Urban Development and Planning in Dublin

The aim of the literature review is to examine and analyze current literature on the topic under discussion and determine the main trends in urban development and planning. All researchers agree that the persisting process of urbanization, the worst excesses of a post-industrial society, and the explosion in population growth and car ownership, have all contributed towards a heightened awareness, and ultimate acceptance, of the need for the introduction of some form of regulation regarding the distribution of land between competing uses.

The expression, profession and practice of urban planning, with its multidisciplinary nature, comprehensive perspective, changing character and continuing self-questioning, is extremely difficult to define. Control over the layout and design of urban settlements has been exercised since time immemorial.

In their studies, Adair et al (1996) pay special attention to the urban planning process and its traditional development in Ireland. Planning is, therefore, the art of anticipating change and arbitrating between the economic, social, political and physical forces that determine the location, form and effect of urban development. In a democracy, it should be the practical and technical implementation of the people’s wishes operating within a legal framework, permitting the manipulation of the various urban components such as transport, power, housing and employment, in such a way as to ensure the greatest benefit to all. This article highlights the main trends in urban planning and their impact on modern Ireland.

Such researchers as Rose (2000) and Ratcliffe et al (2004) discuss the aims and principles of urban planning in Ireland, They claim that urban planning aims at securing a sensible and acceptable blend of conservation and exploitation of land, like the background or stage for human activity. This involves the process of establishing the desires of the community, formulating them in a manner that facilitates understanding and discussion, preparing a policy for their implementation, regulating the degree and proportion of public and private investment, guiding the provision of public services, initiating action where necessary, and continually examining the effect of the adopted policy, making adjustments if required.

In the book, Northern Ireland: A Time of Choice Rose (2000) claims that the practice of urban planning, in particular, implies the introduction of a strictly spatial component in addition to other social, political or economic considerations. This sequential and goal-oriented character overtakes the more traditional stages of “survey—analysis—plan” put forward, and largely adhered to until the 1990s, whereby information relating to a chosen area was collected and examined for prevailing problems and indications of change, and a plan was subsequently produced for a given future period based upon decisions at that point in time. Now, planning is seen as a cyclical process subject to continuing scrutiny and change.

Planning is also said to be the application of the scientific method of policy-making, but again this definition can be applied to most activities, and in many ways, it only serves to camouflage the essentially political nature of urban planning, for although attempts are sometimes made to divorce planning from politics, the two are inextricably interwoven. Almost any planning decision is to some extent concerned with the allocation of resources so that some people gain while others lose, and for this reason, it is misleading if not downright dangerous to conceal the overtly political complexion of planning policy.

Allen (1999) discusses that a reaction to this reorientation in urban planning and development now seems to characterize the 1990s, with much greater emphasis being placed upon environmental awareness and participation. Planning has properly been identified as “a concern of government and a field of public administration” (p. 87) because inherently it is involved with political choice rather than market transactions so that public agencies have been established to control the operation of markets in the interests of the community and supplant markets in the provision of certain kinds of goods and services.

Several reasons justifying the exercise of political choice through planning intervention can be advanced for this, including the provision of “public goods”, such as roads and defence, which are supplied to all; the existence of other goods and services that produce side-effects upon those not involved in their consumption; the need to supply certain high-cost high-risk goods and services unattractive to private enterprises, such as electricity and aerospace, which are best placed in the care of national monopolies; the necessity to control certain complex operations such as land assembly for comprehensive redevelopment, where public regulation secures a better overall outcome than would private-market transactions; and the desire to protect or preserve particular activities or resources that are considered beneficial to society at large, such as conservation areas, historic buildings, open space and leisure facilities.

The book Planning in Postmodern Times by Philip Allmendinger (2001) discusses the issues of modern planning strategies and their application to modern urban architecture. The author claims that proximity and accessibility to various services and activities are often essential to commercial viability. At a time of ever-accelerating social, technological and political change, planning seeks to direct and control the nature of the built environment in the interests of society as a whole.

