Let's face it: One-off houses affect every aspect of infrastructural provision and maintenance in this country from motorway construction to town size; from hospital, school and waste management centre efficiency to broadband development and railway usage; and from water treatment and the telecommunications network to sewage systems.
My view is that one-off houses have been a disaster for Ireland. I would like to see a nucleated concentration of houses rather than the scattered bungaloe blitz which currently dots our landscape. But this change is not on the political agenda, and people across the country would be likely to fiercely oppose any moves to ban one-off houses.
Well, in my view the reasons are cultural and historical. Here's my hypothesis:
The lack of an Irish industrial revolution in the 1800s allowed dispersed, pre-industrial rural settlement patterns to endure to the present day. This meant that when republicanism took root here in the early twentieth century it did so in a rural context ('rural republicanism') which was - and remains - predominantly conservative and inward looking. (In almost every other country political radicalism was an urban phenomenon.) This of course happened in tandem with the expulsion of the landlord class, and the disintegration of their holdings into much smaller privately-owned farms, which are the source today of all the bothersome one-off houses. These cut away the population density from our cities that would have enabled us to have three or four large population centres, good services, and a proper countryside used for agriculture and recreation.That's my stall. I'm not going to engage in an endless debate on what I've written above; if you disagree, fine. Spell it out and I'll read it and take it on board. But I'd like to hear other peoples' views in general on the one-off housing phenomenon and how it affects infrastructure provision here.
In my view modern technology like cars, computers abd phones continues to make pre-industrial settlement patterns viable.
The notion that one-off houses are a feature of Irish culture has been thoroughly embedded in the national psyche (if such a thing exists), and, although I am on shaky ground here, I have a hunch that institutions like the GAA play a role in perpetuating this attitude. I suspect that the local club forms a bond, a reinforced form of parochial camaraderie if you will, which emphasises an 'us versus them' mentality. Some people from villages and the surrounding countryside seem to want to build one-off houses in their parish in part because of the parochial sense of community that the local club engenders. I'm not sure that any other European country has a cultural phenomenon akin to our GAA, though I'm happy to be corrected on this.
Am I right in saying that the convoluted emerging preferred route for the Adare bypass is because of one-off housing? Are there similar situations where these houses prohibit a more direct route for road or rail? If so, why can't they CPO the land and just plough straight through it?
To answer your question - I believe one-off housing to be bad. The ultimate cost of these houses must be exponentially higher than those in an urban setting.
In short, I agree completely.
The impact of the cult of the rural homestead cannot be overestimated. It impedes efficient delivery of all kinds of services, from schooling, to telecoms, energy and a whole range of social services. It adds to the cost of all of these services, including those both publicly and privately provided, and also adds to the draw on taxes to cover universal services.
I won't comment on the analysis of the social and political impact, because I don't have anything to add. I do suspect that Furet and I spent time studying in the same place though.
In terms of the solution, leaving the politics of this aside for a moment, I agree that reinforcing the existing urban hierarchy is the way to go, although I would prefer to concentrate development in those higher order centers (above 15,000 people), because of the economies of scale that begin to accrue at that point in terms of service provision.
I don’t think that there is an inherent attraction to one off housing embedded in the Irish psyche, perhaps more so in decades gone by when agriculture dominated our economy but Irelands urban:rural ratio has been rising in on the side of urban dwelling has it not?(am open to correction).
I think instead things such as this countries industrial development policies in recent decades which allowed for a scattergun approach to locating industry and subsequent infrastructural improvements which has allowed one off housing to thrive, that and the lax/corrupt approach to planning permission in this country.
This relates back to political culture, the PR-STV system allows for a parochial culture to flourish more then any residual attraction to the local GAA team, your local TD promises you he’ll build your motorway and deliver you jobs to your local area whilst your local Cllr will pull a few strings to ensure you get PP for your Greenfield site and perhaps help with your farmer uncles plan to rezone some of his agri land 2km outside small town x. Why move to a city when there is a factory hiring locally and you know you can build a cheap house wherever you like?.
In essence I argue that one off housing and its continued popularity is a symptom of Irelands failure to plan in a logical manner
People wish to live in small communities which give them a sense of belonging rather than anonymous urban centres where they have no contact with their neighbours. The benefits of communities to quality of life go far beyond mere practicalities, which can always be attended to. The services must meet the needs of the people, not the people be reorganised for the convenience of the services.
Larger places have advantages and will always tend to attract people. The situation in Ireland is a reflection of inadequate planning in towns as much as any laxity in planning in the countryside. Irish towns do not have the excellent public transport etc that would give them advantages. But they have had extremely expensive property, vastly enriching a handful of landowners in these places. This has driven people to seek cheaper housing elsewhere and leads to economic pressure for political corruption. The recent Green Party tax on property gain is the start of a more rational policy. People can then afford to live in a town, if they wish. If they prefer to maintain the communities of their ancestors then this is a positive thing too, but there should not be perverse incentives to live in one place rather than the other and good detailed planning should be required.
Much one off housing is simply a reaction to shoddily built unserviced plains of semis from the 1960s to the 1990s ..eg Tallaght and Lucan and latterly to the plasterboard shoebox apartments .
You had nothing in those estates , no schools shops etc .
