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Dublin: 6 °C Friday 21 September, 2018

The rise of west Dublin: How the capital is growing sideways

The population in towns like Lucan is expected to grow significantly by 2021.

shutterstock_533204665 Source: Shutterstock/Remizov

WHEN THE LAST census was taken in 2016, around 272,370 people called Lucan home. In three years time, the Regional Planning Guidelines estimate that the Dublin village will have grown by over 32,500 residents.

That’s a population growth of almost 12% in only five years – considerable for any suburban town, and only a microcosm of the move westwards for property buyers in Dublin.

We spoke to two experts in urban planning to explain why the capital’s growth is happening in the west.

Why is Dublin expanding to the west?

shutterstock_708248608 Source: Shutterstock/sevenMaps7

Dublin is what planners describe as “a very low-density city” and one whose population is set to grow by 265,000 people by the year 2040.

We’ve already expanded significantly northwards into the north of the county, with experts recommending that Drogheda should be granted city status, while further south, mountains stand in the way of creating high levels of construction.

According to Dr Paula Russell, Lecturer at UCD’s School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy, towns like Lucan and its surrounding areas have been pinpointed by planners for almost 20 years to help accommodate our growing population:

Lucan has long been considered a key development area for South Dublin County Council. It was mentioned in the National Spatial Strategy back in 2002 and earmarked for future planning as a metropolitan consolidation town.

These towns have “a population range of 40,000 to 100,000 [...] and identify their economic function as a main attractor for major investment”. Other nearby examples would be Tallaght and Clondalkin.

Planners realised that the west of the city would be key in accommodating the almost 300,000 extra people set to live in Dublin by 2040, according to Dr Russell: “It’s a key location for accommodating Dublin’s population growth.”

One person with considerable insight into what these buyers are looking for is Ruchika Hassan, Sales and Marketing Director at housebuilders Cairn Homes PLC. As she explains, west Dublin manages to combine proximity and affordability:

We’re witnessing increased demand for reasonably-priced new housing in west Dublin. Average three-bedroom homes start from around €330,000 in our Shackleton Park development for example, so it can be an attractive balance of affordability and accessibility.

What’s attracting developers to build in the west?

90367138_90367138 Source: Photocall Ireland

Essentially, construction needs to take place close to areas where businesses are doing well. As urban economics and demographics consultant Brian Hughes explains: “If you build in these areas, the building will be profitable and taken up quickly and paid for.”

This can be seen by the increasing movement of big pharma countries to the area of west Dublin, pinpoints Hassan:

Already there are large US pharmaceuticals such as Bristol-Myers Squibb and Mallinckrodt located in west Dublin and it is likely that more will follow.

Dublin’s biggest planning priorities involve ‘densification’: the process of locating housing near centres of work and education to cut down on commutes and congestion. Towns in west Dublin have an answer to this, says Hughes:

We need to try to get people living closer to where employment and education are. In west Dublin, we have huge opportunities arising as it’s close to all of the major chemical and engineering plants.

Trying to anticipate where jobs will be is crucial to creating functional neighbourhoods where houses are desirable, states Hughes: “Where jobs are located is becoming so important to creating neighbourhoods that people want to buy in”.

What is the commute like?

2058 New Luas_90532347 Source: Leah Farrell/Rolling News

What’s the one thing people usually work out when they view a house? Its proximity to their workplace, says Hassan, who calls connectivity to the city “the most important factor for most people when buying their home”.

Although business may be booming in the centre of the capital, housing there is of course in short supply. The result: most of us are buying a little way out. And towns in west Dublin are within a reasonable commuting time, as Hughes shares:

Widespread suburbs create situations where people have to make longer commuting journeys to work – densification would reduce that to half an hour.

Manageable commutes like that from west Dublin into the city – and the surrounding industry in Kildare – can be an advantage for those who live there, as echoed by Dr Russell:

Studies have shown that traffic congestion will take away your quality of life. If Dublin city continues to drive the economy, it’s absolutely imperative that the transportation mode shifts to public rather than cars – we must make use of bus corridors, cycle lanes and rail lines.

And this is something that’s hugely important. Within South Dublin County Council’s development plans are plans for the Luas extension towards Lucan, along with development of their orbital bus routes towards the city centre and sourcing a site for a ‘park and ride’ site on the N4 bus corridor.

What can it offer families?

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A lot of decisions affect where a family settles, but west Dublin offers good opportunities for ‘green infrastructure’. This means any green areas like parks and open spaces within a neighbourhood. As Dr Russell explains:

Families should be looking for green infrastructure – things like how can I get to a park? Are they close to me in small spaces or as a bigger park? Can I walk to facilities and services? Can I get to schools?

Dr Russell explains that this has become a big focus for urban planners worldwide:

There has been a big focus internationally on the importance of healthy cities. Research shows green spaces provide better quality of life so it’s really important to look for these when buying.

Lucan is particularly appealing for new families who wish to live in a multicultural neighbourhood – Hassan estimates that over 50% of the buyers are first time buyers who are working professionals. Furthermore, there’s a large mix of nationalities purchasing new homes including Irish, Polish, Indian and Czech.

To cater for these families, there are 16 primary and secondary schools currently and a new leisure centre in Griffeen due to open in March 2018 that Hassan says buyers “buyers are very excited about”.

What is the government doing to support construction here?

File Pics Maplewood Developments in partnership with Castlehorn Developments who were the main builders of Adamstown. Maplewood has called a creditors meeting to appoint a liquidator. Source: Graham Hughes/Photocall Ireland!

In order to support construction here, several areas within West Dublin have been primed as Strategic Development Zones (SDZ)s. Once the first “new town style development” since 1982, Adamstown unfortunately became a casualty of the construction boom when the recession hit.

Now that we are in recovery, the plans to extend areas like these are back running, as Dr Russell explains:

Two big plans for west Dublin are Clonburris and Adamstown – both are SDZs, being developed on the ground again. This is all part of the National Planning Framework and can deliver significant housing, among well thought-out schools and rail links.

Hughes reminds that areas in west Dublin which are already enjoying popularity have resulted in the continuation of the development of areas like Adamstown:

There’s huge opportunity in Adamstown – there have been significant public investment in the railway station and other infrastructure yet only 20-25% of it has been built out when things came to a halt during the collapse of the Celtic Tiger in 2008.

We’re now seeing what Hughes describes as “the revival and reactivation of developments in the likes of Adamstown”.

Hassan explains how the fact that the area falls within a SDZ was a big driver of construction to the area which includes 50 acres of parkland, four new schools, a new community centre and local shopping areas:

We saw an opportunity to create a great community for residents given the design-led masterplan behind Adamstown SDZ, which facilitates planning approval with few bottlenecks.

Dr Russell agrees that this is positive: “Once there’s a critical mass of housing there, commercial development will start too.”

If the trends that Hughes, Hassan and Dr Russell discuss follow us into the future and the economy continues to recover, it’s highly likely that Dublin will continue to expand west.

Sound like an area you’d like to move to? Shackleton Park is a new development of beautiful homes on the edge of historic Lucan Village, Co Dublin. From spacious apartments to generous three-, four- and five-bedroom houses, Shackleton Park is the perfect choice for families at all stages of their life. Register your interest here.

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