Thursday, August 04, 2022

Vivienne Clarke

Planning and housing experts have warned that while a review of planning regulations is required in Ireland, it should not be led by developers.

The former char of The Housing Agency, Conor Skehan told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny show that developers cannot have the last word.

His comments come after Glenveagh Properties, one of the largest homebuilders in the State, presented a plan to Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien to overhaul existing regulations to allow developers shave more than a quarter off the distance between the backs of houses.

An existing 22-metre guideline from backdoor to backdoor dates back to the 1900s, when it was needed to allow for outdoor toilets, solid fuel storage and some vegetable growing in rear gardens, the developer told Mr O’Brien.

Architect Joe Kennedy told Pat Kenny that the 22m ruling was a Victorian idea “to do with prudish privacy”, adding it was a measurement that was no longer necessary.

The size of the garden was not the most important part of a home, he said, adding the quality of design and space were more important.

“It’s all to do with quality of space including shared space. It isn’t a black and white comparison.

“Developers shouldn’t dictate policy, but there is merit in the proposal and it deserves to be looked at.”

‘Excesses of capitalism’

Mr Skehan added that it was an important topic that had been raised by Glenveagh.

A regular review of regulations was important, he added, but it was important that society be protected from the excesses of capitalism.

“We are being dragged into this by developers who benefit from this, it’s not for the good of society, it’s to increase yield and profitability.

“Being led by the main beneficiaries is not the way forward. Developers can’t have the last word.”

Meanwhile, planning consultant Tom Philips told RTÉ Radio’s Today show that planning standards in Ireland were very rigid.

He said Glenveagh’s proposal seeks to look at what it being done elsewhere, adding “It’s way more than shrinking garden sizes.”

On the same show Rory Hearne, Professor of social studies and author of the book Shock Housing, said it was important to look at the Glenveagh proposals in the context of the current housing crisis.

“People don’t want to live in apartment blocks which are hugely expensive to build.”

The problem with the housing policy of the last 20 years, Dr Hearne said, was that it had been driven by the interests of developers who were the only ones building houses.

He added that the proposal needed to be examined in detail and researched properly, rubbishing Glenveagh’s claim that reducing garden sizes would reduce the cost of houses.

Dr Hearne explained the cost of a property was identified by the market, with houses selling at whatever price people are prepared to pay.

“It’s not just about house or garden size, it’s about cost and other factors.”

The Land Development Agency, local authorities and housing bodies need to ramp up building so the country was not so reliant on developers, he added.

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