The Skehan/Sirr plan

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    • #709945
      gunter
      Participant

      Heavy weight articles by Conor Skehan and Lorcan Sirr in the Irish times on Monday and Tuesday last, setting out a scary planning vision for the island.

      As I understand it, this is a vision of the future that sees Dublin at the epicentre of an Irish, 21st century, Ruhr district, stretching from Belfast in the north, through Waterford, to Cork in the south. This sweeping conurbation of the east coast would be balanced by a west coast transformed into a protected environment freed from the effects of forced economic growth, it will be a recreational theme park based, possibly, on John Hinde photographs, with boutique farmers, presumably in period costume, keeping the grass cut and posing for tourists.

      With Wicklow under concrete, the new west coast ‘garden of Ireland’ will be powered by wind turbines and the failed urban centres of the region, Galway, Sligo and Derry, will vie for the status of ‘potting shed’, ‘green house’ and ‘compost heap’ in the new coastal garden. Limerick will be the outdoor jacks and, best of all, the midlands region, which never had a proper vision of itself, will be the back door mat, the place where you wipe your feets when coming in from the garden.

      This is a vision that is not delivered with any real hope, or any up-lifting promise, it is a vision of the future based on a grim realisation that nobody in any position of power in this country has shown the will, or the imagination, to deliver any real alternative. When the creation of the National Spacial Strategy (that could have charted a course out of development chaos) called for hard choices, the political will wasn’t there.

      Predictably, from the spineless political leaders who got us into this mess, there has already been a ritualistic condemnation of the Skehan/Sirr plan. From others, in time, there may be a fatalistic acceptance of this vision.

      What the Skehan/Sirr plan does is it sets out, in stark terms, exactly what’s going to happen over the next 20 years and how it might be possible to make the best of it. What is needed now is a full back to basics analysis of where we’ve gone wrong and how we might fix it, so that we don’t end up living the Skehan/Sirr plan in twenty years time.

      Since the concept of the city began, and for the next 7,000 years, cities were defined by physical boundaries, boundaries that the city, or it’s ruler/patron, designed, built, maintained and constantly expanded and re-built when necessary. It has only been in the last 3-4 hundred years that cities have dispensed with physical boundaries, with most European cities only demolishing their defensive walls in the 19th century, less than 200 years ago.

      The encircling walls were much more than a defensive system, the gave a defined image to the city and they set the boundaries of the city in stone, literally. Back then there was no confusion about whether you were inside the city or outside it. The city invested a huge proportion of it’s energy and it’s resources in building and maintaining it’s walls and, in turn, it was repaid by security, prestige and, usually, a good measure of civic order. The city, civic expression, the city’s image and the city walls were totally inter-connected concepts.

      Concurrently with the abandonment of city walls came the industrial revolution, which introduced two new elements into the urban mix, large scale industrial manufacturing and the concept of social housing. Both of these concepts have now, largely, run their course. Social housing, as a distinct urban category, and smoke belching factories have largely vanished as quickly as they came and the opportunity to re-evaluate the urban form, without these distorting factors, is again possible.

      What seems clear is that the city of today is no longer a physical entity with physical edges, it is an abstract concept, an admininstrative area within another administrative area with only notional, not real, boundaries. If you live in Churchtown, for example, you can tell whether you’re in Dublin City, or not, by whether your bins are collected by Dublin City Council, or South Dublin County Council, or by DunLaoghaire-Rathdown County Council, but would you know any other way?

      The city, and to an extent, citizenship, is an eroded concept. The physical boundaries to cities have been replaced by zoning maps, and the zoning maps are as haphazard and illogical as any set of plans are likely to be that are drawn up by politicians eager to hold onto their seats, or (in the past?) feather their own nests.

      To stop the sprawl, to stop the drift to conurbation, the city needs to re-establish the physical concept of the city boundary. The new physical boundary, the edge of the city, doesn’t have to be a wall, nor should it be a wall, but it should be a defined, legible, necklace of physical structures designed to be read as the edge of the city and invested with as much civic status and urban prestige as contemporary architecture will permit. Above all, a new physical city boundary should be intended to stand for a number of generations, not just for five years, or until the next election sweeps it away.

      Is it completely unthinkable that the one constant in the urban record, from it’s inception in neolithic times, through the classical period and up to the familiar medieval model, the template of the city defined by it’s walls and it’s ‘built to impress’ inter-mural towers, re-imagined as civic scale, mixed use, spine blocks and glittering apartment towers, could become the potent new symbol of the compact, well defined, self aware city of the future?

      Architects have always known the value of constraints. Often, it is the site with the greatest constraints that produces the best architecture. This concept can apply to the city also. A city defined by rigid boundaries will have crystal clear transportation needs and obvious density targets. Defined boundaries will force development into responding to limited, not limitless, space. We know that Dublin has a density deficit, we can see that in every comparative study ever done, yet we keep expanding outwards regardless. It will only be when we impose a conscious discipline, a defined edge that we can’t expand beyond, that we will eventually turn to address the density deficit in a planned and a controlled way, and not in the unplanned and opportunistic way that we see developers in Ballsbridge and elsewhere attempt.

      The Skehan/Sirr plan has set out, in black and white, what the future holds. With Bremore port. the ‘outer orbital route’ and the never-ending re-zonings, the conurbation bandwagon is already rolling. I’ve banged out a knee jerk reaction, if someone has a better plan that doesn’t involve nonsense ‘gateways’, ‘nodes’ and ‘hubcaps’, now would be a good time to post it up.

    • #799998
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      A real thought-out polemic, but very difficult to respond to within the confines of a blog like this, without writing another mini-essay.
      I don’t altogether accept your views of the demise of ‘social housing’; that seems to me to be a reading of a short-term trend. With the recent cold-water treatment of the housing bubble (here and where you are), we may need to reappraise the need for soc hsg, not povided or (especially) managed by the local authority, but in the form of local hsg asociations,or cooperatives or provided by major institutions (like hospitals, universities). The real future horror may be in the communter suburbs – high mortgages, dear petrol, neighbours who don’t talk, no social infrastructure, under the hegemony of Tesco, etc. Do you advocate the return of a concept like the ‘green belt’ as a development modifier? (No dev within these boundaries, and that includes one-off hsg.) You do seem to be an advocate also of ‘Edge City’ development – I see what you mean about a ‘ramparts’ form of dev as a signifier of urban edge (where the city both begins and ends), but in the hands of capitalist developers you will inevitably get overdeveloped nodes crammed with as much floorspace as possible.
      No point in going on further, but the issues you have raised are fundamental to the development of cities, but I’m not convinced, in spite of all the smoke and mirrors, that we have the will or capacity any more to design or manage urban spaces with any great degree of conviction. Technocracy and technique swamp vision and capacity.

    • #799999
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      johnglas: I wasn’t intending to say that social housing has disappeared, just that, as a separate identifyable entity, it no longer really exists. Social housing and commercial housing are virtually indistinguishable from each other, over here anyway, I know Glasgow might be different.

      Yes to the green belt concept. We never did green belt over here, unless you consider random shifting tattered rags as a green belt. I’m thinking a Byker wall, a clear city edge. Now there’s the edge, this is the space you’ve got, there won’t be any more, now work within it.

    • #800000
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      Points taken; let’s see how the debate develops. Local authorities have mostly opted out of soc hsg here, but hsg assocs are still building some of the better (-looking) hsg, Much better than the awful rash of suburban private dev. but hsg assocs are not quite the locally-based organisations they once were and have replaced local govt as the predominant social landlords. Private large-scale devs (like Glasgow Harbour) target the affluent either in, or on the edge of, affluent areas – I don’t regard them as ‘regeneration’ in any meaningful sense. We still have green belt, but it’s largely ritualistic and is constantly under pressure.
      I had a car-ride through Glasgow’s East End yesterday; it’s truly third-world and we now have ‘hollowed-out’ cities with large areas of dereliction and not-very-concealed poverty. So, don’t believe the hype.

    • #800001
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      The relevant articles:

      @Monday, March 31, 2008 wrote:

      Planning for a future that is going to happen, not against it

      Proper planning is about more than permission to build]
      http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/opinion/2008/0331/1206752248397.html

      @Tuesday, April 1, 2008 wrote:

      Proactive planning will make most of regional differences

      THROUGH WILFUL neglect of the naturally emerging bigger picture, current Irish strategic policy is trying to plan against the emergence of a naturally urbanising Ireland. Instead, we are trying to plan nationally for what is locally and politically expedient, but either way we are planning to fail, write Conor Skehan and Lorcan Sirr .

      To succeed we will need to change and re-invent how we plan – and what we are planning for.

      The biggest change we will need to make is to develop new structures through which political and administrative control will match city-based functional areas. This will involve harnessing existing county and regional structures – on an all-island basis – to form new territories united by common opportunities and challenges. This restructuring will require a significant devolution of authority from central to regional and local government]
      http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/opinion/2008/0401/1206977159052.html

      @Friday, April 4, 2008 wrote:

      Surprise over suggestion to ‘preserve’ west

      TIM O’BRIEN

      WESTERN DEVELOPMENT: REGIONAL ENTERPRISE agencies and planners have reacted with surprise to a suggestion that attempts to foster urban development outside the east coast may be misplaced.

      The suggestion that it might be more prudent to preserve the West as an ecologically pure amenity which might attract high net worth individuals to live, while facilitating the development of the Dublin-Belfast corridor into a major, urbanised area encompassing most of the east coast, was made in a series of articles in The Irish Times this week.

      However the articles, written by Conor Skehan, head of the department of environment and planning and Dr Lorcan Sirr head of research, faculty of the built environment at Dublin Institute of Technology, have drawn criticism from Shannon Development, Liam Scollan, chief executive, Ireland West Airport Knock and Minister for the Environment John Gormley.

      Speaking to The Irish Times, Brian Callanan of Shannon Development said the argument put forward in the articles seemed to ignore the already high level of enterprise in the west.

      Mr Callanan said this included a major investment in the knowledge economy through the universities of Cork, Limerick and Galway alongside the institutes of technology, which were already paying off in terms of attracting foreign direct investment and fostering indigenous industry.

      The articles appeared to ignore the Limerick-Shannon area in its entirety, while also not considering the development of the Atlantic road and rail corridor and Shannon Development’s own fostering of next-generation broadband communications infrastructure, he said. Even if the articles were to be solely concerned with a post-foreign direct investment scenario, he said the west had considerable indigenous industry.

      Mr Callanan remarked it was a surprise that leading academics would put forward such a view and he added “it reminds you, how solid the ‘Dublin-centric’ opinion can be”.

      Liam Scollan, a former director of the Western Development Commission, said his initial reaction was to consider the date of the final article, April 1st, might be a significant factor. Mr Scollan said he believed the vision presented was “class-ridden” because of its references to the midlands being a place where manual work would be carried out, with rich people enjoying an ecologically better environment in the west and middle-class workers in the East.

      However, some of the strongest criticism came from Mr Gormley. While he said he “welcomed the input which highlighted the need for the planning system to be more pro-active and integrated”, he would “strongly challenge the notion in the articles that the National Spatial Strategy is misplaced and undeliverable, and that it is futile to try to alter demographic trends on the island, unsustainable though they may be”.

      He said some people held a mistaken understanding that the strategy was about taking development from the east, and directing it to the gateways, towns and hubs.

      “It’s not about taking development away from Dublin and limiting the economic growth of the capital, which we all acknowledge is the main international gateway to this country and main driver of our economy,” Mr Gormley said.