In doing so, it is unlikely to please all of the people all of the time. There can be little doubt, however, about the need for some degree of intervention in private-sector decision-making, despite occasional frustration, fault and delay. Although violent political and philosophical schisms regarding the ownership, management and return from land exist, the needs of traffic management, for example, demand for wider comprehensive layout and design than can be provided by the private sector. Central area reconstruction is another instance where large-scale corporate acquisition is more effective than fragmentary private purchase.

Despite the obvious merits implicit in some form of control and guidance over the nature and function of the built environment, ensuring economic efficiency, social justice and physical quality, the application of comprehensive land-use planning does not always meet with universal acclaim. Strong undercurrents, favouring a great deal less formal planning and greater freedom of interplay of market forces, exist in some quarters.

Planning and planners are often accused of setting themselves up as arbiters of public taste, often in blissful ignorance of consumer demand. The model or plan they produce, which aims to achieve balance, symmetry and order among the various elements and systems of urban organization, does not always cater for changes in taste, habit or preference.

Allmendinger (2001) and Balchin et al (1995) argue that the planner has to operate alongside the market, directly influencing, and frequently assisting, it’s functioning, but in a manner that takes account of both public and private interests. Increasingly, public policy depends upon private sector development for the implementation of a large proportion of planning proposals, not only city-centre redevelopment, where high costs virtually prohibit public investment alone but also residential, industrial and commercial undertakings of all kinds.

Moreover, there is a tendency towards the use of free-market methods by planning agencies, and compromise solutions and joint developments are becoming the order of the day. Above all, however, planners must be directed towards the study of uncertainty and the consequences of change, the very essence of urban planning. The researchers underline that in the face of stiffening competition, the relaxation of certain institutional regulations and market demand, there has been a marked movement towards the formation of multidisciplinary practices.

This is not a trend peculiar to the real estate market. Nevertheless, within the property industry, there are a growing number of clients who prefer “one-stop shopping” in obtaining real estate advice and services. There can be little doubt that this trend will continue, both among the various central disciplines within the built environment, and between allied professions such as those providing legal, banking, accounting, management and public relations services, either by way of formal amalgamation or through close and continuing association.

Chambers and McKinnon (2006) propose models and unique approaches to modern urban planning and give unique examples of successful and unsuccessful planning projects. An essential ingredient in many property situations is the need for genuine objectivity. This is not always as easy to achieve as perhaps it sounds. Client pressure is often brought to bear to produce evidence or results that justify desired outcomes. Furthermore, negative advice, properly proffered, often precludes additional fee-earning work on that, or even other, projects by the consultant concerned. In the long run, however, the reputation for strict adherence to an objective approach eventually gains credibility and, hopefully, clients.

Essential to all evaluation and appraisal situations is market information. Relevant data concerning such elements as rents, values, yields and costs, let alone ownership, planning policy and physical condition, are not always easy to obtain. In some countries land and property transactions are a matter of public record; in others, a veil of secrecy is drawn across such information. Even where information is readily available, great care must be taken in always accepting it at face value. All too often, declared figures conceal more clandestine agreements between the parties involved.

In current literature, a major debate rages around the future of town centres and the impact upon them of out-of-town developments. Many town centres have experienced a decline in fortune over recent years, principally as a result of growing competition from out-of-town shopping facilities, but also because of such factors as an increase in car ownership, a lack of suitable sites in town centres, higher town centre rents, the movement of multiple retail chains out of town, the loss of town centre individuality and shopping appeal, the erosion of town centre leisure and entertainment appeal, and the diversion of institutional funds towards the out-of-town property.

As the recession eases and the momentum of property development resurges, the thorny and emotive issue of “planning gain” (or using the government preferred term, “planning obligations”) inevitably will re-emerge. In addition to the issues highlighted above, there are major questions regarding such matters as local government reorganization, transportation, employment, housing, green belts, contaminated land, strategic planning, conservation, lifestyles, technology and demographics, which all influence the way in which planning and development processes will act and interact in future.

In his study, Evans (2004) states that the local plan is to be prepared by the city, district or borough, providing a more detailed and short-term list of policies to be applied specifically to individual sites. To be successful, the local plan would need to be in conformity with the structure plan, and with central government advice. This book and models proposed by Evans (2004) will help to analyze the Sandyford business Park and compare it to Adamstown in South Dublin.

