#Futureproof: We must plan better and smarter to avoid Celtic Tiger era mistakes
The Celtic Tiger left a legacy of ghost estates and urban sprawl. We must take the chance now to plan better and smarter if we are to avoid the mistakes of the past
We all know the mistakes made in the recent past, where the mantra of "build it and they will come" resulted in a plethora of ghost estates.
Instead of planning communities, we only planned for housing. Instead of providing what the market needed, we allowed land and house prices to inflate.
And as prices rose, we saw a flight to the suburbs and beyond, something not unique to Ireland. In many cases, there was little or no access to public services including schools, pubs, shops and health centres. Whereas other countries had quality public transport on offer, we were instead shunted into cars and forced to endure gridlock on a daily basis.
The mistakes are too recent and vivid to forget, and we cannot afford to make them again.
Tomorrow, we examine the role of transport in building better communities and focus on the Dublin commuter belt and Leinster counties of Louth, Meath, Westmeath, Longford, Laois, Offaly, Kildare, Wicklow, Carlow, Kilkenny and Wexford.
On Tuesday, we look at the ability of the health service to cater for growing population demand across the country and focus on the challenges in Cork city and county Kerry.
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Yesterday, the Irish Independent began a unique six-part series, 'Future Proof: Planning where we live'. We examine the housing need in each county, and explore the challenge of providing key services including water, transport, schools, childcare, and health services in communities of the future.
We would urge all to engage with the review of development plans currently underway, or due to begin, and help shape our shared future.
There is progress being made and our politicians and planners are conscious of the need to only develop lands needed in the near-term. Local councillors are becoming more professional - as one expert says, "they know they're being watched" - but they will come under pressure to rezone lands, something which must be resisted unless there are overwhelming reasons for doing so.
Planning for the next five years is appropriate, but we must also be mindful that major infrastructure projects including roads and water last for decades and so must be carefully sited. Above all, our plans must be flexible and offer a range of accommodation types and options for different household sizes.
The Housing Agency has examined the need in our main urban areas. It notes that in the capital, smaller units with shared communal spaces are required. Planning authorities speak about the need to accommodate empty nesters keen to sell the family home and downsize to a smaller property. Families in rural areas also need to be given the access to the same public services offered to those in the cities. Above all, choice is key.
There are many examples of good planning in Ireland - the Dublin Docklands, which has married the 'old' community with the 'new', and Westport in Mayo spring to mind. There's also huge potential in cities like Limerick, where the Georgian core remains intact. Even places grappling with gridlock like Galway can plan a better future, and use the existing rail line to reduce congestion.
Society needs to have a broader debate on how and where we want to live. We risk shoring up problems in the long-term if we don't get this right.
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The Residential Land Availability Survey map was created by drawing together zoning maps held by each local authority in the State.
Developed by the Department of the Environment, it sets out individual plots of land in towns, villages, cities and rural areas, and indicates the number of homes permitted on each site.
It took almost two years to develop, and provides planners and developers with an overview of the available land for housing.
It does not include land zoned for mixed-use development, which would generally include some housing provision. Nor does it include derelict sites.
The data is based on the situation as of March 31 last. Stage 1 land is considered not viable for development in the short-term because necessary services such as water are not in place. Stage 2 land has no major constraints. Not all the land has planning permission.