Housing Ireland – Blighted Bliss?

Foreword Terry O’ Regan

“Housing development in Ireland over the past 30 years, be it suburban housing estates, one-off rural housing, and latterly apartments or holiday villages, has attracted its share of criticism and indeed condemnation at times from environmental bodies, the media and others.

The fact that the criticism and condemnation is as vociferous today as it was 30 years ago would suggest an unchanged scenario. Indeed it could be said that the bungalow, the Tiffany Downs, the shoebox apartment and holiday village suburbia in an unlikely alliance have comfortably won the war.”


Opening Address Maurice Moloney, Cork County Manager

“While the big issues are often seen as a threat to our environment, such as the provision of landfill sites; the provision of incinerators; the opening of new mines, or the bringing of gas ashore, it is indeed very strange that the issue that gets most attention in Ireland to-day is the development of 'once off ' housing in the rural landscape.”


Welcome Address Terry O’ Regan

“The landscape that surrounds us here in Shandon is a landscape with a long history embracing a mix of heritage buildings and long lived-in terraced houses. It is a densely populated area and such old communities have valuable qualities that we have not always succeeded in replicating in newer developments on the fringes of our old towns and cities.”


Session 1 Landscape Alliance Ireland and The European Picture

European Landscape Convention Terry O’ Regan

“As with any document arrived at through consensus we all might have some reservations about certain aspects of the convention, but overall it is an excellent document illustrating a clear understanding of what landscape quality is all about and of the fact that we must address the total landscape in a very integrated way, if we are to on the one hand to preserve the best of what we have inherited and perhaps more importantly create something better for the future.”

European Landscape Characterisation Assessment Initiative Cathy Buchanan

‘Currently, in Ireland landscape character assessment is proceeding at a local level in the effective absence of an adequately developed national framework. It is likely that we will regret that poorly integrated approach. The situation has been rather similar at a European level, with each country pursuing their own independent strategy in the absence of an agreed European framework. The European Landscape Characterisation Assessment Initiative is intended to form the basis for an integrated European approach. ’


Session 2 Housing in Cities and Large Towns

Chairperson: John Andrews, Senior Planner, Waterford City Council
Overview Presentation: Sean Kearns, Murray O’ Laoire Architects

“All of these ideas and concepts that I have described are driven by our urgent need to provide more homes. It is not so much an issue of density or the lack of density, but it actually about how we do it and if we deal with the provision of urban homes with imagination and if we work together with local communities I believe that we can create environments within our cities and towns that will make them very attractive places in which to live, such that people will want to partake in that approach and become stakeholders in these new communities and thereby relieve some of the housing pressure that the rural landscape of the country is currently experiencing.”

Question & Answer Session


Session 3 Housing in Rural and Coastal Areas

Richard Webb, President, Irish Landscape Institute
Overview Presentation: Dr. Harriet Emerson, Former Project Manager –
Bantry Bay Charter

“There is a fundamental question to be answered, should we build or should we not build in rural and coastal areas. It is very fundamental, because if we adopt a spatially differentiated response to that question, ‘yes’ in some places, ‘no’ in others, then we must be aware of the human, social and economic impacts of those decisions and even the cultural implications.

You become absolutely powerless in the system, so of course people in that situation are going to fight their own corner, for their own site, for their own home and if that takes time and money, so be it, but if we are not prepared to invest the time and the money, and if we don't move away from that confrontational scenario to a more inclusive system, then we shouldn't bother discussing it, we shouldn’t even have consultation processes.”

Question & Answer Session


Session 4 Housing in Small Towns and Villages

Chairperson: Mr. Colin Sage, Department of Geography, UCC
Overview Presentation: Emer O' Siochrú, EOS Architects

“I am convinced that scattered housing is bad for people and I will explain my case. I know it is about landscape, but I am going to leave that aside because in the end of the day it is about so much more. You have seen my photographs and you can make your own judgements about that and most people I think would feel that aesthetic judgement is personal, so I will leave it at that and my arguments are going to focus on the environmental side and on the social side and I will start with the individual.

Scattered housing is bad for people because those who have money or land are leaving the villages for a better lifestyle and the lifestyle is good in the rural areas, that is why people are going, they are not stupid. The lifestyle is wonderful; with the most wonderful, natural environment and quietness and still a great sense of community and really no great loss of very many services as long as you have your car.

What is happening is that the old and the poor are being left in the villages, just as they are being left behind in the cities. We are bringing the city problems into the rural areas.”

Question & Answer Session


Closing Address Terry O’ Regan

‘Today, we have achieved all that I had hoped for in relation to the housing issue in Ireland today. All aspects of this vital topic has been explored in a mature, responsible, open and calm if at times frustrated or impatient manner. Landscape as many might understand it was not always obviousin the discussions, but that is one of the characteristics of landscape, the fact that it is always there and we are always conscious or subconscious of its central role even when we do not refer to it directly. I would like to think that the national debate will use our contribution as a valuable model’


List of Participants

‘Old traditions were based not on abstract theories but on practiced faith…Based on this cultural self-assurance, traditional civilisation renovated, changed or replaced earlier buildings with full confidence in the improvement they were making.”

Stefano Bianca