50th Anniversary UCD Planning Seminar

Action Plan for Housing, Education, Housing and Urban Renewal, Speeches

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Address by Mr Damien English, T.D., Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal

On the occasion of the UCD Planning Seminar: “Reflections: The Past, Present and Future of Planning”

UCD, Dublin

 

 

Introduction

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Good afternoon.

As Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal I am delighted to join you for the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of UCD’s Planning School.

On behalf of the Government, I wish to acknowledge the important contribution that the School has made to the development of the planning profession and to shaping the overall learning process of planning since 1966.

It is right that we celebrate that contribution and discuss how it might be expanded, developed and improved for the future.

The well-being and strength of our cities and towns has increasingly become the barometer for the health and strength of our economy, and of our wider society – all of which is possible through proper professional planning.

I would like to reiterate the sentiments of my colleague, Minister Simon Coveney;

I believe in the importance of having vibrant and dynamic urban and rural places. I believe in the need to plan for the longer term interests of both.

However, we must reflect on the present fact that just over 12,600 housing units were completed last year, almost half were “one off” houses.

We need to be building somewhere in the region of 25,000 units for the future.

These houses are principally needed in our key cities, our towns and our villages.

They are needed to meet future and evolving household formations, economic and demographic patterns.

Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness

‘Rebuilding Ireland – an Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness’ sets out a holistic response to the overall housing system as a fundamental building block of our urban and rural policy.

The Plan provides over 80 practical and readily implementable solutions that aim to increase the annual housing supply to 25,000 units per annum by 2021.

The Plan will enhance the stock of social houses by 47,000 units in the same period.

To back this up, a massive €5.5 billion, yes €5.5billion, is available for future housing and infrastructure in Ireland.

Planning plays a major part in setting the conditions for housing delivery and accordingly Rebuilding Ireland aims to support and develop the planning process.

Urban Renewal and Regeneration

The impression might be that the Action Plan is all about building new houses.

But the Plan also has an emphasis on making the best use of our existing buildings and existing places.

To this end I am leading an Urban Renewal Working Group which

  • Will drive forward these and wider proposals;
  • It will complement the existing regeneration programme;
  • It will further develop projects under the Social Housing Capital and Social Programmes across local authorities.

Action 5.1 of the Plan also undertakes to develop a National Vacant Housing Re-Use Strategy by 2017.

The Housing Agency, will lead the responsibility for co-ordinating the development of the Strategy.

It has established a working group to inform the Strategy, and includes senior representatives from my Department and from the Local Authorities. Its first meeting was held in September and work is progressing.

My Department and the Housing Agency are liaising with Local Authorities and with the Central Statistics Office in order to obtain a better understanding of the numbers, characteristics and reasons why homes are vacant.

This understanding will also assist Government in:

  • Introducing a new Town and Village Renewal scheme; a similar scheme to the ‘Living City Initiative’ to regenerate urban centres and villages (Year 1 action)
  • Exempting the use of under-utilised or vacant areas over ground-floor premises in urban areas, from “change of use” requirements, for both residential and commercial use (Year 1 action)
  • Reforming the Derelict Sites Act to tackle the under-use and hoarding of derelict land by the State, semi-State and private sectors;
  • Commencing the new “Buy and Renew” initiative with an initial capital provision of €25 million in 2017, and
  • Rolling out the new Repair and Leasing Scheme (RLS) for which I have secured €140m over the next five years.

National Planning Framework

While our housing needs must get priority attention, I recognise the value of planning for the future.

This is why I, and my Department, are committed to the development of a new National Planning Framework (NPF) to succeed the National Spatial Strategy.

The National Planning Framework ‘Ireland 2040’ will be different from its predecessor in the following ways:

  • It will be a framework not in sole ownership of Government.
  • It will, as provided for under statutory legislation, and as recommended by the Mahon Tribunal, be approved by Dáil Éireann.
  • It will be the definitive statement on the future strategic development of our remarkable country.
  • The NPF will be more strategic and more concise than its predecessor.

There will be three new Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies developed alongside the NPF.

They will be developed by the three Regional Assemblies representing the local government sector and co-ordinating their local economic development and planning functions.

I believe that the National Planning Framework will address the key aspects of planning for the future in Ireland. It needs to:

  • Identify where and how our housing needs are best met;
  • Identify our Regions key assets for economic development and job-creation;
  • Specify the location, delivery and funding of critical infrastructure;
  • Enhance the role of planning our sustainability, our greenness;

To achieve these we need to:

  • Find the right balance between the complementary but contrasting strengths of our regions; and
  • Strengthen the opportunities for an island approach to our development;
  • And integrate the marine and terrestrial planning processes.

We will have a realistic national conversation about the potential of our places, both urban and rural, recognising that a National Planning Framework will mean hard choices and avoiding the “one for everyone in the audience” approach.

In a globalised world, quality of ‘place’ really matters.

You as Planners know more about making a place work than any other profession.

So I look forward to working together with UCD Planning School in forming both policy and urban development practice so that we create better urban places for all.

Learning From The Past

As we all know, we had dark times in our recent planning past.

Let us not forget the enormous work undertaken and the huge financial cost associated with the Mahon Tribunal, its reports and recommendations.

I am happy that the implementation of the recommendations are ongoing, and includes legislation such as the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill presently at second stage in the Dáil.

As previous Ministers have stated and I certainly have no difficulty with re-stating today, abuses of the planning process are not acceptable and are not victim-less crimes.

By putting the wrong developments in the wrong places, at the wrong time, we are condemning future generations to live with the mistakes of the past.

That is why this Government is fully committed to the establishment of the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) through the Planning and Development Bill.

Looking to the Future

To conclude, this evenings 50th anniversary celebrations will reflect on the past, present and future of Irish Planning.

I think we will all agree that while there are challenging times ahead for planning in Ireland. They will be interesting times, if you are a Planner I am sure they will be exciting times.

Times which will require a better vision, a better commitment and better technical skills of the Professional Planner to address the many challenges we face together.

Within my own Department, it is fitting that 50 years after the establishment of this School that for the first time, we have the word “Planning” in our title.

I am proud to be a Minister in the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government; one that reflects a newly re-constituted and expanded planning capability and function.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe that, having come through the past, we are witnessing a new and golden era for planning and professional planners in Ireland.

We now know what didn’t work. We know what does work and with proper professional planning we know what will work.

There is now a remarkable opportunity to shape the future of our country through planning.

Ultimately, I believe that Planning is about bringing the future into the present so we can do something about it.

Or as Abraham Lincoln said – “The best way to predict the future is to create it”. Let us now do this together.

Finally, congratulations again to University College Dublin and to the Planning School.

I salute you for the past 50 years of your work; I look forward to working with you during the next 50 years as you play a dynamic part in the planning of Ireland’s future.

Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, Thank You.

ENDS.

UCD Student Accommodation – Official Opening of Ashfield

Action Plan for Housing, Education, Housing and Urban Renewal, Rebuilding Ireland, School extension

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Belfield Campus

23 August 2016

Speech by Minister Damian English, T.D., Minister of State for Housing & Planning 

President, elected representatives, other guests.

I’m glad to be here today to mark this very important launch for UCD and for the surrounding area and community, as we open the new residences and see the university’s strategic vision for on-campus development in the period ahead mapped out in the new masterplan.

It’s perhaps easy to overlook just how important UCD is in economic terms to the wider Dublin area. But it is worth noting that every day some 31,000 students, staff and visitors attend UCD’s Belfield campus. With the on-campus residences now expanded to over 3,000, this means that 28,000 people commute to campus every day.

So Belfield has the same day-time population as Bray, Navan, Ennis or Kilkenny.  This size of population, living and working in such a defined area, really needs to have very clear, and very good urban planning.

The origin of the Belfield campus dates back to the 18th century with the development of a number of estate houses and their associated lands.  In the 1930s the purchase of lands at Belfield provided sports facilities for the university and the President of UCD, Michael Tierney spearheaded a strategic acquisition of lands over the coming decades so that the expanding university could develop this beautiful campus we see today.

The first education buildings for the science faculty were constructed in the 1960s.  This centre has in recent years undergone a massive transformation.  Phases 1 and 2 of the science centre have now been completed, providing facilities for 2,000 students and researchers and I know the President has prioritised the development of Phase 3 in the current campus plan.

As we walked through the Newman Building today President Deeks outlined UCD’s plans to strengthen and consolidate the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.  These academic disciplines provide a stream of evidence-based research, particularly in the areas of societal and public health needs, for policy makers and Government.  As a national institution and a public university, UCD has always contributed to public policy and I welcome the President’s commitment to continuing that role.

I am also encouraged by the University’s ambition to transform the Newman Arts building and the James Joyce Library into a more public space where cultural activities and public exhibitions can take place.  We have seen how the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Lexicon Library has had a transformational impact in terms of creating a place of discovery, education and entertainment for the community.  I know the library staff at UCD were very involved in the planning for the Lexicon and welcome the University’s plans to open up UCD’s cultural resources to the general public.

The wider public also has a stake in the opening of the Ashfield Residences.   The timing of their completion is most welcome as the shortage of housing continues to affect not just students but families.

As Minister Coveney has already outlined, living on campus can bring a lot of benefits for students.

  • By prioritising first years, UCD has recognised that many students leaving home for the first time do not have a social network and providing on-campus residence lets them settle in to university as well as removing anxiety for worried parents.
  • On-campus residence takes pressure off the private rental sector and means that families in particular don’t have to compete with students for much sought-after houses.
  • On-campus residences are generally more affordable to students as they only pay for 38 weeks rather than having to take 12-month leases.   The cost of accommodation on campus compares favourably with the private sector, especially when costs such as light, heat, waste, transport, and high speed wifi are included.  UCD ring fences the rental from residences so that it is channelled back into maintenance and new construction for the students.  UCD on-campus accommodation rates for the academic year range from €5,721 – €7,929 (€10,305 catered), all including utilities.  Ashfield is set at €7,929.
  • On-campus residences are built and maintained to a set high standard.  No grotty bedsits with mould on the ceiling and grubby carpets here!

Looking to the future, it’s heartening to see that the university is already well advanced on planning for the future development of the campus. Good urban planning should always incorporate the ideals of sustainability and the UCD campus is an exemplar of sustainable development.

The University’s focus on sustainability can be seen in the O’Brien Centre for Science, which achieved a BREEAM Excellent design award in sustainability, in the Roebuck Castle Student Residences which are certified to Passivhaus standard, and  here in the new Ashfield Residences which incorporate low-energy design, a significant solar energy installation, rainwater harvesting and features a “green” roof.

I want to wish the university every continued success, to wish returning and new students good luck for the coming academic year and a particular good luck and welcome to the first students to take up residence here in Ashfield. I’m sure it will make a fantastic new home for you, and with these great laundry facilities there’s no excuse for bringing home the bags of washing!