Minister backs new laws to protect cultural spaces

Josepha Madigan supports measures to stop creative spaces being forced out of business

The Bernard Shaw pub in Portobello, Dublin. File photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

The Bernard Shaw pub in Portobello, Dublin. File photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times


The Minister for Culture has signalled her support for new laws to protect cultural spaces from being forced out of business by the development of neighbouring sites.

Speaking at the annual conference of the Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland (RIAI), Josepha Madigan said she was in favour of introducing so-called “agent of change” laws, which have been in place in the UK since 2018.

The laws place an onus on an applicant for development to show how they will mitigate any risks to neighbouring “noise making” premises as part of their application, and were introduced in Britain to protect existing nightclubs, pubs and cultural institutions from being squeezed out by encroaching development.

“I believe that is something that we should look at introducing here and I have already spoken to Minister [for Housing Eoghan] Murphy about this initiative, but I thought I would take the opportunity to raise it here this morning.”

The protection of cultural spaces in a rising property market, where commercial and residential interests can often exert pressure on their survival, came to prominence following the announcement of the closure of the Bernard Shaw pub on Dublin’s southside. The owners of the pub, which was also seen as a cultural centre, have since opened a new premises across the river, in Phibsborough.

“We need to ensure there is balanced development that allows for cultural venues and spaces for our artists and our creatives, and funding is an issue,” she said.

Ms Madigan also reiterated her Government’s commitment to increasing density in Irish cities, arguing that “higher densities do not mean tower blocks soaring above our streets, dwarfing neighbouring buildings”.

“Our policies do not just seek to increase height . . . they seek to promote better buildings and working spaces in mixed-use developments,” she said.

‘Undo mistakes’

David Browne, the RIAI president, earlier told the conference that architects have to “undo the mistakes of the postwar suburban era” and create “compact areas with a sense of space”. “We need to densify suburban areas to create better neighbourhoods,” he said.

He argued that there is a “huge gap” between the types of housing available and the units that are needed, and called for a “major boost in new apartment development and a reduction in new house development”. Mr Browne said that Irish construction needed to reform “rather than continue to sleepwalk into more and more unsustainable sprawl”.

He also called for the creation of a national body for social and affordable housing, and the creation of multidisciplinary teams in the public service to speed up housing delivery.