A planning expert has said the idea that Irish cities could prioritise communities over commuters and tourists is a “suburban myth.”
It comes as cities like Dublin struggle to come to terms with a lack of international visitors and office workers due to COVID-19.
Writing in The Irish Times earlier this week, former Dublin City Council planner Paul Kearns said Dublin was now “reaping the rewards of its anti-urban living policies.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Conor Skehan, a lecturer in planning at Technological University Dublin and former chair of the Housing Agency said inner city living is “only a very small part of what city centres are about.”
“The vision of the city centre as a thing dominated by communities and cycling and cafés is a suburban myth,” he said. “It is a suburban dream.
“City centres, especially capital cities and especially European capitals are big muscular things where a whole bunch of other things have to happen as well – one of them is trade, one of them is culture, one of them is institutions, they all have to happen as well.”
He said major cities all over the world are facing the same difficulties as Dublin.
“The forces that are at work from COVID are part of the realisation of an underlying trend that has been going on for quite some time around the world,” he said.
“The biggest one is the collapse of retail due to online shopping. That is going on all over the world. Big retail units are falling like nine-pins and were doing it before COVID.
“The second one is the working from home. That has certainly been accelerated dramatically, like pouring petrol on a fire, but it was there before as well and those two things are changing, probably irreversibly, the centres of cities all over the world – they are never going to be the same again.
“Those parts are true but making the connection between that and planning policies of Dublin – that is not the case.”
He said it would be “very desirable” to have more families living in bigger homes, closer to the city centre – but insisted the inner-city housing situation in Dublin is the same as any other city.
“Everywhere, all over the world, the closer you get to a city centre, especially of a big capital, the more expensive property gets, the higher the rents are and the smaller the apartments are,” he said. “That is normal all over the world.”
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