      The Minister pointed to investment in critical infrastructure in Dublin such as the Luas and new governance arrangements through the establishment of the Dublin Transportation Authority and the commitment to a Dublin mayor with real decision-making powers, as evidence that the strategy was not to deprive Dublin.

      “The National Spatial Strategy is aimed at tapping fully into the resources and opportunities available to ‘Ireland Inc’ as a whole, by activating the unique and specific potential of all the regions, while at the same time supporting the development of Dublin in a sustainable manner. This has to be our overriding objective and definitive goal,” he added.

      © 2008 The Irish Times

      http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/ireland/2008/0404/1207240103506.html

    • #800002
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      Some of the main points from the Skehan / Sirr articles:

      ‘Planning for a successful Ireland of, say, 2030, means identifying, examining and working with, not against, the forces that will shape our future. To plan a future Ireland on a business-as-usual, or, worse still, on a politican basis, as we have already done with the plan for the decentralisation of government, would be another exercise in folly.’

      I think it would be fair to say that most people with an interest in planning in Ireland, think that the plan to decentralise government was an embarrassing shambles. In any other country it would have been laughed out of court.

      Having said that, there’s little doubt that the original concept was sound enough, but the dispersment to every marginal seat in the state was a fiasco.

      ‘The small size and markedly eastern distribution of Irish settlements is a reality that few policies recognise, or accommodate . . .’

      This is true of the Dublin commuter belt towns, everything from Ardee through Mullingar to Arklow, but it’s not true of the established regional cities, Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Derry and Belfast, which are remarkably well distributed around the full perimeter of the island.

      ‘ . . . very few settlements have reached the critical size of 100,000 that allows all of the benefits of city life to begin to occur.’

      Well all of the above cities are already on, or near, that threshold! As well as that, they all have centuries of tradition that has sustained them through times that were a lot more problematic than this.

      I think it would be fair to say that the attempts to counter balance, what is perceived to be, the disproportionate growth of Dublin, are well intentioned, just ham fisted. Where the government decentralisation plan is daft is that it attempts to take government departments, the most urban of institutions, and stick them in market towns all over the place. The logical approach, surely, would have been to decentralise departments to the regional cities. Centres of gravity, critical mass, all of that stuff could have happened, could still happen! You don’t counter balance one big stone on the edge of a plate with a bunch of pebbles in the middle, you counter balance it with a ring of medium sized stones all around the rest of the rim.

      I believe what I said at the start of this thread, that cities, and towns for that matter, need to look at themselves as entities not regions, and giving them defined physical edges will be crucial in that process. People constantly go on about the bigger picture, you’re missing the bigger picture, this is happening, you can’t stop it, but you stick a frame on it, it doesn’t look scary any more, it’s just a bigger picture and it’ll take a few more more people to hang it.

    • #800003
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      This is probably as good a place as any to post up today’s IT article on a massive Treasury Holdings proposal for some fields in County Meath, which the IT have decided to give the ridiculus heading of: ‘€250m Tourism Plan for Boyne Valley’

      If we remember back to last April, the gist of the Conor Skehan – Lorcan Sirr thesis was that trying to plan for a balanced development of the island was futile, when the bulk of the country’s development and investment inevitably wanted to be concentrated on the east coast.

      If I understand their argument, it was that the forces seeking the conurbation of the east coast would prove irresistable and therefore, instead of wasting precious resources in a vain attempt to re-balance the island’s infrastructure and development, the thing to do is to go with the flow and landscape everything west of a slightly grim starter home/service zone in the midlands.

      If that was their thesis, this would seem to be an example of the plan in action:

      €250m TOURISM PLAN FOR BOYNE VALLEY

      ELAINE KEOGH

      PLANS BY Treasury Holdings for a €250 million development in the Boyne Valley, including tourism facilities and housing, were outlined yesterday to councillors in Co Louth.

      Dermot Dwyer of Treasury Holdings told councillors it wanted to develop “an integrated tourism-driven site” which would bring together the elements needed “to make the Boyne Valley not just a day visitor attraction but somewhere people would stay”.

      Treasury Holdings is also the developer of a planned national conference centre in Spencer Dock, Dublin.

      The development outlined yesterday would be located on a site adjacent to the M1 interchange at the Boyne cable bridge in Co Louth.

      The project, on a 70-acre site spread over four pockets of land in Tullyallen, includes:

      • holiday cottages in addition to 368 houses and apartments;

      • a 3,000-sq m visitor centre;

      • a mini-landscape of the Boyne Valley;

      • a design centre focusing on the Boyne Valley;

      • a four-star hotel and spa;

      • designer gardens, an activity centre and botanic gardens.

      A landmark attraction such as a tethered balloon on the site which would rise to 150m and provide a bird’s eye view of the Boyne Valley is also proposed.

      Outlining the details to councillors yesterday, Ralph Bingham of Murray O’Laoire architects said it would be similar to the €200 million development by Treasury Holdings of the five-star Ritz-Carlton hotel at Powerscourt in Co Wicklow.

      A planning application for 368 houses, which forms the first phase of the mixed-use development, is to be lodged in the coming weeks.

      The houses would be on a single site to the east of the cable bridge.

      Asked by Cllr Jimmy Mulroy (FF) if there was any guarantee “that once you have built the 368 houses” the rest of the plans would proceed in light of the current economic climate, Mr Dwyer replied: “There is no guarantee.”

      However, he said from a developers’ perspective “housing development is not what Treasury Holdings does; we are not speculative housing developers, we deal with large sites with mixed integrated uses. There is no guarantee it is part of a master plan.”

      He said the Boyne Valley site was one of a number of large sites the company was involved with in Ireland, and it took “a long-term view”.

      He said it had been involved in the site since 1999, but the area was not zoned for development until 2004. The project was a joint venture with the landowner.

      Mr Dwyer said the development would create “several hundred permanent and sustainable jobs”, and referred to the Powerscourt development where there were 250 people employed in the hotel and up to 150 in the retail and garden end.

      An economic impact study and assessment will form part of the planning application for the lands.

      © 2008 The Irish Times

      There are a few things that stand out in this proposal, as reported:

      1. The first phase of the ‘Tourism Plan for the Boyne Valley’ is to consist of building 368 houses in the Boyne Valley!

      2. The ‘Tethered Balloon’ is getting another outing.

      3. Developers of the standing of Treasury Holdings appear to have no trouble getting qualified architects to participate in this kind of defecation.

      I could be way off the mark here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the first phase of any new Treasury Holdings super-port at Bremore, isn’t another 368 houses.

    • #800004
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      Oh, you cynic, gunter, you cynic! (That’s my job.)

    • #800005
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      The Skehan Sirr Proposal does not propose to give Carte Blance to any development in the East coast. Its thesis is to plan for a future that will happen, not against it. This would be done with proper planning mechanisms which would identify the areas best suited to certain activities and Land uses. Developer lead planning , weak detached local authorities with a mere toolkit of coloured map forward planning and ineffective planning enforcement and toothless National planning policy along with clientilism and croneyism by elected officials is the problem here. Meath county council and the OPW should be providing the Boyne Experience and not Treasury. Unfortunatly the value accrued from Land rezoning which should have gone to fund local Authorities and local services has instead gone to private investors and we now have to pay a second time for those services. The alternative, to incentivise the private sector to provide public buildings results in 300 houses and a cheap shoddy centre, with maybe a baloon thrown in. Architecture can’t thrive without a good planning system. It is important for Architects to have a better understanding of how National Planning Policy or Lack of it, affects our built and un-built environment.

    • #800006
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      Keating: I don’t know Lorcan Sirr, but Conor Skehan is one of the most respected figures in planning and education in this country, as far as I’m concerned, but he’s a fatalist, you can see this in every furrow of the big man’s brow.

      This strategy that they’ve come up with is laced with fatalism.

      This is not the route to go IMO.

      The people who proposed this Boyne Valley nonsense are the kind of people that take comfort from these strategies. ‘Scallywags’ I believe Skehan calls them.

    • #800007
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      Gunter, it may sound fatalistic as a plan, but Skehan and Sirr suggest 4 possible scenarios to projections based on trends, policy and the Authors knowledge of foreign direct investment. The projections are pessimistic, but they are correct. It’s difficult to argue that the future for many regions Ireland is not good under current policy’s. These projections don’t begin to factor in the economy in a long tern descent curve. If anyone has a more optimistic projection or a better solution, great.

    • #800008
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      OK, I’ve re-read the articles, without doubt, they are absolutely fascinating.

      I wonder whhat happened to the debate that the authors called for?

      In a nutshell, the Skehan/Sirr manifesto is that: ”There is a need to plan for the future that is more likely to happen – the continued urbanisation of the eastern region – instead of trying to prevent it.”

      I think ”more likely to happen” is a polite way of saying inevitable! The danger with adopting this mantra is that inevitability seeps into the thinking at every level, if you let it in the door at all. What will be the next ”future that is more likely to happen”? the next inevitable trend that it will be hopeless to resist.

      We’re living on a small island where communication is now instant and travel times from even the remotest urban centre are capable of being reduced to just a couple of hours, but still we want to see one part of the island as having a favoured location over another. When that condition genuinely existing, in previous centuries, we still managed to distribute the urban centres around the island in a reasonably balanced way.

      What I see as wrong with current spacial planning in this country is not the motorway network fanning out of Dublin, or the investment in a rail network that does much the same, or the slightly fanciful concept of ‘Balanced Regional Development’, it is the failure to hold the line around our urban centres. We just refuse to deal with sprawl.

      Obviously this is a political issue, as Skehan/Sirr assert, but it is also a Urban Planning and even an Architectural issue.

      IMO we need to develop strong urban models that have strong outer edges. As long as the edge is always the weakest element, the urban centre will always be tempted to spill out. Even strong urban edges will, in time and with growth, be supplanted but this type of growth can be periodic (in numbers of decades), predictable and organic, like tree rings, not constant and malignant like a tumour.

      Every debate about urban form is inevitably hijacked by the particular conditions of particular examples. We need to look at the problem in a more abstract way.

      I’ve often thought that it would be a useful exercise to design a new town/small city from scratch on a open site, not ancilliary to anything else, just out there on it’s own. We’re probably the only generation, since civilization began, that doesn’t do this. What would the elements be? How would a compact new small city differ from historic models? How would we deal with cars? Would it have edges (gunter’s would) ?

      Maybe, since there isn’t going to be much else going on for a while, one of our planning institutes would sponsor a competition!

    • #800009
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      Gunter, what about Adamstown and Clonburris?

      There will be no urban planning as long as there is no distinction between those that gain from property transactions and elected decision makers.

      Transport Infrastructure and a national spatial policy would be a precursor to a new town, but why build in a green field, when we have plenty of underutilised urban area’s. When Dublin Port moves to bremore near balbriggan, the old port will get this opertunity

    • #800010
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      @keating wrote:

      . . . why build in a green field, when we have plenty of underutilised urban area’s?

      I wasn’t proposing that we build a new city in a green field, I was proposing that we look at what we would build, if we were to build a new city in a green field.

      This would be an exercise to force ourselves to examine the contemporary urban form, as a stand alone entity, without any of the get-out clauses, or make-do compromises we live with because we’re always dealing with extensions and alterations to existing centres.

      What would a totally new Irish city’s characteristics be? Would it be a bunch of Adamstowns stitched together? Would it be a mini Paris with boulevards all over the place? Would it be just an pale imitation of the nearest established city, only with less depth? Would we want familiarity? would we want a Longford version of the glistening corporate towers of a standard U.S. or Asian city? Would we want a bit of all of these, only twisted and welded together to make it funky? Remember now there are no excuses, no existing property interests to contend with, nothing but maybe a couple of railway lines and a blank canvas to work with, what would we do?

