Street trees proliferate in wealthy areas, reveals city research

Redrawing Dublin study notes striking disparity between leafy locales and gritty areas

Residents of Ballsbridge are up to 20 times more likely to have a tree on their street than those living in the north inner city, a study on the quality of Dublin’s residential environment has found.

The north and west inner city are much more likely to have vacant sites and derelict buildings and less likely to have open green space and protected structures than the southeast of the city, according to research from the department of geography at UCD and Redrawing Dublin authors Paul Kearns and Motti Ruimy. "In the city centre, all the green spaces are quite concentrated in the southeast of the city, while the north inner city is practically devoid of trees," said Dr Gerald Mills, senior UCD geography lecturer. "But the trend is not just in the inner city – if you look at Crumlin, there are very few street trees, while Ballsbridge has a very high proportion."

In Dublin 4, Ballsbridge and the surrounding area, there are eight to 10 residents for every tree. In Dublin 8 there are 30 residents per street tree and, in Dublin 1, there are 130 residents per tree, rising to almost 200 in the Ballybough area.

“Trees perform an environmental function of absorbing pollution from cars, but all the evidence points to people feeling better when they live in a greener environment. Stress levels are reduced – the presence of trees has a calming effect,” Dr Mills said.


Outdoor environment

Street trees will become even more important as the city population grows, he said. “People in the city centre aren’t going to have back gardens, so a lot more effort is going to have to be put in to the outdoor environment.” In addition to a lack of street trees, the north and west of the inner city has far fewer parks and more derelict land, Mr Kearns, a city planner said.

“In Dublin 2, from Dublin Castle to Fitzwilliam Square and from Iveagh Gardens to Trinity, there is about 30 hectares of green open space and practically no vacant or derelict land,” he said. “In the greater Liberties area of Dublin 8, there is three times more derelict or vacant land than green space, and about 30 hectares or derelict or vacant land.”

The reverse is true of protected structures he said, with about 850 listed buildings in the area from Merrion Street to Harcourt Street and only 75 from Thomas Street to James's Street. "Too often architects and planners talk jargon. Gobbledygook such 'sustainable or resilient animated public realm' tends to lose ordinary people," Mr Kearns said. A seminar on Mapping Beauty in May will discuss green space and historic buildings versus derelict buildings and vacant sites.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times