The book shows that county councils should be encouraged to incorporate economic and social, as well as land use, policies in structure plans. However, in recent years central government has sought to exclude wider social policy objectives in an attempt to emphasize land-use strategies. This stance has been followed by councils, although they have not excluded considerations of issues such as transport2 and sustainable development.

Neill et al (2001) and Rose (2000) will help to define such notion as maladministration and its impact on project planning. Examples of maladministration include bias, delays, neglect, carelessness, or failure to observe a procedure, which has all resulted in injustice. Separate Ombudsman offices have been established for England, Scotland and Wales. Once a complaint is received, it will be investigated to see if the matter falls within their jurisdiction and that some maladministration is evident before a final investigation will be undertaken. The services of the Ombudsman are free and their staff are independent and impartial.

If they find that maladministration has occurred, they may recommend a remedy to the matter, usually compensation paid to the complainants by the local authority. If the local authority decides to ignore the recommendation to pay compensation, no legal power exists whereby the Ombudsman may enforce payment. The lodging of a complaint does not mean that maladministration has occurred or been proven. It may be of little surprise that town planning does encourage complaints, because not all local people, some of whom may have been consulted on the application, will agree with a decision to grant permission.

Although the system encourages public participation, such comment on applications is but one of the many material considerations. Frequently, public comment avoids planning matters and raises non-planning issues. Yet although some people will feel aggrieved by planning decisions they consider “unpalatable”, this does not of itself constitute maladministration. Around 96 per cent of all complaints received do not proceed to a formal investigation.

Matters found to constitute town planning maladministration have included a council’s failure to enforce compliance with a landscaping scheme on a site; a delay often years to deal with unauthorized tipping of soil in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; delay and conflicting advice by a council in deciding whether to save a tree protected by a Tree Preservation Order; and failure to take account of the town.

In the book Urban Land Use Economics Harvey (1996) shows that the creation of a policy for future land-use control and the implementation of that policy by development control represents the central component of the entire planning system. This system is highly regulated, yet has evolved from the premise that the implementation of planning decisions should be subject to a degree of flexibility. This flexibility means that a local planning authority does not have to follow slavishly all that is written down in planning policy. It is possible to weigh the policy implications against other planning considerations. Policies provide valuable guidance and are not a rigid code.

This distinguishes the British system from other planning systems (continental western Europe) based upon a zoning principle in which the zone stipulates what type of development must be implemented in a particular location. However, the inbuilt flexibility in the British model exacts a particular price, in that the outcome of the decision-making process will be less certain than under a zoning system. In spite of legislative reforms in the early 1990s, which place greater weight on the status of planning policy, the local planning authority still is afforded the opportunity to examine a broad range of material considerations in reaching a decision on a planning application.

Examination of policy must always be the key starting point in any assessment of a development proposal. Any relevant guidance will be important but not always decisive in the outcome of a planning application. The UK system of planning policy and development control has been the subject of varied criticisms, based on the apparently negative stance of council planners towards development proposals, or delay in the determination of applications. The vast majority of planning applications are granted. However, performance measured against speed of decision-making is the subject of wide fluctuations across different local.

The current literature allows us to say that town planning legislation creates the all-important “ground rules” that provide a structure for the planning system. All participants in the planning process must comply with these “ground rules”, although it is important to remember that legislation is the subject of continual revision by case law in which the courts provide rulings on the interpretation of statutes. In past years this drive towards procedural efficiency has resulted in some reforming proposals that have subsequently been dropped by the government, following criticism that they would compromise the ability of appeals to deliver natural justice (Harvey, 1996; Haughton and Counsell 2003).

The current literature allows us to say that the practice of developers offering a variety of benefits to local authorities has resulted in many emotive, if easy to remember, phrases, such as “planning blackmail” Such a response to the system tends to ignore the more significant issue of whether or not a developer should pay something back to the community after taking profits from a development that will inevitably have some impact on the locality.