      I think if we could answer that question, we’d go a long way towards being able to plan places like Navan and Drogheda, and maybe even stop them losing their identity in a swirl of Dublin style housing estates, satelite towns adrift in a Greater Dublin Regional orbit.

      The Skehan/Sirr strategy aims to change our whole planning outlook to go with the flow of a ‘future that is more likely to happen’, but that’s like saying that Irish people are getting fatter, so lets make door openings wider and bus seats bigger, instead of saying; this is wrong, we have to stop this from happening.

    • #800011
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      gunter: daparting from the ‘ideal city’ mode (always a tempting, but in the end fascistic notion), surely any attempt at thinking of a ‘new’ urban model would be predicated on what is already there and. critically, on a ‘hierarchical’ (‘functional’) notion of city/town? That is, what does the town ‘do’? What is it ‘for’?
      Adamstown is a suburb, but with a ‘local centre’ feel, focused on a railway station and a town square (like a small provincial continental town). Drogheda and even Navan are more historic sub-regional centres where you would expect a wider range of function and a wider range of facilities. The present downturn gives a chance for a breather and a rethink. Maybe with some of the frenetic heat out of the road, the Dublin region will be given a chance to consolidate and coalesce round ‘natural’ functional nodes (OK, I know this is very Christaller, but he wasn’t all wrong). There is even room in this model for the Poundbury-style, neo-Garden City form of development, on a smaller scale. (One is not advocating the Middle-England Hobbitland of HRH.)
      The only form of development not suitable here would be the ‘one-off’ rural house, although historically there is a precedent in Ireland. (One-off is OK, thousands-off is a problem.) Things like the Co. Cork design guide for rural housing surely point the way forward here.
      Anyway, this is a fascinating debate; let’s hope more join in.

    • #800012
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      @johnglas wrote:

      gunter: daparting from the ‘ideal city’ mode (always a tempting, but in the end fascistic notion), surely any attempt at thinking of a ‘new’ urban model would be predicated on what is already there and. critically, on a ‘hierarchical’ (‘functional’) notion of city/town? That is, what does the town ‘do’? What is it ‘for’?
      .

      I don’t accept that johnglas. A vision a new ‘ideal city’ doesn’t have to be a ‘fascistic notion’ any more than it has to be the inhuman machine city of Metropolis or the concrete pigeon coops of Corb’s grim vision. Neither would a new city (in a desperate search for the humane and the familiar) have to follow the Garden City model, Portmerrion, or Poundbury, these are all experiments to learn from, not follow.

      As far as ‘function’ goes, the notion of the ‘coal town’ has passed into history, every urban centre of any size today needs to be multi-functional and permanently adaptable. It doesn’t matter if a new city were to start off with an ‘Intel’ as it’s initial primary employer, or a Thornton Hall style super prison, the point is it starts off with a demand for a huge volume of employment accommodating space, closely followed by a housing requirement and associated service facilities.

      What I was suggesting was that, as an exercise, instead of always tacking these significant embryonic urban opportunities onto the outskirts of Dublin, or worse, the outskirts of some existing minor orbital village/town, what if the state, in conjunction with a local authority, took the plunge and pre-planned a new urban centre, free from vested property interests, subtandard service infrastructure and the restraints of an existing ‘context’?

      Again, I’m just interested in the concept, would a totally new urban centre necessarily follow one or more of the existing patterns we touched on above, or could it be something completely different? If it could be something completely different, could we not learn from this in making new planning strategies for existing towns?

      If we keep going the way we’re going (and assuming the current recession isn’t actually the end of the world as we know it) towns like Navan, Naas and Newbridge (Drogheda probably wasn’t a good example) may have achieved proto-city scale (in terms of population numbers) by the Skehan/Sirr time frame of 2030 or so, but probably without having the slightest aspiration towards real urban identity. Maybe at that stage, these sprawling dormer towns could be retro-fitted with urban/shopping centres, Tallaght style, but we will still have the disconnected estates, the wasteful housing models and the unsustaining densities.

      I could almost live with the Skehan/Sirr strategy if their ‘Eastern Region’ was to be a tightly planned and well serviced zone with Dublin at the centre of a network of separate, well defined, urban centres (big and small, new and existing) running, as they suggest, from Cork to Belfast, but, without drifting into the inevitability trap, you just know that this is not what’s going to happen. Instead, talk of ‘Swords City’ and ‘Airport City’ will soon be followed by ‘Ashbourn City’, ‘Balbriggan City’ and ‘Bremore City’ and all the time Treasury and the like with be out there turning every random field in between with coloured zoning and road frontage into housing estates, joining everything into one sprawling sub-urban mess and sucking all the life from everything beyond the Pale.

    • #800013
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      gunter: good solid stuff; will digest and relaunch the offensive.

    • #800014
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      Back up the bus lads, You may be specifying the taps before you’ve designed the building. You need to address the politics first, before you start re-arranging land uses. It will be difficult to consolidate an existing urban area under our current development model. Taking the Skehan/Sirr study as the most likely scenario, the first necessary step is reform of Local Government. Our local elected representatives should reflect our aspirations, we’ll get a chance to replace most of the current crop of clientalist estate agents. Giving local or preferably regional Authorities greater control over revenues collected in their functional area, The ability to purchase land before rezoning it, so integrated land use and planning can be applied using the flipping value to fund services, blueprint masterplanning which legally compels the landowner to comply with the plan designed by the people who represent us.

      In US shopping centre design, the mall is a thing of the past, the current fad is for a town, with shopping centres mimicking real urban streets(1). In Ireland our streets are already designed for this end. Each town should have a retail strategy, such as Ballina’s. Where the town is designed as a large shopping center with a Major retailer at either end of the mainstreet, a one way circular ring road around the urban centre with clearly defined parking areas could result in Irish town centres such as say Navan’s looking like a natural Dundrum town centre.

      (1) see page 120
      http://books.google.ie/books?id=nQFBtGZSznUC&pg=PA148&lpg=PA148&dq=shopping+centre+design+town+streets&source=web&ots=Z9JCC3Lv9q&sig=AritdrykrYek9PQ5ABeBS1eSoJU&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result#PPA90,M1

    • #800015
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      @keating wrote:

      a one way circular ring road around the urban centre with clearly defined parking areas could result in Irish town centres such as say Navan’s looking like a natural Dundrum town centre.

      I have to say that I think this is a terrifying prospect. As well as shopping centres, such as Dundrum, withdrawing people from (in theory anyway) democratic town centres, the knock-on effect of the real towns becoming like another Dundrum ‘town centre’ would be a really worrying development for the future of our towns and city-centres.

    • #800016
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      @keating wrote:

      Back up the bus lads,. . . You need to address the politics first, before you start re-arranging land uses. It will be difficult to consolidate an existing urban area under our current development model. Taking the Skehan/Sirr study as the most likely scenario, the first necessary step is reform of Local Government.

      That depends on how you define ‘First step’.

      I’m thinking of a first step that imagines where we would like to be, as a urbanised, developed, island, in 2030, as opposed to predicting where we’re likely to be in 2030 (based on an extrapolation of existing trends) and tailoring our planning strategies to suit that, as with the skehan/Sirr strategy.

      Knowing where we’d like to get to ought to be the first step an any journey, then we’ll gas up the bus, get out the map and hit the road.

      That’s interesting about U.S. shopping trends, although I have to say I find it hard to believe that Americans are going to start living without their malls, maybe this is the end of the world after all!

      Phil: Obviously the very thought of Dundrum Shopping Centre ought to send a shiver down the spine of any right thinking person, but I imagine that keating is talking about the urban qualities of the place, rather that the horror of it’s actual shops. In terms of the miserableness that was Dundrum before the the DSC, it could be argued that the centre has given Dundrum something of an urban focus, some paving and a water feature.

    • #800017
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      @gunter wrote:

      In terms of the miserableness that was Dundrum before the the DSC, it could be argued that the centre has given Dundrum something of an urban focus, some paving and a water feature.

      Indeed, and all possible without resorting to monolithic construction projects such as Dundrum TC. My point is more related to dangers of managing a town as a purely shopping environment. It is about taking away those intangible factors that make a town a town and replacing them with the sterile ethos of the shopping centre mentality. This is obviously down to a political perspective, but in my view, such alterations would be largely negative in the long term.

    • #800018
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      @phil wrote:

      I have to say that I think this is a terrifying prospect. As well as shopping centres, such as Dundrum, withdrawing people from (in theory anyway) democratic town centres, the knock-on effect of the real towns becoming like another Dundrum ‘town centre’ would be a really worrying development for the future of our towns and city-centres.

      Sorry, I was a bit vague there. I agree Dundrum is just The square in Tallaght with recessed downlighters and ‘delta cream granite’. In its favour though it has a nice outdoor square with restaurants and a pond and now an outdoor street leading to the largest toyshop in Europe. Its nice to see a plaza in Ireland where people congregate and mix. Sure most those people drove to within 400 yards of the plaza with conspicuous consumption on their minds, but its footfall. Most of our towns were built as the shopping centres of their day. The market square was the Major of the day and the speciality shops that lined the streets were the concession stores. If each town saw itself as a shopping centre and used the psychology employed by shopping centre designers, it would benefit those towns. It would also force retail use closer to town centres and force certain strategic pieces of land to undertake a particular use and density. For example incentivise an anchor to locate at the top of mainstreet or develope a multstorey carpark in the town centre. Security is a big draw for shopping centres but is not considered by local Authorities or chambers of commerce. If towns were designed by women this would be a big consideration.

      In a shopping centre or mall for instance, you have Anchor stores on each end, such as Debenhams and Tesco, These stores pay little or no rent but they generate the footfall moving between them, this gives business to the mini-major’s such as lifestyle and monsoon who pay a nominal rent and generate footfall for speciality stores like high end retail and food stores who pay highest rent per square foot.

      The biggest driver of urban form has always been retail.

      What do we want our country to be like in 2020 or 2030? we set that agenda when we voted for Cowan, Lenihan, Noel Dempsey, Dick Roche and Jackie Healy Rae. It’ll be a great place for builders and Land owners. We’ll get the future we deserve.

    • #800019
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      @keating wrote:

      The biggest driver of urban form has always been retail.

      Not sure about that really. Think it is a dominant factor alright, but not sure if it is the biggest driver. Many other economic, socio-political and religious factors have also been dominant in terms of influencing urban form throughout (Western) history. Anyway, that is probably another day’s debate. I think I see where you are coming from though. I would still be very wary of allowing shopping centre design to be the driving feature of urban change in our towns. On a base level I would far prefer to see policies such as the living over the shops scheme being pursued further in our towns. I also worry about the democratic legitimacy of the shopping centre mentality.

    • #800020
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      If you look more closely at the square in Dundrum, while it looks nice and works reasonably well, they’ve still designed it so most of it is unuseable for people to stop and hang out like is done in most squares. This is because of the lake and the multiple change in levels. It’s presumably related to the privatised space of the centre and the perceived need to police the place.

    • #800021
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      @keating wrote:

      If towns were designed by women this (the security offered by shopping centres) would be a big consideration.

      That’s a minefield I’m going to tip-toe around, except to say that ‘towns’ are now essentially designed by nobody and all the inherent characteristics and traditional patterns (outer defined edges and primary and secondary street hierarchies) that would have been understood when most of our towns were first developed, have fallen by the wayside, to be replaced by much more vague notions to do with zoning and distributary roads.


