Dublin's planners believe the capital's future depends on a high density strategy, writes Olivia Kelly.
A new strategy which will govern the future of all high-rise and high-density development in Dublin will be released to the public by Dublin City Council next month.
The plan, Maximising the City's Potential: A Strategy for Height and Intensification, will reveal the areas of the city which the council has earmarked as suitable for intensive development and where it envisages high-rise and "landmark" buildings should be sighted.
The plan will also give a guideline to the generally acceptable heights for different areas or types of development.
The strategy will be reflected in plans being developed by the council for local communities and urban villages such as the Phibsborough Local Area Plan which will come before councillors early next month, the redrafted Ballsbridge plan, and the urban village planned for the Poolbeg area.
Inner city projects such as the major retail and mixed use complex planned for the site of the old Carlton cinema, and the regeneration of the old markets area adjacent to Smithfield, will also be guided by the plan.
The council expects to receive planning applications for the Carlton site by early February, while negotiations with the preferred bidder to develop the markets district are also due to be finalised.
City manager John Tierney said the plans to redevelop and regenerate the city would not be held back despite the downturn in the building sector.
"There has been a downturn in the market, there's no doubt, but we still have to plan. One of the problems in the past has been that it was very difficult to keep up with growth so it's right that we properly plan for growth into the future."
The slowdown in the building industry may however be reflected in the speed with which areas develop, Mr Tierney said, but he was confident that significant inner city and inner suburban renewal would take place.
"In relation to the actual development of any framework plan area or any regeneration area, obviously the scale of development depends on demand within the market but it's appropriate we have our plans in place to facilitate regeneration and development within the city."
Despite opposition from councillors - some of whom earlier this year defeated the original Ballsbridge plan on the grounds that it could have allowed for high-rise development - and a large number of city residents, including those renting council owned properties, Mr Tierney says that the city cannot develop unless there is a move towards higher-density accommodation.
"All of the indicators are that there needs to be more consolidation within the city and that's what we are planning for but there's no doubt that it's a controversial issue and the debate tends to get polarised into extremes."
The council was not planning a "Manhattan in Dublin" but low-density development was not sustainable in a capital city, Mr Tierney said.
"We are a very low-density city and low density is equal to urban sprawl, and with urban sprawl you get a whole lot of problems around congestion in terms of commuting and the whole issue of economies of scale in terms of the delivery of facilities and services. From our analysis the more successful cities are the cities that have higher-density mixed use development."
Mr Tierney hoped that the new strategy would banish misunderstandings that had developed in relation to high rise.
High-density development did not necessarily mean high rise and any taller, or landmark buildings, would be carefully considered and allowed only in appropriate settings.
"We have looked at the prime urban centres, looked at the transport routes, the underutilised industrial lands and for example in the city centre area we've looked at places where there might be opportunities to increase height."
Places where higher buildings would be appropriate include the docklands, the area around Heuston station, the Digital Hub in James's Street and the area surrounding the former psychiatric hospital in Grangegorman.
The council had also identified six areas of underutilised industrial lands which offer excellent redevelopment opportunities. While these will be fully outlined when the plan is published, Mr Tierney has identified the area to the west of the Long Mile Road as one such development area.
"As you come in from the Red Cow you can see how underutilised that land, which is on a public transport corridor, is. There is an opportunity to reinvent some of these areas without necessarily impacting greatly on existing communities."
The council's last forecast of future housing needs estimated that 160,000 housing units would need to be built in the city and council of Dublin by 2016 and Mr Tierney said the council would continue to plan on that basis.
"We still have a healthy economy, we're still forecasting growth next year and we've had 6,000 planning applications this year. I'd be hopeful that we can see out the current difficulties."
Low Rise - up to 15m or four storeys
Mid Rise - 15-50m or 12 storeys
High Rise - 50-150m
Super High Rise (landmark) - above 150m
The Irish Times