Wednesday 4 August 2010

'Haunted landscape' report criticised

THE NATIONAL Institute of Regional and Spatial Analysis has been challenged by a senior planning official in Cork over the methodology they used to conclude that the city’s planners allowed excessive housing construction during the Celtic Tiger.

Cork City Council director of planning Kevin Terry said yesterday he believed that the model used in the report, which criticised “a catastrophic failure of the planning system”, was “highly suspect”.

The institutes’s report said planning had failed to act as a counter-balance to development pressures in order to maintain a stable housing market and try to prevent bust- and-boom cycles.

The report said that during the Celtic Tiger period, a laissez-faire approach to planning predominated at all levels.

The report by the NUI Maynooth-based institute, A Haunted Landscape: Housing and Ghost Estates in Post-Celtic Tiger Ireland, noted that in Cork city the number of units constructed was far in excess of demand experienced during the Celtic Tiger.

According to the report, there were some 51,441 housing units in the Cork City Council area in 2006 with some 6,167 of these vacant at the time of the census with a further 3,579 new units being built between April 2006 and December 2009.

Looking at household numbers in the 2006 census and household growth between 1996 and 2006 in the area and factoring in an obsolescence rate of six per 1,000 per annum, the report authors conclude that Cork city is potentially oversupplied by 3,605 units.

However, Mr Terry challenged the report’s authors on their application of the model of calculation to a city like Cork.

“The report authors say there is a housing stock in Cork of 51,441 and that between April 2006 and December 2009, some 3,579 houses were built in the city leading, they say, to a potential oversupply of 3,605.

“They’re effectively saying no houses should be built in Cork city even though they factor in an obsolescence rate of six per 1,000 per year which leads them to calculate that some 1,257 houses became obsolete during the same period.

“But if you have housing obsolescence at that rate and you’re not building any more new houses, then you’re going to end up with a decline in housing stock and a decline in population which is contrary to Government policy of developing Cork as a Gateway city.”

Mr Terry said that the main area within the Cork City Council area zoned for housing development was the Cork docklands and it was essential to the Cork Area Strategic Plan’s objective of growing the city’s population from 120,000 to 150,000 over the next 15 years.

“The model appears to take no account of Government policy of higher densities in urban areas, the National Spatial Strategy, sustainable development or the Gateway policy,” he said.

Good planning, bad timing: how developments missed the market

ALTHOUGH CORK city and Cork county offer some of the best examples of planning-led development, plans in both local authority areas have suffered in terms of timing, coming on stream as the market softened, says the National Institute of Regional and Spatial Analysis (Nirsa).

In a paper devoted to the Cork experience, Cian O’Callaghan and Rob Kitchin describe the Cork Area Strategic Plan (CASP) and the Cork Docklands Development Strategy (CDDS). “The CASP and the CDDS both aimed to implement an approach to development that was co-ordinated at the urban and regional levels and aimed to stimulate growth that was in line with National Spatial Strategy guidelines and best practice in spatial planning,” they say.

Notwithstanding this, Cork has ended up with high levels of house vacancy due to factors including how development in Cork has “suffered from unfortunate timing”.

The authors say the Cork docklands project was aimed at increasing urban density while establishing apartment living and stimulating the growth of the knowledge economy by providing office spaces in the dockland area.

“By the time the recession hit, the docklands project had yet to really get off the ground, they say, adding that city centre developments such as the Elysian, which aimed to capitalise on apartment living, came on stream just as the market imploded.

“At the same time, new housing estates were being developed in the suburbs. Many of these came on stream at the wrong time. Additionally, many prospective buyers had been priced out of the market as property prices soared, forcing them further out . . .”

The authors say while there was a strong rationale within the logic of spatial planning in Cork, the levels of growth expected from these strategies were excessive with land rezoning in towns and villages for huge estates in excess of reasonable demographic projections.

“Rather than indicating the futility of evidence-based planning, the case of Cork demonstrates the problems associated with the fragmentation of the Irish planning system. In the absence of joined-up planning, local authorities have only limited ability to guide development in co-ordinated ways.

“While Cork certainly was not immune from the frenzied overdevelopment of the Celtic Tiger period, the fact that, to a certain extent, this development followed a coherent plan means that in the long run, this may not be as destructive as in other counties where development was let run amok without rhyme or reason.”

Irish Times

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