On Tuesday the Green Party launched our Policy on Urban Development. It’s a great document and one on which I was glad to contribute. While the policy covers a wide range of issues to do with housing, transport and the provision of facilities, the basic idea behind it is our commitment to ensure that the needs of people and communities are at the centre of all planning decisions.
The big problem in Dublin 15 is that it has been the big developers who have called all the shots in relation to planning. That’s why the Census 2006 showed us to be the fastest growing area in the country. The result is that we don’t have enough schools, there are hardly any facilities for teenagers and traffic congestion is a joke. By bringing in the reforms we propose to the way development is planned in built-up areas, the Green Party will ensure that in the future, the chaotic development that has been seen in Dublin 15 over the past 10 years is not repeated.
Having spoken with parents in areas like Ongar, Diswellstown and Tyrrelstown about the problems they have faced in getting a place for their kids in schools, I urged my party colleagues to look at the planning of schools in this policy. In light of this, the Green Party is proposing that the law be changed so that developers can be made contribute money for buying school sites. Further, we propose setting up a ‘strategic planning unit’ in the Dept. of Education so that each time a local authority grants permission to a new housing development, a bell goes off in the Department and it must then alter its school building programme appropriately. With measures like these, I believe we can prevent further school places crises like those seen in Dublin 15 over the last few years
Another issue of relevance to Dublin 15 is the increased tendency of developers to seek permission to build large high-rise blocks of apartments. In our new policy, we call for ministerial guidelines to be issued about where high rise buildings can be located. We aren’t opposed to such buildings, but planning permission has been given for high rise in a number of locations in Dublin 15 where they are completely inappropriate and are a blight on the lives of their low-rise neighbours. With ministerial guidelines giving An Bord Pleanala a clear indication of where not to locate high-rise, we can stop such buildings being forced on local communities.
Guaranteeing the delivery of schools and proper guidelines for high rise buildings are just two small parts of what is a detailed and comprehensive policy. Below I briefly outline some of the other key issues that are dealt with in the policy, but have a read of it yourself on www.greenparty.ie/policies and email me with your comments.
Key Aspects of the Green Party Policy on Urban Development
The Green Party will deliver the policy by:
Introducing a Sustainable Transport Programme that will ensure that the bias of public spending will shift from private to public transport. Under the programme local authorities will have more funding for transport investment in growth areas and will deliver local sustainable transport plans with corridors for cycle and walkways along existing rail, roads and waterfronts.
Establishing a National Transport and Planning Agency to coordinate transport and land-use planning, and ensure that local planning approvals are not given to badly located traffic generating developments.
Putting people at the heart of planning in the design of residential areas and in the promotion of more public participation in the planning system.
Producing new Residential Guidelines based on good Urban Design principles to ensure that areas are designed to cater for the lifetime needs of people. Local authorities will set down new standards so that developers will produce a greater number of styles within schemes. All areas will have units for single people, young couples, growing families, single families and older people.
Revising the Open Space Standards so that all green spaces provide both social and ecological benefits. Green Spaces will be designed to promote active use as meeting places, spaces for community events and designed with needs of children’s play and observation in mind.
Ensuring the delivery of 5,000 Part V social housing and 5,000 affordable housing units a year, until the social housing waiting lists are cleared, by insisting on a minimum of 20% social & affordable housing within new developments. New rules will also be introduced to limit developers from using land or financial transfer to opt out of building social housing units within new residential schemes.
Establishing a new National Planning Advisory Agency as a counter balance to the Strategic Infrastructure Bill. The agency will inform the public about large planning applications in their local area.
Removing the €20 Planning Participation Fee and all administrative rules that act as a barrier to open participation in the Irish planning system.
Making a direct link between public investment in infrastructure and increases in land value in areas benefiting from these investments. Local authorities will be able to recoup some of these costs in new section 49 zones.
Amending the Planning and Development Act 2000 to allow County Development Plans lay down standards on energy efficiency.