Sunday, June 27, 2010

Planning limits hurting Dublin's development

One of the features of Barcelona that struck me immediately when I visited the city earlier in the year was its density: without being filled with skyscrapers, it nonetheless felt as if the city made intense and efficient use of land. Far from being grim or utilitarian the result is a city full of beautiful buildings - it says something that an apartment block (Casa Milà) can be an architectural masterpiece and a tourist attraction.

Would Casa Milà be allowed in Dublin? Would it be blocked for changing the character of an area? Or for being high-rise? In Dublin, anything over four stories seems to be regarded as a towering monstrosity, and (in my opinion) there is too little recognition for the idea that changing the character of an area might be a good thing.

Apart from the architectural and cultural consequences of our city's planning limits and status-quo bias, there is a real impact on the city's economy. There's a good opinion piece in today's Sunday Business Post by Gina Quin of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce discussing the economic damage caused by the current planning rules in the city centre. It's a topic the DCC have discussed before, and one I've a lot of sympathy for. Planning rules should focus on quality (including architectural merit), not arbitrary restrictions on height or number of stories.