      Galway in the 1500s


      Youghal also in the late 16th century (from the same school history book)

      @keating wrote:

      What do we want our country to be like in 2020 or 2030? we set that agenda when we voted for Cowan, Lenihan, Noel Dempsey, Dick Roche and Jackie Healy Rae. It’ll be a great place for builders and Land owners. We’ll get the future we deserve.

      I would agree with you, except that we can’t really say that urban form is on the agenda of any political party, so it’s not like the guys who would have re-imagined our towns and cities as tidy, ring-fenced, urban entities, just didn’t get elected.

      @phil wrote:

      I would still be very wary of allowing shopping centre design to be the driving feature of urban change in our towns. On a base level I would far prefer to see policies such as the living over the shops scheme being pursued further in our towns.

      I share your misgivings about shopping centres, but I think keating is right in that, often, they really are the only show in town and if they could be harnessed properly to extend and reinforce the commercial core of a town (or district), they could be a huge force for good, as, it could be argued, Dundrum TC is. Located in a vast car-park on the outskirts of town they achieve nothing, in urban consolidation terms, and contribute further to the decline of the established historic core.

    • #800022
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      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]

      3.2.2.1 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

    • #800023
      Anonymous
      Inactive
    • #800024
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      @keating wrote:

      . . . . In his own words

      That is an extraordinary presentation from the big man . . . . why are we just hearing about this now?

      . . . . keating

    • #800025
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      Dublin at the crossroads

      Conor Skehan is head of the ‘Futures Academy’ in Bolton Street and was head and shoulders above anyone else on the Bolton Street staff when I was there in the 80s.

      That doesn’t mean he’s right :rolleyes:

      The gist of his presentation . . . . . for anyone too lazy to view the YouTube clip posted by keating, . . . . . is summed up is this declaration:

      ”Ireland has virtually no chance of facing up to the extraordinary global challenges that are facing us, . . . . and if we are to have any chance at all, the only chance we have is to develop the only urban card we have to play, which is the city region, on the east coast, with a population of 2 or 3 million people.

      That region has almost no chance if it continues to see itself as a city, it has only a chance if it starts to get it’s act together and starts to act as a region”.


      That’s the opening salvo in Dr Skehan’s presentation to a group of visibly shell-shocked environmentalists in the YouTube clip from July. Skehan goes on to challenge our assumptions on everything from the eastern bypass to inner city car parks, global warming, falling polar bear numbers, the lot.

      Skehan may be a bicycle toting, Brent geese loving, dyed in the woolly jumper, environmentalist, but that doesn’t stop him letting the air out of the global warming bubble with a withering series of flat-line graphs that echo like an empty hostel dormitory being de-bunked.

      In a fifteen minute presentation, all of our assumptions are held up, rigorously questioned, and many of them laid bare as groundless, woolly thinking, misdirected hysteria.

      All of our assumptions, that is, except that first assumption . . . in line one . . . . the assumption that we are facing . . . . ”extraordinary global challenges”.

      If all the other stuff is hysteria, what exactly are the ‘extraordinary global challenges’ ?

      ‘Dublin at the Crossroads’ itself is an assumption. The east coast ‘Dublin Region’ conurbation thesis is a response to the assumption that we will be living in some kind of new ‘compete or die’ global economic world where everyone else will have critical mass and we’ll be out there on the edge dissipating our resources and dropping off the scope.

      The problem with that thesis is that even if we pumped iron for the next twenty years, pumped all the steroids into one vein, we’re not ever getting into the ring with Shanghai, or Kuala Lumpur, we’re just not in that weight division. Our strength is that we still have a reasonably well balanced island with reasonably well distributed urban centres and despite our best efforts to destroy our environment with bungalows and low-grade urban sprawl, we haven’t yet completely deformed the geography of our development patterns by concentrating all the growth on one side.

      There’s an argument that ‘critical mass’ itself is the next pseudo-scientific term that needs to be reappraised. Three guys in a room can be ‘critical mass’, and they don’t even have to be in the same room. If globalisation has delivered anything, it’s been in slashing communication times and removing the need to all be in the one place. Maybe ‘critical mass’ in regional terms, as an inward-investment pre-requisite, is an out-dated notion too. If you’re a ‘knowledge economy’ guy in Lucan and I’m a ‘knowledge economy’ guy in Sandyford, how is that any different than if one of us is in Salthill?

      I think we’re missing the point here. We have a built environment and a natural environment, with deep inherent value, that we can repair, . . . . if we choose the right options. A lot of our ‘competitors’ don’t have that.

    • #800026
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      Phew – thank God – I feared that everyone thought this guy was talking sense.

    • #800027
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      yet this guy is

      Dr. Conor Skehan is Head of the Environment and Planning Department in the School of Spatial Planning at DIT. As Managing Director of a number of environmental consultancies, Dr Skehan has practiced, lectured and published on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) within the planning system since 1989, advising the public and private sectors on the practicalities of assessment, decision-making and their integration with strategic and land-use planning. At DIT, he is now involved in assisting in the implementation of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in Ireland through the provision of training and guidance for agencies and planning authorities as well as collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency in the establishment of good practice in SEA.

      so shouldn’t we be worried about these projects?

      should this guy not just quit and join a think tank…

    • #800028
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      I imagine the Futures Academy is a ‘think thank’.

      What do you understand by the term ‘Compact City’?

      The term ‘Compact City’ occurs three times in the first two pages of the draft proposed Dublin City Development Plan 2011 – 17, this is potentially a real breakthrough.

      The term doesn’t occur in the current Developmt Plan, it’s a new term, and it’s use suggests a genuine change in thinking.

      Here’s an extract:

      3.2 The Core Strategy to 2017 . . . . comprises 3 strongly interwoven strands, to make Dublin:

      1. A compact, quality, green, well-connected city, which generates a dynamic, mixed use environment for living, working and cultural interaction.

      2. A smart city, creating real long term economic recovery.

      3. A city of sustainable neighbourhoods and socially inclusive communities.

      No argument with any of that, but then, on the very next page, it starts to go off-message . . . .

      What has ‘The Naas Road Corridor’ got to do with developing a ‘Compact City’?

      Development Plans aren’t used by benign, vision-sharing, philanthropists, they’re used by ‘scallywags’, to use a memorable Conor Skehan term, speculative developers and grasping property owners, who will mercilessly search out any gaps in the joined-up thinking.

      The term ‘City Region’ is in there too, right in the core of the document, the vision statement.

      The vision for the city is that;

      ”Within the next 25 to 30 years, Dublin will have an established international reputation as one of the most sustainable, dynamic and resourceful city regions in Europe. Dublin, through the shared vision of its citizens and civic leaders, will be a beautiful, compact city, with a distinct character and a vibrant culture and a diverse, smart, green, innovation-based economy. It will be a socially inclusive city of urban neighbourhoods, all connected by an exemplary public transport, cycling and walking system and interwoven with a quality bio-diverse greenspace network. In short, the vision is for a capital city where people will seek to live, work and experience as matter of choice”


      I don’t buy this ‘City Region’ idea, I think it’s the opposite of the ‘Compact City’ idea and if you interchange the terms like this you remove all the ‘intent’ from the statement of intent and it just becomes a meaningless piece of directionless waffle.

    • #800029
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      words are words…

      metro north splitting into 2 on the south side? rte?

    • #800030
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      Our economic one card trick is soft touch regulation for Foreign direct investment. FDI has very specific requirements, Taxation is a minor factor, labour is the big cost. In order to get talent, they need access to 1 million people within 30 minutes. In Ireland we have localised agglomerations of specialist sectors. However none of these sectors can thrive in Ireland at the moment. Hanover Re couldn’t find 1000 actuaries to work in Dublin, Johnsons Pharma couldn’t locate in Galway because it couldnt provide clean water and now the whole north west of Dublin has reached maximum capacity for waste water, fresh water and power and our planning system failed to identify zones for these essential services as evidenced by the difficulties in the North East power lines. How and Where will we generate wealth in the future. We have a green knowledge economy plan, its politics not policy. Policy is steering the boat, implementation is rowing, we don’t do implementation, no wonder we’re getting nowhere.

      Quality of life is a big attractor for talent and a good education system for the kids of these high paid professionals is a major attraction. Our cities lack the cultural and lifestyle attractions of our compeditor cities. We have never had the conversation of what type of city we want. A creative dynamic city, because our system of governance inhibits vision.

      Our city has no revenue, no money =no power. It is divided into four municipalities with no cross cutting functions outside of waste. The cities functional area extends from Gorey to Cavan town, but yet the hinterland controls the city. The midlands political dynasties drive policy for the City. The inertia in the political system has hamstrung our ability to have a dynamic creative global city. Its funny that Cork with one tenth the population of Dublin is emerging as a second tier global city. Its a city of education, Its well planned, Cork is such a big county that it acts like a miniature region. The city and councils make plans coherently and most importantly its planning supports the city and towns. Maybe we should make Cork the new capital, its might be an idea if only cork people could be tolerated.

      How will we generate wealth ‘going forward’ with our wealth creators living in mcMansions 20 minutes from the nearest town? We need to reevaluate how we can global city regions from a rural political base.

    • #800031
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      @keating wrote:

      Our economic one card trick is soft touch regulation for Foreign Direct Investment. FDI has very specific requirements, Taxation is a minor factor, labour is the big cost. In order to get talent, they need access to 1 million people within 30 minutes.

      I’ve heard that ”1 million people within 30 minutes” equation before, It seems to be part of the paraphernalia of the Foreign-Direct-Investment circus. Personally I’ve no idea whether it’s a fundamental truth, or a piece of fluff, . . . but I suspect it’s a piece of fluff.

      Ok, we know there are location criteria, investment thresholds. Your average, planet-devouring, global corporation probably does indeed have a check list, with tick-boxes on it, when it comes to stick a pin in the map for it’s new squillion dollar techno-facility, but are we sure that this is the same check list we want to use to guide our spatial planning, to guide our urban development?

      Do we really want to try and out-do Mombai, by trying to re-inventing the Pale as an east-coast conurbation, a ‘city-region’ planned around a population meter, and a global investment model that will probably have changed long before we’ve concreted over the last acre of Meath.

      The vision of the future that the Skehan/Sirr Plan provided, by all accounts, did rock the political boat last year, but ironically not because it proposed a radical alternative vision for the future development of this island, but because it let the cat out of the bag and told people exactly what we’ll end up with if we continue on the path we’re on.

      We just can’t afford to fudge this issue, we either drift towards an east-coast conurbation, with or without a veneer of planning, or we put down a serious marker that we’re going to address urban sprawl, once and for all, and pursue a new vision of compact and distinct urban centres served by high speed transportation and information connections.

      @keating wrote:

      Quality of life is a big attractor for talent and a good education system for the kids of these high paid professionals is a major attraction. Our cities lack the cultural and lifestyle attractions of our compeditor cities. We have never had the conversation of what type of city we want. A creative dynamic city, because our system of governance inhibits vision.

      Good points keating. I sense that DCC are working on the vision thing, but the attempts to home in on a vision are being diluted by this ‘city region’ notion lurking in the background, and an unwillingness to really deal with the discipline that will be necessary if we want to deliver on the ‘compact city’ idea.

    • #800032
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      It’s all very simple you draw a red line… and share some functions of different authorities…
      amend the building regulations and yadda yadda yadda

    • #800033
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      @keating wrote:

      In his own words

      http://www.iiea.com/events/dr-conor-skehan-on-dublin-at-the-crossroads

      Worth posting again that link to the Conor Skehan presentation we talked about before

      Did anyone catch some of that climate change fist-fight on Pat Kenny this morning? . . . . great stuff :). Have to look up a link to that later.