The question for debate should be whether a developer should pay anything towards alleviating the impact of a development and then in what form should this charge be levied? Although these points are being considered, it should also be remembered that the planning obligation gives the developer a legal mechanism within which planning objections may be overcome, therefore improving the chances of gaining permission.

The debate surrounding the redevelopment of current parks and areas illustrates that the exact choice of a building’s external treatment can, especially in sensitive locations, raise heated debate about what are matters of personal taste. Most property professionals and members of the public would agree on what may constitute good urban design, but it would be impossible to gain a consensus of opinion on what constitutes good architecture.

Aesthetic decisions are important in conservation areas and when dealing with listed buildings. However, the many views expressed over Paternoster show that aesthetic control is a subjective matter and that local planning authorities should avoid becoming arbiters of taste concerning the external appearance of a building. The original objective of preventing unrestricted urban sprawl remains valid today.

Fourteen separate green belts are now in force in England, covering a total area of 1.8 million ha (4.5 million acres) of land, and five in Scotland covering a total area of 15 000 ha (37000 acres) of land. The majority of this land is in agricultural use, although this is not an essential prerequisite of the green belt designation. The important issue is that the land enjoys an essentially open character, so that land may be woodland or farmland, or may incorporate some buildings as long as it maintains its open character.

The researchers (Harvey 1996; Evans, 2004) identify that the problem of derelict or wasteland without a use, although the existence of such land in the green belt serves to weaken the effectiveness of such policy. Sustainable development, sustainability or environmental stewardship are all terms that refer to the relationship between environmental protection and the economic development associated with industrial society.

Just as the early public health legislation of the nineteenth century was a reaction against disease associated with slum housing, so the introduction of Sustainable development is a reaction to the environmental degradation of the latter half of the twentieth century, which is associated with pollution, depletion of non-renewable resources (fossil fuels, minerals, aggregates), erosion of the ozone layer, pollution and the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere because of the production of carbon dioxide (global warming).

The concept of sustainable development is important for the analysis of The Sandyford business Park area allows us to identify the main problems and benefits of the current planning process. Sustainable development is difficult to define and can mean different things to different people. As a subject area, it deals with the relationship between economic growth and environmental protection. A strategy of sustainable development will therefore deliver economic growth and development without resulting in long-term damage to environmental resources. Sustainable development has the following implications for British town planning.

It will influence the existing nature of land-use decisions so that new developments will be assessed against environmental planning criteria, such as the need to halt processes that lead to global warming or ozone depletion. It will broaden the realm of material town planning considerations so that environmental issues become important in decision-making. Planning policy will be widened to take such matters into account.

Rose (2000) underlines that town planning can play an important role in delivering sustainable development, however, the planning system cannot on its own deliver sustainability. Planning must work alongside existing, as well as new, areas of environmental policy and the traditional land-use emphasis of post-war British planning will need to be widened to pay greater regard to environmental preservation. Some planning policy initiatives dealing with new housing provision have championed the cause of sustainability and sought to be associated with this new policy agenda, including both urban villages and new settlements, providing for a mixture of residential, commercial, industrial and leisure-related activities. Urban villages promote the idea of medium- to high-density mixed-use redevelopment.

The national government is responsible for enacting town planning and administrative legislation. This legislation has effectively devolved the important development control and development planning powers to the local level. There is no single definition of what constitutes development; instead, this is left to the individual municipality to define. A department of the national government oversees the system but does not intervene in local decision-making by the municipality. It does issue government policy statements, which may affect land-use planning but such policy represents guidance and is not binding upon the lower tiers.

The current literature shows that the municipality is given considerable freedom in deciding its own strategy, provided that the policies do not conflict with the regional plan or policy statements made by the national government, although such conflict would be difficult, as these documents tend to be broadly based and rather non-specific. The adoption of a plan, or review of an existing plan, involves the opportunity for public comment including a public inquiry to deal with objections under the coordination of the provincial government. This process may take between one and two years but has been known to take as long as five or six years. A right of appeal exists against the refusal of permission.

Researchers admit that the model of garden city planning is one of the most popular in Ireland (Allen, 1999). The rational model enjoins the inquirer to identify and analyze the major aspects of the regional situation that are relevant or contribute to the garbage disposal problem, factors such as the city’s existing garbage output, its composition, and the trends–whether the output is increasing or decreasing; the disposal capacity, the kind of methods/ facilities the city currently uses to dispose of garbage, their condition and cost; the institution in charge of the problem, Identifying the problem as a particular kind of problem in most planning situations is not problematic.

The public or public officials identify most social problems. By the time most problems reach a planner’s desk, the problem has been pigeonholed and the planner’s task becomes one of identifying the physical or social indicators that detail the problem. Identification of a problem is vital to the rational model since it allows the planner access to a fund of knowledge of similar cases and linkages between diagnosis and intervention strategies. Some problems, however, such as crime or poverty, are not so easy to define.

Another model is the advanced city model based on a large number of outdoor activities for citizens (Balchin et al 1995). Once planners have formulated the goals and obtained as much agreement on them as possible, they must identify or design a comprehensive set of alternative strategies to achieve the goal or goals and settle the problematic situation. The injunction of the model is to formulate a varied range of alternatives.

This typically means identifying strategies that have proved successful in similar situations. However, in situations where relevant successful strategies are difficult to find, planners should design alternative strategies. Brainstorming and other techniques are often used at this stage of the process to generate alternatives. Planners should also keep in mind that the stages of the model are interactive. If planners circumscribe the problem or the goals too narrowly, the set of strategies may fail to include alternatives that adequately address the original problem (Balchin et al 1995).

The injunction is to trace all the potential consequences, both intended and unintended, of the alternative strategies. The analyst is then to evaluate these consequences from a comparative standpoint. This comparative assessment is a distinctive aspect of the planning process. Whereas scientists test hypotheses one by one, assuming that there is only one true hypothesis, planners assume that there are various strategies that could achieve the goals or settle the problem and that the best way to evaluate potential strategies is through a comparative assessment of their consequences.

This stage also reveals the future orientation of planning by calling for the simulation of proposed actions (Rose 2000). The simulation is to be carried out in the imagination, at the very least, aided by whatever past experience and knowledge is available. The thought experiment traces the consequences that ensue from each alternative considered. Thus, with this step, the model anticipates the outcomes of proposed actions and bases its choice on the assessment of these potential consequences. Planning thus involves not only proposals for action in the future, but also the simulation of the outcomes of proposed future action.

The rational model has often been cast as seeking one–the best–alternative. In some situations, for example in situations involving a physical project, when a city is seeking to build a road to connect two points or a sports stadium, it is clear that only one road or one stadium will be built. Hence, the alternatives typically focus on different alignments for the road or locations for the stadium. Such alternatives are exclusive.


Adair, A., Berry, J. and McGreal, S. 1996, ‘Regeneration processes in Northern Ireland: the public sector and partnership structures’, European Planning Studies 4:5, 527-43.

Allen, John 1999, ‘Worlds within cities’, in J. Allen, D. Massey and S. Pile (eds) City Worlds, London: Routledge.

Allmendinger, Philip (2001) Planning in Postmodern Times, London: Routledge.

Balchin, Paul N. et al. 1995, Urban Land Economics and Public Policy. Palgrave Macmillan; 5Rev Ed edition.

Chambers, A., McKinnon, D. 2006, Clusters in urban and regional development. London: Routledge.

Evans, A.W. 2004, Economics and land use planning. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Pub.

Haughton, G., Counsell, D. Regions, spatial strategies and sustainable development London; New York: Routledge.

Harvey, J. 1996, Urban Land Use Economics, 4th Edition. UK: MacmILLAN pRESS lTD.

Neill, William J.V. and Schwedler, Hanns-Uve (2001) (eds) ‘Towards environmental citizenship: LA21 and overcoming socio-cultural barriers in Belfast’, Dublin and Berlin. European Academy of the Urban Environment. Berlin.

Ratcliffe, J. Stubbs, J. M., Shepard, M. 2004, Urban Land Planning and Real Estate Development, 2nd Edition London & New York : Spon Press.

Rose, Richard. 2000, Northern Ireland: A Time of Choice, London: Macmillan.