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Urban Dereliction

Our Chair comments on an article by Senator McDowell


Michael McDowell eloquently describes the malaise that is at the heart of the planning system (“The sad truth is that we do not have urban planning anywhere in Ireland”, Opinion & Analysis, January 17th).

This has developed as a result of the State abdicating the process of proper planning to the whims of development lobbyists. Over the last decade, governments have copper-fastened the idea that every planning application is an opportunity to maximise land values and profits for the owners, with little regard to the common good. This is in the mistaken belief that this will produce needed development.

The state of Dublin city is not the fault of our city planners. The development plan does have a clear vision for the city. But, in the face of relentless lobbying, central government undermines the power of the plan through directives that overrule it and allow the “project proposer” to stretch it to breaking point.

Government policy allows the project proposer to contravene the plan, backed up by many reports by its agents, justifying the contraventions. These reports should, of course, be done by the planning authority.

More of this undermining of development plans is on the way with the Planning and Development Bill currently making its way through the Oireachtas. This will further centralise planning power, where it will be even more at the behest of lobbyists.

The impact of all this on the architectural heritage, the quality and the habitability of our city is, and will be, damaging.

The simple solution is to emulate the cities that we admire and have a three-dimensional model of permissible development, with no exceptions. We have done this before with the Dublin Docklands Strategic Development Zone, and others. They may have some faults, but they are coherently planned.

This model would also have the benefit of controlling land values, by removing the incentive to overdevelop based on “hope value”, which is a major element of land speculation. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 6.


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