      The problem I have with this ”man is causing climate change” argument is that I want it to be true, just to jolt us into cleaning up our act, but at the same time, I hate people shoving orthodoxy down my throat, especially nasty, unpleasant, people like that Irish Times scribe.

      Did anyone see that bizarre juxtaposition of climate change articles in the Irish Times on Nov. 19?

      ”Kenny stirs up bogus climate change debate” by the same scribe [John Gibbons] and right next to it ”Myths of Global Warming Skilfully debunked” a book review of ”The Real Global Warming Disaster” by Christopher Booker.

      All very comical, lets hope nothing important is at stake :rolleyes:

    • #800034
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      Growth cannot happen everywhere, says architect calling for emphasis on Dublin

      from The Irish Times

      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.

      There are two propositions here:

      1. That the government don’t understand urban dynamics and are capable of exploiting that happy ignorance by promoting development growth in hopelessly unsuitable places . . . . . – which is probably true, and . . .

      2. That, when it comes to the field of international competition for inward global investment, Dublin is the only card that this country has to play . . . . – which people who know about these things will tell us is also probably true.

      What Conor Skehan would have us do with these two propositions is fuse them together into a national planning strategy and that’s where I think future gazing could benefit from some historical perspective.

      Consider Britain at the close of the 17th century, on the cusp of empire:

      Britain had one mega-city, London, which is estimated to have had a population of circa 1.2 million in 1700. The next biggest city in England at the time was probably Norwich, with a population of something like 25,000. London at the time is estimated to have controlled 80% of all British trade. For the next fifty years, London continued to grow exponentially while the title of second city of England was fought over by places like Bristol and York, with barely 50,000 inhabitants.

      Did this impede, or pre-determine, the growth and development of Britain? . . . . . . .

      . . . apparently not.

      In 18th century Britain, an agricultural revolution was quickly followed by an industrial revolution and within little more than a century, half a dozen British cities from Glasgow in the north to Liverpool and Manchester in the north-west to Birmingham in the midlands, had risen to rival the scale and dynamism of London and had effectively balanced out the development map of Britain.

      What I would attempt to learn from this is that ”planning for a future that is more likely to happen”, which is the Skehan mantra, is actually a blinkered mindset that, if it were allowed to become policy, could be as damaging as the haphazard planning free-for-all that we have now.

      The alternative strategy should not be about promising Intel plants to Castlebar, it should be about reinforcing the urban dynamism of the already beautifully distributed regional cities of Ireland:- Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Derry [if we’re being inclusive]. The rightful place of towns like Castlebar, Westport and Ennis etc. in the planning and development pecking order is in secondary orbit around their own regional city where the growth and prosperity of the city has a knock-on effect on the prosperity of the setelite town.

      Focusing on a Dublin-centric strategy for the future development of this country would supplant what’s left of the reasonably well distributed pattern of urban growth that we’ve inherited and would have only one lasting consequence, in my opinion, the suburbanization of the east coast.

      Not allowing that to happen is what ‘Planning’ should be all about.

    • #800035
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      With a strategy like that Gunter you’re running two arguments – distributed urban densification around historic centres and building world-class capital.
      There is a third, currently playing at Adamstown – build entirely new urban centres, defined in scope, “sprawl-proof” as far as they go, and build more of them as the need arises.

      There is the need to concentrate growth to allow specialization and centres of excellence to occur in our capital to allow it to compete on equal terms with other world capitals.
      This needs strength in depth to achieve it, not just the odd token “harp” masquerading as a bridge or a tipping beer glass masquerading as a convention centre.
      Cultural and historical diversity supporting communities and tourism industries may be the growth engines in other centres.
      But remember there is a world class producer of medical “yokes” somewhere down in Cork that doesn’t need to be sat beside Trinity or UCD to do its business or expand it.
      So let;s not overplay the need for physical proximity in the era of video conferencing and skype phones.

      More important is the generation of in-country competition between secondary and yes even tertiary centres.
      You can view the Tidy Towns awards as a form of grass roots version of this at a basic level, but there is no reason why the National Spatial strategy cannot be slimmed down a little, but still create competition between centres at all levels.
      This urge to compete and be better than the next fellow is endemic to the national character as anyone who has ever watched a GAA season will tell you.
      Instead of Skehan’s criticism of people’s expectations, we need to manage people’s dreams better and treading lightly on them in a recession is a better approach.

      Conor’s problem always seemed to be that he was one of the smartest guys in the room, but in my experience “very smart” does not equate to “comes up with good ideas” or “understands the effect he has on people”.
      That having been said, the National Spatial Strategy *is* a joke, with centres for this that and the other scattered around the country like a pin cushion.
      Some of Skehan’s comment *do* need to be taken on board, because otherwise some centres won’t reach critical mass.

      ONQ.

    • #800036
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      I don’t know about you onq, but I’m completely unconvinced by the Adamstown model. To me the argument for Adamstown sounds very similar to the argument architects use to justify an ‘architect designed’ one-off house in the countryside, while condemning all other one-off houses in the countryside as bungalow blight. With the same application of seemingly parallel standards, we can decree that a dormitory town is actually a new eco-urban model just by plonking it on one side of an existing railway line, giving it some three storey corners and lots of triple glazing.

      Apparently it’s not the road to urban sprawl, if it’s paved with semi-permeable blocks.

      Bottom line though, a better designed satellite town is still a satellite town, it still creates a commuter population outside the city, on farm land, instead of in-filling some of the multiple gaps within the urban core and harnessing that home buying population to bolster the many faltering communities within of the city. If the city was bursting at the seams there would be a case for an Adamstown, but the city is anything but bursting at the seams and the professional classes that have apparently been attracted to Adamstown with it’s make believe urbanism, it’s shiny train station and it’s multi-denominational crèches are the kind of people that should be living on Newmarket and Cork Street and places where urban regeneration is desperately needed.

      Predictably we didn’t hear too many dissenting voices from among the line-up of architectural practices charged with delivering the crates of plans for Adamstown. The architectural community’s commitment to be advocates for good planning and urban values doesn’t extend to declining commissions for dormitory towns, and in any case, we have Conor Skehan telling us it’s OK because it might be outside Dublin, but it’s within ‘the Dublin region’ and it’s going to happen anyway so you might as well do it properly with a bit of design . . . . and take a slice of the action :rolleyes:

    • #800037
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      Ha funny you should say this. I spent the afternoon thinking precisely the same thing while availing of the newly opened stretch of the Luas Green Line running out to Brides Glen in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains. It is baffling, indeed nigh on frightening, to see the extent to which planners have encouraged this new model of development, based on spurious ‘sustainable’ grounds through the provision of a light rail line. Vast, high density, dormitory residential developments are clustered, or proposed to be clustered, around light rails stops many miles from Dublin, one of them already with a preposterous 18-storey tower at Central Park, quite literally surrounded by agricultural land. And intended to be surrounded by rural lands, as if building another contained finger of densely developed Copenhagen.

      Why would anybody want to, or be encouraged to, live in an urban apartment a tedious, overcrowded and uncomfortable 40 minute journey from Dublin, surrounded by fields, and serviced by a Spar, a hairdressers and a creche? Even if populated by multiple retail units, this in no way accounts to anything even approaching the variety of the urban experience, never mind its social, cultural and economic vibrancy and inherent optimal sustainability. This is Suburban Living Round II and everyone is pulling their hats over their eyes pretending they’re living in eco-towns. You might as well be driving from Kells or Sallins.

      Yet this is precisely what is also proposed with Metro North – not supporting Dublin, but diluting incentive to built in the city and develop the city, in favour of its hinterlands. Providing a rail line instead of a motorway, and building apartments instead of semi-ds, does not make a sustainable town or a sustainable community – or a town at all for that matter. All of these developments depend on ‘somewhere else’, in most cases Dublin, no matter what. Most people who live there are going to work somewhere else, while the few places that do sustain employment – inevitably through office use – are surely not going to act as home to the same workforce. Who on earth would want to live and work in one of these places? And on a long-term basis?

      Long after Frank McDonald’s well-beaten drum about the hoards commuting from Virginia and Laois, when one presumed the message was now tired and well digested, it is extraordinary to see this policy of far-flung dormitory suburbs in the Dublin Mountains being actively pursued as an ‘enlightened’ policy and template for future development. The discussion of the two ladies opposite me on the tram summed matters up concisely when they said they preferred to drive than use the Red Line to Tallaght, as the journey from the city centre – only on an occasional basis – was too arduous and convoluted to make it worthwhile. I would contend that what we are now doing, and proposing to rank up on a vast scale in future years in Dublin’s hinterlands, will be as damaging, if even more destructive, than the crazed planning policy we have pursued over the past two decades. Dublin needs to be condensed, not expanded. We must not allow competing, leeching local authorities to suck the lifeblood out of Dublin for their own ends. As with all cities, the capital needs to be protected from its inherent magnetism and the counties that claim to be serving it.

    • #800038
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      @GrahamH wrote:

      We must not allow competing, leeching local authorities to suck the lifeblood out of Dublin for their own ends. As with all cities, the capital needs to be protected from its inherent magnetism and the counties that claim to be serving it.

      Will never happen we bailed out this system…

      It’s as simple as a red line and one simple formula that would link wages, taxs ect to land/housing…

      fixed or variable? oh wait it’s a global system…

    • #800039
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      @GrahamH wrote:

      one of them already with a preposterous 18-storey tower at Central Park, quite literally surrounded by agricultural land.

      This tower is surrounded by office blocks a hospital, a hotel and a school. There are thousands of workers, students and patients and hotel guests already located here, and capacity for thousands more. It makes sense to place a railway stop here. There is plenty of landscaped green space around Leopardstown hospital and playing fields around the school but it would be inaccurate to describe this as agricultural land.

      Why would anybody want to, or be encouraged to, live in an urban apartment a tedious, overcrowded and uncomfortable 40 minute journey from Dublin, surrounded by fields, and serviced by a Spar, a hairdressers and a creche?

      Central Park (stupid name) is 22 minutes from St Stephen’s Green. Being within a half hour reliable commute of work and the city is important because we know that people with long commutes tend to be unhappy. http://ideas.repec.org/p/zur/iewwpx/151.html

      Even if populated by multiple retail units, this in no way accounts to anything even approaching the variety of the urban experience, never mind its social, cultural and economic vibrancy and inherent optimal sustainability. This is Suburban Living Round II and everyone is pulling their hats over their eyes pretending they’re living in eco-towns. You might as well be driving from Kells or Sallins.

      Kells is 131km from Dublin. Driving a 262km round trip every day is less sustainable in every way than taking a 22 minute tram journey. Do you really believe there is no difference between these two living patterns?

    • #800040
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      I think these are Graham’s central points:

      @GrahamH wrote:

      It is baffling . . . . to see the extent to which planners have encouraged this new model of development, based on spurious ‘sustainable’ grounds through the provision of a light rail line. . . . This is Suburban Living Round II and everyone is pulling their hats over their eyes pretending they’re living in eco-towns.

      Yet this is precisely what is also proposed with Metro North – not supporting Dublin, but diluting incentive to built in the city and develop the city, in favour of its hinterlands.

      Long after Frank McDonald’s well-beaten drum . . . . it is extraordinary to see this policy of far-flung dormitory suburbs in the Dublin Mountains being actively pursued as an ‘enlightened’ policy and template for future development.

      All nail-on-the-head stuff as far as I can see.

