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    A reason for density

    Future Spaces Foundation vice-chair John Prevc recently spoke at the inaugural ULI Ireland Conference, where he called for the creation of vital cities formed through high-density infrastructure, community participation and empowered decision-making.

    According to the draft National Planning Framework, Ireland needs 550,000 new homes in the next 22 years, which works out to be 25,000 new homes – or a town the size of Galway – every year. But is the answer to build over green field?

    Our research shows that suburbs and garden cities are not sustainable. Their lack of public transport facilities promotes car use, and their poor amenities and lack of a social heart encourage social exclusion. Put simply, they can be lifeless.

    People need more than new houses, more than just a roof over their heads; they need new homes. A sense of place and community, employment opportunities, cultural amenities, and good transport connections are all crucial to creating vital places for people to live and work in the long term.

    For Ireland to reach its housing goal without compromising on this important community infrastructure, we recommend that the country think strategically about developing a more cohesive, integrated national planning framework – one that encourages sustainable densification and discourages suburban sprawl. With the right framework in place, as well as digital technologies that help fast-track decision-making, density can be increased without relaxing housing design standards.

    We also recommend that Dublin in particular consider working as a single administrative authority with mayoral-type leadership. Operating in this ‘metropolitan’ manner would give the city the power to legislate on its own density, reducing future urban sprawl, and better position it to develop a tall buildings strategy suited to its specific population and infrastructure needs.