Planning is key to good housing

Urban Development

Comprehensive planning has never been a strong point in the Irish political system. Under pressure, a "sure t'will do" approach is frequently adopted, with predictable consequences. That is why plans by South Dublin County Council to build not one, but two new towns to the west of the city should be carefully considered. When completed, these developments at Adamstown and Clonburris would be the equivalent of moderately-sized Irish cities, with all of their demands.

There is no question about the intensity of housing demand in Dublin, or of the need for a lot more private, affordable accommodation. But families who buy homes in these planned towns deserve reassurance that necessary facilities, such as shopping centres, schools, community and sports centres, along with an adequate transport infrastructure, will be provided as part of the overall package. In that regard, there are worrying signs that responsibility for providing local services is, once again, being transferred from builders to local authorities.

From the Government's perspective and that of the local planners, one of the most attractive features of the developments is the anticipated sub-€300,000 price for new homes. Like Adamstown, where construction began in 2004, Clonburris has been designated a strategic development zone. Once permission is granted, construction will be fast-tracked and appeals to An Bord Pleanála will not be allowed.

Original plans for high-density developments in both areas, with a majority of apartments, have been amended following pressure from landholders and developers.


Construction at Adamstown stalled after the building crash. Some 15 per cent of planned housing has now been completed and traffic congestion has become a significant problem. Train and bus services travel into the city. But orbital bus services to local employment hubs such as Citywest are insufficient. The addition of a new town at Clonburris will require significant investment and planning to prevent gridlock.

Plans for Clonburris were shelved in 2011 when a key public transport service, the proposed Metro West rail line, was dropped because of funding considerations. Since then, Metro West has been excluded from the National Transport Authority strategy 2016-2035. In the absence of an effective, orbital bus service, public transport will have an uncertain future.

Planners and developers talk about providing a steady stream of new homes at Adamstown and at Clonburris over the next 15 years. It is good news in a dysfunctional housing market. Attracting residents by offering homes under €300,000 is a useful start. But proper planning requires that families in these new towns live in properly serviced, accessible and agreeable locations.