Skyline change in the capital

 

Sir, – Since he has been writing in detail on these issues for 30-plus years, An Taisce would respectfully suggest that Frank McDonald does not require the explanation of elementary planning principles as provided to him by Cllr John Kennedy of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Co Council (Letters, April 10th).

Rather than telling Mr McDonald that he is “wrong to fight against the emergence of very tall buildings within the centre of Dublin [in order to] tackle the housing crisis”, it would behove Cllr Kennedy to listen to the experts – ie, the planning professionals, who tell us that what Dublin needs is creation of compact, higher-density, urban neighbourhoods of generally no more than six or eight storeys in height, which are family-friendly, socially-inclusive, walkable, linked to good public transport and services, and which make attractive, safe places to live where human beings and communities thrive.

The planners tell us that there is ample zoned land within the Dublin city limits to accommodate a significant population increase based on this development model. They tell us that the high-rise model should be avoided as living up any higher than five or six storeys for any length of time is not conducive to human health and happiness, that high buildings do not provide sufficient private open space for dwellers, that they do not necessarily provide any density increase over the six-storey model on a given piece of land, that they have huge environmental / energy-consumption costs relative to lower buildings, that if not strictly managed they are at greater risk of social problems, that they are firetraps (in the event of a fire, all occupants above the fire are likely to die), that they create wind tunnels and other unpleasant micro-climates on the ground, and that they are very profitable for those who construct them but of poor community value to those who occupy them.

In this regard An Taisce would suggest that the efforts of public representatives such as Cllr Kennedy would be better served supporting development on the basis of the former, sustainable, tried-and-tested model rather than adding to the noisy, hubristic (particularly online) clamour for high-rise buildings as a quasi-solution to Dublin city’s transport and housing problems.

Furthermore, like other historic European cities of comparable size and scale – Helsinki, Vienna, Munich, Amsterdam, Zurich – Dublin should of course follow a civilised policy of carefully protecting and safeguarding its inner-city skyline as a valuable asset and locating any high buildings well away from the historic core. The planning for high buildings in Dublin city centre had commendably proceeded on this basis until the calamitous decision of An Bord Pleanála last week to permit a 22-storey office tower in the centre, close to numerous buildings and areas of high architectural heritage importance and sensitivity including the Custom House, Trinity College, the Bank of Ireland, the Liffey Quays, and O’Connell Street. – Yours, etc,

KEVIN DUFF,

Dublin City Association,

An Taisce,

Dublin 8.