability was accumulated, or need for it’s management. It was liked ‘Manna from Heaven’, and yet, there is was, written straight into our source code! Pedestrianisation holds no effective financial obligation, on the part of the business trader, towards up keep and management of the space, despite greatly inflating revenue stream! That is why I think, pedestrianisation, is such a useless piece of code. Allowing the Property Team, as in Auctioneer, etc, to divert massive revenue out of the space, and into the pockets of a few rich bankers. The whole system, has not been fully thought out from beginning to end. But I think, that is our friend, the ‘Invisible Hand’, the hand of human greed, intervening here again:

      Now we are talking about joining Henry Street and Grafton Street, with one massive pedestrian plaza on Westmoreland Street! This issue still isn’t put to bed, by any manner of speaking, as the problems with the northern end of the Millenium Bridge, clearly demonstrates. Zoe Developments, must know of this loop hole in the planning regulation, a little bit too well, and have sold commercial property to wine bars there, who block most of the pedestrian walking route. It is this forking of spatial design traditions, and consequent lack of granularity in the spatial code, which has given us Temple Bar, as we now know it. Sure the designs of buildings and spaces were ‘well considered’, but who gives a constitutional f***, the code attached to those public spaces was, and still is, complete and utter crap.

      What frightens me most, as a ‘would-be’ spatial designer in Ireland, is not my level of ability to undertake an urban project, but I can foretell, too early on, the rotten aftermath of completing such an exercise. A code-based incubation unit, needs to be implemented for these projects, early on in their lives, to allow them to ‘grow’ into something worth doing at all. That is the side of the equation, that Architects are not trained to understand, and furthermore, they refuse to acknowledge. The problem is, that projects have ‘gotten legs’ by the time, they hit the planning authorities desk, and nowadays, have been helped along, by someone called ‘a planning consultant’. Which basically amounts to past, local authority planners, setting up shop on the outside, with an eye on the private sector money pie. Architects, are developing a closer working relationship with the planning profession, but it is not the one we should hope for. The aim is to ‘build large urban projects’, and turn their backs on them later. This is how we ended up with the abortion, that is Temple Bar. Not many of my contemporaries would share my views perhaps, being too busy enjoying their ‘prosperity’. So, all I can really do, is point, to a litter of so-called urban projects, like Zoe developments mess, on the northern end of the Millenium Bridge. As if one, wine-drinking quarter hole wasn’t enough on the south side. There seems to be no stopping the same rash happening on the north side.

      Brian O’ Hanlon.

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