      @Frank Taylor wrote:

      Central Park is 22 minutes from St Stephen’s Green. Being within a half hour reliable commute of work and the city is important because we know that people with long commutes tend to be unhappy.

      Kells is 131km from Dublin. Driving a 262km round trip every day is less sustainable in every way than taking a 22 minute tram journey. Do you really believe there is no difference between these two living patterns?

      OK, but the point is; if people choose to commute to Dublin from Kells, that’s bad enough, but to deliberately develop a satellite town like Sandyford, or Adamstown, to urban densities, using urban typologies, and sell it using urban imagery, this is a planning obscenity when huge tracts of the city remain squandered to low grade and low density uses.

      If there was a shred of strategic planning in this country, places like Sandyford, Adamstown and Cherrywood [whatever that is] would never have got beyond being a glint in a property developer’s eye, but we don’t have strategic planning we have some kind of mapping service that seems to think it’s role is to record what’s happening and facilitate more of it happening by zoning contiguous lands.

      We can pretend that if we only had an elected mayor, or a unified metropolitan authority, or a city czar, then everything would change, but I suspect that our problems are much deeper than that. If 90% of Joe Duffy listeners think that the National Children’s Hospitals shouldn’t be built in the north inner city, because it’ll be too difficult to find a car parking space, the inescapable conclusion is that through our record of tolerating urban decay, botched planning, and crude standards of public realm, we have succeeded in poisoning society against the city and the whole urban project.

      We’re dealing with a loss of faith, a czar won’t be enough to fix this, I think we’re going to need a messiah.

    • #800041
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      @gunter wrote:

      OK, but the point is; if people choose to commute to Dublin from Kells, that’s bad enough, but to deliberately develop a satellite town like Sandyford, or Adamstown, to urban densities, using urban typologies, and sell it using urban imagery, this is a planning obscenity when huge tracts of the city remain squandered to low grade and low density uses.

      Leopardstown isn’t a satellite town. It’s a contiguous city suburb 10km from the centre that’s now being densified. Which specific area of the city should be developed in preference?

      If there was a shred of strategic planning in this country, places like Sandyford, Adamstown and Cherrywood [whatever that is] would never have got beyond being a glint in a property developer’s eye, but we don’t have strategic planning we have some kind of mapping service that seems to think it’s role is to record what’s happening and facilitate more of it happening by zoning contiguous lands.

      We have endless planners and levels of planning authorities and strategic plans. We have public consultations and professional and political input at every stage. Planning is so detailed that planning permissions come with conditions specifying the texture and colour of paint for the walls of ordinary suburban houses. I can’t imagine how we could have any more planning.

      We can pretend that if we only had an elected mayor, …

      sorry but that’s a strawman

      Yes Sandyford Industrial estate looks like it’s not the nicest part of Dublin to live in and it won’t match the vibrancy of the city centre, but how does it compare with the old 1970s model of living in the surrounding suburban housing estates of Balally or Leopardstown? These places were monumentally boring to live in and by their nature they could not support more than bus transport and sparse public amenities. It could take more than an hour to get into town on a steamy bus and at night there was nothing to do. Very few people had the luxury of working near to home.

      In the 70s, Sandyford industrial estate consisted of a number of manufacturing sheds This morphed into low rise offices in the 1990s when there was just one bus out of the estate in the evenings. Now there are separate office and residential developments in Sandyford Business Estate, Stillorgan Industrial Park, South County Business Park, Central Park and Leopardstown Retail Park. There are schools and hospitals and shops and hotels and restaurants. Road and rail links are much improved, the place is even landscaped now and signposted. Every single bit of it was agreed by a local authority planner & a board pleanala board member, All of it was built according to local authority county development plans, local area plans, regional guidelines, national guidelines, & rafts of reports on everything from aesthetics to energy use.

    • #800042
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      @Frank Taylor wrote:

      Leopardstown isn’t a satellite town. It’s a contiguous city suburb 10km from the centre that’s now being densified. Which specific area of the city should be developed in preference?

      Leopardstown was a race track and a pitch+putt course, Sandyford was the big smoke, it had a post office and a rural library.

      What are the alternatives? Pick anywhere within the Liberties LAP

      @Frank Taylor wrote:

      We have endless planners and levels of planning authorities and strategic plans. We have public consultations and professional and political input at every stage. Planning is so detailed that planning permissions come with conditions specifying the texture and colour of paint for the walls of ordinary suburban houses. I can’t imagine how we could have any more planning.

      ‘. . . strategic plans . . .’ ??
      What strategy is advanced by turning the agricultural lands of Leopardstown and Sandyford into this satellite town/city suburb?

      Does it represent an investment in the City? No. Does it contribute to the regeneration of the city? No. Does it contribute to the coherence of the city? No.

      Who gains from the development of these satellite tows/city suburbs?
      The city? No. The developers? Yes. The local authorities? Yes

      @Frank Taylor wrote:

      There are schools and hospitals and shops and hotels and restaurants.

      . . . and all 10km out of the city, great

      @Frank Taylor wrote:

      Every single bit of it was agreed by a local authority planner & a board pleanala board member, All of it was built according to local authority county development plans, local area plans, regional guidelines, national guidelines, & rafts of reports on everything from aesthetics to energy use.

      Yeh, same with Adamstown. What you describe is where we are. That’s not in dispute. What’s in dispute is whether this is sane or insane.

    • #800043
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      That sums it up really. This distance to these places is not in dispute Frank – though the end destination of Brides Glen where development is proposed is a full 40 minutes from St. Stephen’s Green – rather it is the commuting model it generates. Indeed, the fact that this line was paid for, or eventually will be paid for, by private developers merely confirms the developer-led nature of this ‘planning’. I reject the notion that this even is planning – a 13 year old in geography class can come up with a case study of light rail line and ‘clusters’ or ‘hubs’ of development around stations. But it is not real planning in a comprehensive, rounded sense, based on principles of building communities around local employment, services, leisure and recreational facilities, nor about caring for the health of the nation’s capital. Yes, these hubs may have an office block or three and an hotel, suggesting town or urban status, but token speculative ventures mixed in with overwhelmingly residential content does not make a sustainable town. They still depend on somewhere else to make living there bearable.

      I’m not saying we’re the only ones struggling with this – many European cities are using the same model as we speak, with soulless, planned high density residential suburbs with a token office building connected by a purpose-built rail line to the nearby urban centre. But at least the urban centre in question is generally vibrant, dense and well populated – Dublin city is not. And these new suburbs, if dull, are at least cycling and highly family friendly, making strong nods towards sustainability. This I would wager is not the case in the Dublin instance.

      Furthermore, at Brides Glen, a vast park and ride facility has been built to cater for the immediate residential population who still need to drive there, but also the vast swathe of one-off housing and low density housing estates built over the past thirty years in the hinterlands. The line actively encourages long distance commuting to Dublin city and in turn negates the development potential of the city it claims to serve. In addition to the journey times mentioned earlier, even the 22 minutes from Central Park quoted by Frank, add at least ten minutes at either end to that for real door-to-door commuting time, and it tips over the comfortable 30 minute commute recognised internationally. The stations further beyond this point, and if aided by a car, can easily tip over an hour. Compare the same journey within the city from home door to office door – not to mention the potential to be done by bicycle – and the contrast is marked.

      Brian Cowen stated at the opening that: “This new extension of the Green Luas Line is a further development in our infrastructure investment programme which offers sustainable public transport and paves the way for the creation of a fully integrated network.” Neither of the two principal points can be said to be true. Indeed, if this line could only have been built by public money, very simply it would never have been built. Because it should not have been built if we were serious about consolidating Dublin city. An ‘integrated network’ would involve the rollout of Luas within the city. This disintegrates whatever limited network Dublin has, and the chances for a better one.

    • #800044
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      Well observed Graham. I struggled to make a similar point myself on a different forum about a year or two ago but found it difficult to express it convincingly. I tried attacking the circularity in the reasoning used to justify the green line extension, metro west and the city west extension; i.e that building along these routes allowed the construction of higher densities which in turn would support for public transport provision. However it’s more difficult than you’d think to attack a circular argument; all I could do was ask the question what are we trying to achieve? And point out that public transport was a means to an end not an end in itself.

    • #800045
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      Well I have to be honest here guys.

      Yes, I have done my fair share of housing estates, three in Gorey, one in Ratoath, none huge, all under 150 units, most in independent private practice.
      At the time these were seen as progressive, going well above the previously imposed 6 houses per acre density for rural towns.

      Going back further to my earlier incarnation working with another roffice it was all brownfield redevelopment in urban areas, both residential of circa 100 ot 200 units and commercial from 20,000 to 40,000 sq.ft.
      Between feasibility studies, designing, building and certifying I have been involved in many urban renewal schemes: one in Parnell Street, one in Merrion Street Upper, two in Barrow Street, two or maybe three in Gardiner Street, one in Fitzwilliam Quay, one in Ushers Quay, one in Arran Quay.

      People may have fogotten that the first phase of the Celtic Tiger from 1992 to 2002 was largely concerned with such urban infill schemes.
      Perhaps they were/are distracted by the battle of the regional shopping centres of Blanchardstown and Liffey Valley which was also carried on around the same time.

      As for the apparent preciousness about new towns, I think that’s a kind of intellectual snobbery based on a misunderstanding of people’s wants and needs and what a city has come to be.
      Irish people prefer houses to apartments, their “own bit of land” – its well known, don’t ask me why. Live with it.

      A well designed new town will look much like an old town, and a low density new town will still provide the timely provision of services – this is vitally important
      Some years back I attended the Smart Growth Workshops in Kevin Street run by Dorothy Stewart under the guidance of Professor Kirk [he of the Power of One Street website].
      Rory Deegan, assisant City Planning Officer attended thes workshops also and offered the following comment in relation to the workability of comnuity building through the planning process.
      “I can get developers to provide whatever building I want – Garda Station, School, Health Centre – to support a community. But I cannot arrange for any of them to be staffed or run.”

      The comments to this thread betray the common lack of understanding of many people both within and without the archtiectural profession.
      Our own hubris seems to blind us to the fact that our masterpieces merely reflect and support human endeavour and activities. Without the political and local will to build a community, it doesn’t happen.
      You can redesign the bejaysus out of point blocks and high density social housing [now up to a dizzying four stories in DTA’s excellent Santry Demense scheme] but merely offering good buildings is never enough.

      The significance of the Luas connection should not be minimised.
      Its like broadband is to teh internet – its ahigh volume thread to connect people to a city.
      A city, which is something that is more of an idea than a location – a head space where people meet and things happen.

      It doesn’t matter in real terms whether you’re walking 20 minutes from your compact and bijou in Rathmines or commuting for 20 minutes on a LUAS line, in Dublin.
      it dosn’t matter whether you’ve walked or taxied in from Chelsea or Kensington or tubed in from Kingsbury in the north, or cycled or driven in from Between the Commons in the south west – its all London.

      You identify with the city in terms of distance travelled and your state of mind.
      Land use and density can never be the sole determinants of urbanization and certainly not of quality of life.
      The idea of architecture and urban form being the sole determinant of urbanisation is a defunct as the idea of nationhood in a globalised society.
      And all the time you have to balance the concepts of personal self-sufficiency [see FKL’s study on this] with that of self-sufficiency of a civilisation as a whole.

      ONQ.

    • #800046
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      You’ve got a lot of anecdotes there Onq mixed in with quite a few sound bites, what does it all mean?

