Ribbon development in rural housing criticised


Ireland has a culture of inflicting suburban housing on rural landscapes, resulting in car usage which is unsustainable, the La Touche Legacy seminar in Greystones, Co Wicklow, was told at the weekend.

Delivering his lecture entitled "Planning a Viewpoint", the Irish Times Environment Correspondent, Mr Frank McDonald, criticised the ribbon development of housing "largely but not exclusively bungalows" on the outskirts of towns and villages across the country.

This form of development was inappropriate and resulted in suburban-style housing "climbing every hill and dale", while the proper place for housing to develop was in urban areas where infrastructure such as public transport was available, he said.

Mr McDonald said housing should develop in places like Greystones and Maynooth where there was rail access to Dublin "and not be putting suburban houses on the outskirts of places like Delgany".

Outlining what he described as a "development culture" Mr McDonald said that in 1987 he had co-written a series of articles in The Irish Times on the "bungalow blitz" phenomenon "and we thought that, just by writing about it, it would stop".

However, last year he learned that in the intervening decade an additional 50,000 bungalows had been built across the State.

It was, he said, a phenomenon that was not evident in Northern Ireland where development was largely limited to towns.

He compared Enniskillen in Co Fermanagh to Letterkenny in Co Donegal, explaining that "Enniskillen is well defined with clear boundaries to the town and well-laid-out shopping streets. Letterkenny, by contrast, appears as just one long street with bungalow development trailing off over all the surrounding hills."

This development culture had resulted "in it almost being unpatriotic to say certain building is wrong. It gives jobs and business and, sure, haven't we little enough of that, especially in places like Leitrim. Planning is about making choices and sometimes hard choices, but instead of making difficult choices planners are only too anxious to facilitate development."

The supreme example of this, he felt, was the Masonite factory on the banks of the Shannon "which was facilitated by planners because of the lack of jobs in Leitrim".

Thanking Mr McDonald for his address Mr Frank O'Gallachoir, a project director with the Dublin Regional Authority, acknowledged the "difficulties for officials and elected representatives" but added that, in his view, the "culture" was changing.

"Local communities are getting increasingly involved in planning, not just planning issues, but in the creation of planning policy," he said.

The seminar, which was held in the La Touche Hotel was also addressed by Ms Phyllis Digges La Touche, an American descendant of the banking and philanthropic family which owned Marlay Park Estate at Rathfarnham, Bellvue in Delgany and other property in Kildare and Leitrim as well as a family home in St Stephen's Green.

Ms La Touche, who was accompanied by her brother, Mr David Digges La Touche, his wife, Mair, and son, James, explained that there are two remaining branches of the La Touche family, originally Huguenots who came from France to fight with William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne.