Rural areas have ‘too many’ one-off houses

TOO MANY one-off houses are still being built in rural Ireland despite a direction given five years ago to local authorities to restrict permission for their construction, the Irish Planning Institute has said.

There had been “no decline” in the numbers of one-off houses since the sustainable rural guidelines were introduced in 2005, institute president Gerry Sheeran said.

“In 2009, there were 12,000 individual houses completed and only 9,000 houses constructed within residential developments.”

Since 1971, the number of one-off houses has increased from 156,000 to 450,000, he said.

The proliferation of one-off housing was undermining rural towns by “siphoning” residential development from them, he said.

Their construction was damaging the environment, polluting groundwater and increasing C02 emissions by increasing car usage.

They also contributed to creating a social imbalance where poorer people stayed in the towns while the wealthy built large houses in the countryside.

The guidelines for local authorities must be reviewed to provide “clear, consistent and unambiguous” direction on the exceptional cases where one-off housing should be allowed, he said.

Mr Sheeran was speaking at the institute’s National Planning Awards 2010, where the top award went to a Dublin City Council plan developed more than two years ago.

It said it had far fewer entries this year because of the planning and development slowdown, and made fewer awards.

The top award for planning achievement went to the city council’s Phibsborough/Mountjoy Local Area Plan, which was drafted in 2007 and approved by the city council in 2008, but has yet to result in any development or regeneration of the area.

The plan aims to provide a structure for the redevelopment of key sites, including Mountjoy Prison, the Mater hospital, Dalymount Park, the former Shandon Bakery site at Cross Guns Bridge and the former Smurfit printworks on Botanic Road. The plan envisages the development of two new primary schools and a new secondary school in the area and possibly a hotel on the Mountjoy site, if and when the prison closes.

The focal point of the plan was the unsightly Phibsborough shopping centre, which was to be redeveloped in conjunction with the Dalymount football grounds.

However, the collapse of the deal with developer Liam Carroll to move football club Bohemians to a new stadium at Harristown near Dublin airport has left the future of the site uncertain.

Other projects that received awards were two planning strategies: Omagh, Towards A City Vision for 2025, and Loughmacask Local Area Plan 2008-2014.

There were two regeneration projects – Visual Centre for Contemporary Art and the George Bernard Shaw Theatre, Carlow, and Public Realm Plan for Birr, Co Offaly.

A conservation award was given for the refurbishment and extension of the former Presentation Convent as a medical centre in Waterford city, while the participation award went to the Dolphin House regeneration in Dublin

Olivia Kelly, Irish Times, 13 February 2010

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