Saturday 13 June 2009

Dublin's development

A FAILURE to plan properly for expansion is at the heart of many of our contemporary urban problems. Successive governments allowed developers decide where new housing estates should be built and did not intervene to prevent sub-standard construction. Transport policy was heavily influenced by trade union interests. And political opportunism gave us a decentralisation policy that paid no heed to established spatial strategy. We must learn from these mistakes.

A report that envisages various development scenarios for the capital city between now and the year 2030 has been produced by the Dublin Institute of Technology. It points to opportunities and problems that are likely to arise in cases of strong and weak economic growth, along with likely social pressures, increasing wealth and inequality, urban sprawl and poor planning.

At this point in the economic recession, it concludes, Dublin is at a crossroads. Unless extensive reforms are introduced, the city and the quality of life of its citizens will decline. A demand for effective planning is nothing new and is fully justified. Even when formal commitments were given by government to introduce reforms that were both necessary and urgently needed, there was little follow-through. A prime example is the Dublin Transportation Authority with powers to regulate public and private transport, along with oversight affecting the construction of roads, railways and other infrastructure. It has been promised in various manifestations for at least 20 years and is still awaited.

This report is critical of a failure by the authorities to formally recognise Dublin as the main engine of growth within the Irish economy. It blames government for a lack of strategic vision for the city. A reluctance to take crucial decisions and prolonged delays in implementing them significantly impeded Dublin’s ability to compete on the international scene in the past, it found, and could do so in the future.

It suggested the creation of a “Dublin region brand” and of a “Dublin heroes” project that would recognise achievement and promote social cohesion and environmental awareness. A greater Dublin region would be empowered to raise taxes and set a strategic vision. Urban sprawl would be tackled. And crime should be addressed through education, special programmes for people at risk and community supports. Dublin is likely to become the tipping point in the next general election. For any party that wants to be in government, planning for the capital’s future should begin now.

Irish Times

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