'Terrible commutes' - Families being 'denied regular life' due to urban sprawl, planner warns
Families are being forced into "terrible commutes" because we insist on extending our cities, the country's most senior planner has warned.
Chair of An Bord Pleanála Dr Mary Kelly said people were being denied the opportunity to have a "regular life" due to an unwillingness at local authority level to tackle the problem of urban sprawl.
Developers were seeking and being granted permission for traditional low-rise homes in our major urban areas, even in areas with few public services, she said.
She warned that homes were needed where expensive infrastructure, including well-serviced public transport corridors and water, were already in place, and that high density did not mean poor quality or high rise.
Planners and city and county councillors had to agree that consolidating towns and cities was the best way to develop urban areas, Dr Kelly said.
"We should consolidate within cities and towns. We would much prefer to see development within serviced areas.
"Within Dublin, you can see low-density schemes coming in (to the board on appeal), and we have refused schemes.
"All you're doing is pushing people further out and forcing them into terrible commuting patterns which we saw before in the Celtic Tiger.
"Unless we provide places for people to live, close to where they work, and unless they can have a regular life, it's going to be difficult for them."
Her comments come as Census 2016 data shows that average commuting times have increased over the past five years, while three in every 10 of the population spend part of their day in Dublin.
Some 200,000 spend more than a hour commuting to work, up almost 50,000 in the past five years.
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has introduced new guidelines designed to encourage developers to build apartments, including removing height restrictions, the requirement for dual aspect homes and car parking in urban areas.
Later this year, owners of commercial properties will also be able to convert unused space for residential use without securing planning permission, which could provide up to 4,000 homes in Dublin city alone.
Available data from the Central Statistics Office on average family sizes, coupled with advice from the Housing Agency, suggested that smaller one and two-bedroom homes were needed, she said.
However, developers were of the view that three-bed semi-detached homes were preferable.
"I think we have to come to a point where the democratically elected people who are producing the plan, with officials, have to agree we need that consolidation," she added.