      It seems to me that there’s this innate belief in the heart of most architects that bad planning can somehow by nullified if the design of what is badly planned is [supposedly] good enough. Your average architect might know in his soul that the very concept of building a housing estate on the distant outskirts of a distant dormitory town is fundamentally wrong, but within two seconds of taking a phone call asking him to put in a planning application for one, he’ll have managed to turn it around in his head until it presents itself as a design challenge, a simple matter of raising the density of dwellings per acre and upping the U-values.

      The case that some of us are attempting to make here is that you can’t design away a fundamental flaw and that developing more far-flung dormitory districts at the expense of consolidating the density and urban form of the existing primary urban centres is a fundamental flaw. Conor Skehan might be the smartest guy in the room, but the planning strategy that he propounds is a fatalist vision that provides unwitting validation for local authorities who continue to fudge the fundamental planning issues for their own ends and paper over them with seemingly progressive design guidelines.

      That Beacon South Quarter is a case in point. It was reported recently that the cash-strapped developer had defaulted on a €12.8m financial contribution to Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, the planning authority, having already paid out €7.9m.

      So the local authority’s take from that one development was over €20m. Of course a suburban local authority is going to be tempted to hand out urban scale planning permissions on green field sites if it gets to scoop in over €20m in planning levies, together with a never ending revenue stream from commercial rates.

      The big lie is that these out-lying developments are created to be nice, well rounded, places to live and work and that they are sustainably linked to the city centre by a quality bus corridor or a future tram, when in fact these developments are urban parasites sucking the development energy out of the city where it should be focused and where the task of creating nice, well rounded, places to live and work is in return made all the more difficult.

      All we’ve done after three decades of Frank McDonald is address the problem of low density [and low yield] urban sprawl by replacing it with higher density [and higher yield] conurbations, when we should have been using the considerable powers available to central and local government to control development and focus development energies on compacting and consolidating the existing centres to release their real urban potential and then maybe people might start to see that the city itself can be a nice, well rounded, place to live and work, and not some barren hostile place where the average Joe thinks it’s insane to build a children’s hospital there because there won’t be enough parking spaces and you can’t turn right.

      If the ‘Futures Academy’ was doing it’s job, it would drop this ‘Dublin Region’ – Pale for the 21st century – work out strategies to tie off these back-of-beyond urban sink holes in the least damaging way possible, start advocating a freeze on any further out lying development and begin putting together a vision for what Dublin and the regional centres could be in twenty or fifty years time, if we restricted ourselves to the compact, well serviced, model that we know works superbly well wherever it’s been tried and whenever care has been taken to balance the dynamism of urban regeneration with the protection of the many layers of built heritage that give any place depth.

    • #800047
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      Mary Wilson just had Lorcan Sirr on the radio. Skehan must have been asleep in the cave.

      What did we find out? . . . . We found out that ”we need a plan” and a ”plan in which the ‘plan’ takes precedence”.

      Are we all OK with that?

      He didn’t mention what might be in this plan, but he did say he’s been ”getting traction” recently with the notion of having a plan, so whether that’s a veiled reference to the proposed retraction to the Pale we’ll have to wait and see.

      Seems like a nice guy, a sort of bright hobbit to Skehan’s intelligent troll.

    • #800054
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      ‘Dublin’s Future’ is an innocent looking little paperback on the shelves at the moment.

      It’s a sort of cold porridge antidote to the image fest of jumpy graphics in last years ‘Redrawing Dublin’ by Paul Kearns and Motti Ruimy, and since it lists Lorcan Sirr as editor [he being one half of the double act that brought us the Skehan/Sirr Plan], I had the feeling it would be well worth a 20 minute speed read.

      Dublin’s Future is not completely free of visuals, there is map, with overlaid ovals, representing ‘the four cities of Dublin’ that apparently are ‘beginning to emerge’; the ‘Centre City’ and the ‘Edge City’ where economic activity happens and the ‘Outer City’ and the ‘Middle City’ where people will be asked to live. At a cursory glance, Tallaght and Clondalkin may be in the wrong oval. There is also a bar-chart depicting the pedestrian traffic on the Liffey bridges – with what appeared to be some challenging finding – but printed up-side-down to frustrate easy digestion. Otherwise this book is pretty much all grim text, filled with earnest argument, until we reach chapter 13, entitled: ‘Not Written by an Economist’, which, inevitably, is penned by that great sower of land-mines, Conor Skehan.

      Gird your loins and tip-toe on.

      ‘Dublin has no future unless we start to see and accept two things:

      First and foremost, Dublin, like all cities, is an economy – a collection of enterprises – not a collection of buildings, because real estate is merely a symptom of economic activity.

      Secondly, Dublin is rapidly becoming a city region which is an economy. It is no longer a place, no longer a big town’.

      Here we go again

      ‘Planning fails when it prepares for what it is believed should happen instead of preparing for what is most likely to happen’.

      That’s like saying, we won’t plan to put traffic lights on that busy junction, we’ll just plan to build a hospital on one corner and a graveyard on the other.

      If we lose what little sense we have of ‘place’ and put all our eggs in the basket case that is our economy, I think we can kiss any notion of urban planning good night.

      That can’t be what Skehan has in mind, surely.

    • #800051
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      Where did you find this Gunter? Hodges Figges…seems worth a look.

    • #800052
      Anonymous
      Inactive
    • #800053
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      ‘twas Hoggis Figgis Stephen as it happens, in there on the left where the light is crap, you’d almost think they don’t want you reading the books with their lousy 15 watt bulbs.

      There was a promo article in the Irish Times on Nov. 9 last, which I was going to let go by, but since we’re on the subject . . .

      The IT article trumpeted the familiar Sirr Skehan line that ‘what is good for Dublin is very good for Ireland’ and then went on from there to point out that ‘The engine of Dublin now stretches from Louth to Wicklow, and out to Westmeath . . .’

      That latter phrase is not delivered in any kind of [Frank McDonald style] rebuke, as you’d expect, it’s more a case of – look how big our engine is.

      Somewhat at odds with all of this, and seemingly borrowing from the Kearns/Motti thesis, the article also states, in the things to do section, that; ‘Dublin City now needs a manager with a proven urban ethos to run and improve the city, a person who will live in the city, cycle in the city, who will engage with its social, economic and transport problems on a daily basis’.

      There’ll need to be a high fitness threshold in the job description too, if we’re asking this guy to cycle in from Westmeath.

      Everything that Sirr Skehan propound is at odds with the concept of the ‘compact city’.

      Planners are simple folk they can’t accommodate two different notions simultaneously, the Compact City and the City Region, it’s one or the other.

      In an Irish context, the City Region is not even a proper planning concept, it’s just an attempt to rebrand urban sprawl and make it acceptable, jump aboard a run away train.

      We were just beginning to succeed in getting the Compact City concept into the consciousness of those who write the development plans in this country, the last thing this country needs is someone of the stature of Sirr Skehan telling us that all that dodgy re-zoning that our gobshite councillors masterminded to feather their own nests over that last fifty years was really just Dublin rebooting its engine and getting ready for the 21st century. Come on onboard everyone.

    • #800050
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      I am *so* sorry I missed out on this thread previously, because it looks like it is a fascinating set of comments both by Skehan/Sirr, Gunter and others.

      I have a problem with the idea of citing the 3-400 year old examples of cities being defined by walls as a “good thing” – as opposed to setting limits within with densities can be met.

      Walls were not put there primarily to define cities, with the greatest respect – they were put there to protect cities, and there is a huge difference in this.

      While it is true that the design of military defensive fortifications were one of the first specialized building related professional activities, they were not undertaken as notional defined boundaries within which growth was allowed to occur up to a certain density.

      Both Michelangelo and Leonardo designed fortifications for Italian City States [Citation needed]

      Defensive emplacements and walls were put there for defining absolutely the growth of a city or for denoting the limits of a city.
      On the contrary most prosperous cities soon outgrew their defensive enclosures.

      Those cities that stayed entirely within their walls were those suffering the effects of an economic migration to “greener pastures”, or whose geographic siting meant there was no easy way to expand beyond the walls (step escarpment, cliff, coast or river)

      An obvious example of the natural progression of walling and extension in a successful is Paris.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_walls_of_Paris

      To move beyond the walls was a risk taken by newcomers to the city environs.
      It was an economic need to be near a trading centre that drew people to cities, but cities levied taxes within the walls, justifying them by the safety offered by the city and the services – such as they were offered by water supply and sanitation.

      This is not to say such walling is not a feature of cities the world over – on the contrary, but my point is that the primary purposes of such walls was defensive and not intended as a tool of urban planning

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cities_with_defensive_walls

      All of these became obsolete with the invention of the aeroplane and later, the rocket, so the primary reason for investing in massive walling surrounding a town, fortification and defense – vanished overnight.



      The Skehan/ Sirr plan represents an accurate representation of what is going on and their assessment of what a city is seems accurate.

      The National Spatial Strategy was doomed to failure from the start because of a lack of Governance.

      If you intend to implement a plan which requires a strict hierarchy of development for towns and a similar hierarchy of development for regions, then for this to be successfully implemented you need to have a tier of government higher than County Managers and a tier of oversight on a short term basis between County Managers and the Minister for the Environment, unless you think its a good idea that the Minister become mired in controversy.

      For that to happen you need a champion, driver, overseer, call the position what you will.
      For development and administration at County Level, you need a County Manager.
      For co-ordination at regional level you need a Regional Board with a rotating chairman at least, possibly a director.

      But for a National Spatial Strategy, you need a Director of National Spacial Strategy.

      Cities and their components – buildings, roads and services – are merely reflections of living and economic activity.

      We have a National Economic Strategy, but no Director of National Economic Strategy.

      We have gone so far as to produce plans that offer a window dressing of hope 9hubs, gateways and all the other bullshit) for outlying districts, while the real economic and political power still lies in the cities.

      Anyone get run over in the rush of civil servants wanting to decentralize?

      Me neither.

      And with the inability of a Government to spread the largess of Central Government, the National Spatial Strategy AND the National Economic Strategy fall flat on their respective shiny and dear-to-procure covers.



      I think if we’re talking about realities or setting limits – through economic incentives, zoning and use classes – and not harking back to the necessities of defending cities in times of ground based war, we should probably inject a little more reality into this thread.

      http://www.seankenny.ie/news/docs/Regional%20Planning%20Guidelines-Volume%20I.pdf

    • #800048
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      I would be very wary of strategies which seem to be causing the rest of us to pack densely in a defined area, easy to take out or control from the air, while the most aggressive military power on the planet is testing its unmanned high altitude drones on civilian populations in the middle east and Israel has a rocket with a 10,000 mile range.

      Its easy to lull people into a false sense of security in peacetime – it all changes when war breaks out and you’re left wondering “Why the Fuck did I not see the disadvantages in doing this?” The survivors of Dresden, Hiroshima or Nagasaki know the reality.

      Ir architects and planners are supposed to plan for the future, they should at least realize that not all futures may be rosy and defensive military planning has been integrated with city planning for hundreds of years.

    • #800049
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      In all honesty onq, if what you just posted appeared on the History Channel you’d have flipped it yourself to Ice Road Truckers before we’d even heard from the second excitable conspiracy junky in a sad hat.

      We’re talking about the future planning of Dublin here, you’re not asking us to mix planning arguments with – what if Kim Ming Yong bombs us.

      For the record, I was just pointing out [4 years ago] that for something like the first 3,000 years, or so, of urban history, defensive considerations tended to dictate that the edges of cities were defined by physical boundaries and that it has actually only been in the last 300 years, or so, that we’ve had to contend with the notion of a city without boundaries. I hadn’t anticipated that this would release your inner military strategist onq, it was just a planning observation.

