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“Too many new housing developments are places where people have only time to sleep and from which they commute increasing distances with difficulty”, says planning expert...

Jesuit Justice center challenges government

“Too many new housing developments are places where people have only time to sleep and from which they commute increasing distances with difficulty”, says planning expert Professor Michael Bannon in the June issue of Working Notes, journal of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice.

In a sustained critique of government planning policy, Professor Bannon says that the much-heralded promise of a new era in Irish planning has been strangled by a market driven approach. “The housing boom of recent years has created a massive increase in the number of houses, but at the expense of affordability, social mix and adequate supply of housing for the less well off. Many of the new developments while attractive make little or no provision for active recreation, some even have notices saying: Well-Behaved Children Welcome!”

The former UCD Professor of Planning and Environmental Policy highlights the fact that over the past five years the Government has announced numerous strategies and policy commitments but has failed to give the necessary resources or show the will to implement them. Even worse, the Government’s decentralisation plan flies in the face of its own National Spatial Strategy by choosing fifty-three towns around the country for ten thousand public sector workers with hardly any of these locations being the Gateway towns recommended in the National Spatial Strategy.

Commenting on the latest Housing Report by NESC (National Economic and Social Council), Prof Bannon is skeptical about the Council’s optimism that the Irish planning system can produce ‘sustainable neighborhoods’  with adequate public transport, schools and  recreational facilities.  

Professor Bannon says that Ireland should look to those EU countries where affordable housing provision is a priority and where there is a more enlightened and people-centered approach to planning. “Economic success and social progress do go hand in hand in many advanced countries.”

Other contributors to the June issue of  Working Notes, ‘Housing the New Ireland’, include Peter Mc Verry SJ, who says a single homeless person has more chance of winning the lotto than getting a local authority home, and Social Policy analyst Margaret Burns who says that  over the past few years the Irish housing system has been providing four times as many houses for use as second homes as it has for social housing, despite huge waiting lists.