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Vacant sites "should be used for community projects"

The Irish Planning Institute says that derelict or vacant sites should be used for low-cost community projects – instead of being “just turned into car parks”.

Derelict buildings on Henrietta St in Dublin, which have been bought by Dublin City Council under the Derelict Sites Act
Derelict buildings on Henrietta St in Dublin, which have been bought by Dublin City Council under the Derelict Sites Act
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

VACANT OR DERELICT sites around the country should be used for community projects, an Irish body has suggested.

The Irish Planning Institute said today that the sites could be used for low-cost community projects “rather than just turned into car-parks”.

It said that as well as this, short-term uses could also be found for buildings lying empty during the recession, and that any planning restrictions preventing this could be examined.

The IPI said it “would be keen to contribute to a national debate on this issue”.

The IPI describes these as examples “of low cost initiatives which are possible at a time when funds for infrastructural projects are scarce”.

The Institute believes that such a move would fit in with recent Government capital spending, adding:

Many good planning solutions do not have to cost a lot.

Mr Brendan Allen, President of the IPI, said that improvement of cycle lanes and walking routes to schools can often be achieved as part of road surfacing and road improvement works that are being carried out.

He added that the roll-out of ‘Green Infrastructure’, which is included in the current Fingal County Development Plan, could be implemented with relatively low cost measures “such as achieving links between separate green areas within the overall town or city”.

The expansion of the hugely successful Dublin Bike Scheme can probably be implemented at little cost to the local council while streetscape and the public realm can be improved by painting of shopfronts combined with improved paving or street furniture.  The cost of this could be minimised again by incorporating it with resurfacing works or roadworks.

The IPI has said that in the current climate of lack of resources, and the availability of surplus housing or empty commercial buildings, it is calling for a national awareness of the benefit that such low cost planning policies can bring.

Allen said that the temporary use of derelict or vacant buildings offers many possibilities for public benefit – such as community gardens, playgrounds, or other temporary land uses.

Allen concluded:

What is important, however, is that even low cost or temporary measures are carried out in the context of a coherent and logical planning policy that has the support of the local community and conforms to strategic planning policy.

Read: Two thousand new homes to help cut social housing wait>

Read: Help map Ireland’s vacant commercial spaces>

Read: Review of ghost estates finds over 2,000 unfinished developments in Ireland>

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