      I was also pointing out that, of necessity, cities – confined by physical boundaries – had no choice but to make maximum use out of all available space and essentially the whole urban concept is inextricably linked to spatial constraints. In general, the history of urbanism would tend to suggest that the benefits of compactness usually outweighed the disadvantages of being a sitting duck for fire and plague and when increasing success and prosperity resulted in a level of growth that could no longer be contained by the existing boundaries, urban enlargement via concentric rings, whether consciously following organic models or not, was often found to work well.

      I do accept that if some of us are living in the outer reaches of Westmeath, then certainly some of us will stand a better chance of surviving any atomic fury unleashed on O’Connell Street, but that wasn’t really the peril I was attempting to highlight. The danger that I saw, and still see, in the Sirr Skehan vision of a ‘Dublin Functional Urban Region’, or DUFUR, is that it takes the focus off efforts to re-engineer the compact city model, and it simultaneously legitimizes the haphazard urban sprawl that has spread the city’s bulging midriff all over its straining-to-breaking-point commuter belt. The economic imperative that Sirr Skehan seem to believe necessitates this bloated city-region vision is the heavyweight world of global competition, but [although I might be only an amateur cardio-vascular surgeon] even I can tell that a city this out of shape won’t be competing in the global ring with anyone.

      Dublin’s strengths are that it has [through the actions of our forefathers] an inherent legibility, is of manageable size, has an enviable location, interesting layers of heritage [not yet fully destroyed] and it is recognised to be, by whatever international standards judge these things, a comparatively liveable city.

      Dublin’s weaknesses are its car dependency, its poor public realm and its miserable density, all of which are interconnected and all of which result in the strength of the core being continuously drained by the demands of the periphery. Adding ever more periphery at ever greater remoteness from the core is just not the solution.

      onq, can you rewind to Hello Gunter and start again

    • #800055
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      Hmmm.

      Starting with an ad hominem seldom impresses Gunter, which is why I didn’t (I complemented your comments) and why I suggest you don’t continue in that vein if you want to maintain your credibility as a poster of note on Archiseek.
      I’ll put this one down to a lingering Christmas hangover, but don’t keep it up, there’s a good chap.

      Let’s take your relevant points.

      “The danger that I saw, and still see, in the Sirr Skehan vision of a ‘Dublin Functional Urban Region’, or DUFUR, is that it takes the focus off efforts to re-engineer the compact city model, and it simultaneously legitimizes the haphazard urban sprawl that has spread the city’s bulging midriff all over its straining-to-breaking-point commuter belt.”

      “Dublin’s weaknesses are its car dependency, its poor public realm and its miserable density, all of which are interconnected and all of which result in the strength of the core being continuously drained by the demands of the periphery. Adding ever more periphery at ever greater remoteness from the core is just not the solution.”

      Reading this piece, its as if the Internet never occurred, as if communications by Skype and video don’t happen every day, as if people who produce things cannot collaborate and the benefits of Globalization are not being realised every day (I do not slavishly support it, not by any means, but credit where its due). Cars do not define my work, attendances or interaction with clients or local authorities. Much of my work can be done on the desktop.

      The Leon Krier ideal of “living over the shop” was born out of necessity, not lifestyle choice, by those who had to do business this way to survive economically.

      Now people seem to look back on such a situation through rose tinted spectacles, without the attendant horrors of the day, which included huge risk of death by fire, disease, pollution, poor sanitation, and being run over by a horse-drawn carriage having slipped on dung in the streets. It was the squalor of Paris slums that drive the quest for modern accommodation for families and latterly for old folks, incorporating the benefits of fresh air, light and amenity. Until the morally superior Greens with their wood pellets and “sustainability” tried to choke us to death again.

      Personally I never liked city living – I was born in the suburbs and have lived all my life there.

      I hate commuting, which is why I work from home (with Planning Permission I might add – a bit of a rarity in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown). I commuted for years from Wicklow, no less, not even the outer suburbs, forced to buy a house where I could in the early nineties, that suited my pocket and supported a good way of living in the fresh air – sometimes too “fresh” if you get my “drift”.

      I cannot speak for Dublin as an entity, as you and Sirr Skehan seem to do, but I can speak from my own experience.

      Dublin is constrained to the south by mountains and the east by the sea, to the north by a green belt and flat land relatively poorly drained – still! The city will expand hugely westwards and to a limited degree via reclaimed land to the east. There will never be a sprawling conurbation to the southwest because of the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains and European Wildlife Directives. Northwards matters are not so constrained, while the city’s Commercial Core has historically moved eastwards, as the development of Docklands has shown with the relocation of offices from Fitzwilliam towards the Grand Canal Basin.

      The city is moving and it is doing so by responding to many different stimuli, most of which are economic in nature and not due to the imposition of walls. Walls are well gone as the definers of development, having been left behind by land-use zoning. Recognizing the National Spatial Strategy was never more than a vote-getting gimmick by the discredited Fianna Fáil -led government that introduced it is not something Sirr Skehan should be reviled for – rather he/she,it should be praised for facing the facts.

    • #800056
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      That last point is fair. Sirr Skehan are doing a service in raising these planning issues, issues that the political classes are too cowardly to raise, and you’re right they should certainly not be reviled for attempting to chart a course beyond the National Spatial Strategy, god knows we need to move beyond that, my concern is that the course that they chart is the wrong course.

      Using a methodology based on ‘likelihood’ sounds almost unassailably grounded in common sense, but it isn’t common sense, it’s a fatalistic resignation that we’re incapable of planning. Forward thinking based on ‘Likelihood’ is almost the complete antithesis of Planning. Planning is supposed to be about defining what you want to achieve and then charting a course to get there. Planning based on ‘Likelihood’ is just an attempt to jump aboard a runaway train and pretend that we’re driving it.

      I don’t buy the notion that, to compete, this country needs a conurbation, or ‘City Region’ of some minimum engine size. This is a small country and, as onq has confirmed, the need to be in close physical proximity to each other in order to do business is diminishing with every passing day and, in any case, with our Celtic Tiger roads, nobody’s more than a couple of hours away from each other anyway.

      That’s all I’m going to say on the subject right now, but I am going to make a conscious effort to read the book properly in the coming days, there may be important passages in it that I’m missing. I don’t necessarily believe that, but you never know.

      I do apologise for ruffling your feathers onq, I’d no idea you were insecure

    • #800057
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      I just hate to see what seems like a keen intellect wasted in launching lame ad hominems.

      Besides its been so long since I occupied the moral high ground, even fleetingly, I wanted to recapture the experience – LOL!

      Revert when you’ve time and we might traverse the concept of how the former administration might have intended to enforce/administer a National Plan for either economics or spatial development without someone in charge… or a civil service willing to relocate…

      Until then.

      ONQ.

    • #800059
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      The National Spatial Strategy was laudable, but political interference led to it being diluted and (to use a favourite Skehan phrase) ‘the jam being spread too thin’. However to really see the lack of political will to develop a co-ordinated strategy for the future development of the country – take the NSS map and overlay it with the decentralisation locations proposed – its both funny and depressing to see how plan-led development is considered in this country.

    • #800060
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      True, but I think we’re in a sticky mess whether you scrape all the jam onto one side or not.

      I suspect that, in line with the times that were in it back in 2007, the authors of the National Spatial Strategy imagined that jam wouldn’t be a problem, but even allowing for that slight miscalculation, the whole thing should have been handed back to them at the press conference once it emerged that one of the four new national urban ‘Gateways’ was actually triangulated to a bog somewhere equidistant from the modest market towns of Mullingar, Tullymore and Athlone.

    • #800058
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      I don’t think the national spatial strategy was properly conceived at all.

      At best it was aspirational beyond its means or ability.
      Suggesting that people would decentralize without first having manged this changed through the appropriate channels was incompetent.
      Basing the national spatial strategy – in principle – on reversing the flight from the land to the cities – a world wide phenomenon in developed and developing countries – was simply absurd.

      Skehan Sir at least have the matter in clear focus.

    • #800061
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      Dublin’s Future

      Chapter 14 is entitled ‘The Future of the Past’, by Gillian O’Brien, a historian out of Dublin City University who, the biographical notes explain, is currently doing some retro CSI on the murder of Dr. Patrick Cronin, which will shortly all be explained in a book entitled; ‘The Murder of Dr. Patrick Cronin’.

      Oddly for a contribution entitled; ‘The Future of the Past’, in a book entitled; ‘Dublin’s Future’, the ‘future’ and the contribution that the legacy of the ‘past’ could make to enhancing that future, doesn’t particularly feature in this piece.

      What does feature in this peace is the information that Dublin was once ‘the second city of the British Empire’, O’Brien seems so impressed with this, oft repeated and very fleeting, historical nugget that she repeats it herself three times in seven pages, but to what purpose is unclear. Maybe the message is that if we all pull up our socks we can be back up there with Birmingham or Calcutta or whoever the current imperial [commonwealth family of equals] runner-up badge holder may be.

      Sticking with the theme of lost colonial status, the chapter continues with some musings on Dublin street names, both the colonial ones and the descriptive ones, but again it’s just the usual suspects, Winetavern Street and Fishamble Street etc. with their abundantly obvious derivations, there’s no new research throwing light on the sedentary origins of Lazy Hill or making the tantalizing connection between Crooked Staff and dodgy 17th century employment agencies.

      Moving on, the piece lingers a while on the topic of commemoration, pointing out that ‘A Plethora of centenary commemorations will shortly be upon us’, which O’Brien then lists out – from the 1913 Lock-out to the Civil War in 1922. Clearly these forthcoming commemorations are going to present a challenge with the potential for the re-opening of old wounds.

      I dunno, in the circumstances with money being tight and all that and with us having enough problems on our plate already, maybe we should just shelve all these problematic 20th century commemorations, with their sensitivity issues, and just go for a full blooded re-enactment of Clontarf out on Dollymount Strand in 2014, something we can all get behind. Those little feckers with their plastic helmet horns have had it coming for years now with there unprovoked roaring at unsuspecting civilians from the safety of their amphibious landing craft, it’s long past time we gave them a dose of Irish Christianity, Christian Brothers style.

      In other issues, O’Brien recounts the G.P.O. / Abbey Theatre proposed nest hoping episode of a couple of years back, before finally rolling up her sleeves and having a right dig at the Jimmy Deenihan and his – Dublin-Smithsonian-in-the-Old-Parliament-House-rural-TD-light-bulb-moment.

      Quote: ‘to take the former Parliament Building and transform it into a literary centre and a museum dedicated to the 1916 Rising and call it the ‘O’Connell Centre fot the Arts’ makes as much sense as taking the Tower of London and transforming it into the ‘Alfred the Great Centre for the Study of Dickens and Cromwell’.

      Ok, she gets points for that.

      The chapter concludes with a reprise of the more prominent planning sagas in our troubled planning history, Fitzwilliam Street, Hume Street, Wood Quay, before finishing on the somewhat intangible themes of ‘The City of the Imagination’ and, ‘More than one truth’.

      In slipping away from the challenge of drawing actual concrete conclusions, use is made of an Eileen Battersby, Irish Times, opinion piece, quote from 2010, . . . ‘most cities are built of stone and brick, but Dublin . . . is firmly planted on a bedrock of words’.

      And there it is, the aul sod syndrome reinvented for the 21st century. Don’t worry about our civic realm deficit, our slide down the urban scale, our neglect of built-heritage, sure our culture is literary, our gifts are of the mind . . . . stone and brick cities are for saps.

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