Monday, 29 March 2021
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I wish the Leader and everybody in the House a very nice, restful Easter since I will not get the opportunity again. I raise the issue of general planning and development which should be discussed in this House. A number of people, from a rural perspective, have raised the issue of national planning and development guidelines as development plans go through local authorities and the impact that will have on rural settlement and the ability of people to live together in rural environments. From my perspective and from that of an urban environment, I am very concerned about the impact the abolition of building heights is having on the city and about some of the planning applications coming through. Combined with the strategic housing development process, which will run until 2022, we have a recipe for many very bad decisions to be made, particularly in Dublin, over the next couple of months and the next year.
I will give an example. In my area, Hines has a site at Player Wills and Bailey Gibson. The development in Bailey Gibson, which is currently subject to judicial review, is 16 storeys and 19 storeys in Player Wills. The site is in the middle of the inner city and is essentially an infill development. It is an inappropriate height for what is there. I have long been an advocate for high density and have long compromised, particularly in the context of development plans for it. However, I do not think the high-rise that is proposed is good planning or equates to high density.
This kind of high-rise is adding to the cost of development, the price of land and land speculation. It creates additional costs in terms of fire safety issues, parking and costs associated with going above eight storeys. It is the type of developer-led planning that has not served us well in the past. We are building for pension funds rather than building places where people want to live. Even a Government report from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, published in 2018, stated that high-rise, contrary to the assumptions of public relations, PR, is less affordable and does not necessarily lead to big increases in density, which is exactly what we want for good planning, transport services and other community infrastructure.
The report states that:
Contrary to common understanding, higher rise development...can be a more expensive form of development. This is generally due to the increased requirements from a structural and fire safety perspective. In this regard, high rise does not necessarily improve matters where affordable delivery is the focus, nor does it always translate into increased density.
I am convinced about increasing density and height in the city as we cannot have urban sprawl and urban spread. However, one can have good density, of between eight and ten storeys, if it is done across the board in the city. This type of piecemeal, 19 storey high-rise development, lashed in the middle of inappropriate places, does not equate to good planning. We need an overall debate on good planning in the city and country.