One-off housing is fine so long as the full economic cost is paid.
first example: You can get broadband in any urban location because those residents sacrificed their right to one-off housing and lived close together. The full cost of extending broadband to rural one-off housing should be charged to those who want that way of life.
second example: meals on wheels and care in the community work for those eldery living in close-knit communities. Those living in once-off housing should be charged for the service.
bottom line is that there is a charge to the state in providing servces to one-off housing (water, heating, electricity, telecommunications, social services etc.) No problem with anyone who wants the added benefits of one-off housing and rural amenities but they should also pay the additional costs.
they do , rural communities do their own meals on wheels as there is no service , rural people pay standing charges for electricity unlike urban people and get no broadband ...it ain't there full stop.
as for roads and water like you get in urban areas, don't make me laugh
I think one off housing is bad. As already mentioned they make the providing of infrastructure a lot more difficult than it needs to be.
Also, it has ruined our once beautiful countryside. I visit England quite a bit and I travel around by rail and road aswell as actually flying over the country. I have to say their countryside is a lot nicer than ours, there's far less one off houses; just untouched countryside. Which is staggering when you think that England's population is 40 million in a land area of 130,000km/sq (not including Scotland, Wales or NI in those figures) compared to our 4 million population in 70,000km/sq.
To be fair though I think the ridiculous prices houses got to in our cities had a lot to do with it. For example, I have cousins who were born in Galway City, grew up here, have decent jobs here and yet couldn't afford to buy a house in this city. Instead they had to buy one off houses out in the country, 25-30 miles outside the city (houses in the country weren't exactly cheap either!). It was the exact same for many people in Dublin, Cork and Limerick.
Whereas house prices didn't go as crazy in England. If you had a decent job in London or Manchester you could more than likely afford a house in that same city.
But there were also people in Ireland who had more money than they knew what to do with so they moved out to the country and built a house as big as a hotel for their family of four..
I wouldn't agree with the point that there is a greater sense of belonging in rural communities. From having relatives, work colleagues and friends living in both in Galway City and County, my experience is that country people are a lot more bad minded and begrudging towards their neighbours, always giving out and gossiping about them behind their back. I wouldn't exactly call that a sense of belonging! Townies are a lot friendlier and more open minded. I personally have good contact with my neighbours.
I was going to make a foray into the infrastructure forum to start a thread on this topic. I'm glad I was beaten to it as others clearly share my views.
One-off housing in the countryside really irks me. I'll admit that I come at this from a mainly aesthetic concern but I just can't help finding it all so hideous. I also have an interest in this as I live in an area that appears to be at the cross roads between the blight that affects many parts of the Republic and some semblance of a residual planning policy.
Here in the beautiful county of Fermanagh I find myself aghast when peering over the border into probably one of the least planned regions in Western Europe: the Republic's North West. Boy are places like Donegal a sight to behold. It's just shocking. Rural roads are now literally lined with giant pebble dashed monstrosities after stretched yellow bungalows after weird hybrid architectural fantasies that seem to combine the Georgian period, something of a Spanish Hacienda and with a conservatory attached for good measure. It's got really dense now with houses literally cheek by jowel.
Indeed, the density along rural roads in the 'countryside' – stretching unchecked all the way from one village to the next – in places like Donegal, Leitrim, Cavan, Sligo, etc. is such that one-off housing is becoming something of a misnomer. These aren't isolated standalone houses in some Arcadian paradise, at least not up here in the Republic's northwest; this is now an all out suburbanisation of the countryside. There is just mansion after villa endlessly, and probably about a third of these are holiday homes. Excluding, conserved mountain ranges – and believe me some of the builders/farmers in this neck of the woods would stick a house anywhere if they could get away with it – views that don't contain at least five or more houses have long since become extinct.
Needless to say house design shows no connection with or sympathy for the immediate area or its history; it's all big, bigger still and uber-brash. Not to mention how every property's giant boundary walls are out of all proportion and scale to the little roads they line – who are they trying to keep out… planners? But this is a needless focus on the particular; it’s their collective impact that has devastated the region.
The towns and villages in these parts are a site to behold too. Think 1950s Ireland only even more decrepit and with even more peeling paint. Put simply, with the total lack of planning restrictions, the middle classes have said thanks very much and upped and left. They've taken with them not just their presence but also their money and any chance of a middle class interest in urban renewal. In short, this is a region with sprawled over countryside and sh!thole towns. A nightmare for anyone with an interest in planning and the aesthetics of the built/unbuilt environment.
The only people that seem to have gained in these parts are those that are ironically lauded in the region as the salt of the earth; two bit, greasy till developers and daaysint Bull McCabe type farmers are in a sweat to outdo each other over which can grow and harvest the most houses. Developers get to do housing parks on the cheap – they just use the existing roads – while charging a premium for a supposed rural house; with the decline of agriculture sites are the new cash crop of the small farmer.
Why am I concerned about all this? Well it seems to be a tidal wave that's unlikely to stop at the border. Despite Fermanagh being a gem of a rural county with still much unspoilt countryside, the locals are green – hah, there's a laugh as you'll not find much of that colour over the border in years to come – with envy at the free for all next door. Most have already built themselves 'one-off' houses in Donegal and now want to live permanently in one somewhere amongst the hills and dales of Fermanagh – which ironically means the end of the hills and dales.
Indeed, some of the more nationalists peeps here have remonstrated that our 'alien' and restrictive rural planning laws are yet another Brit imposition and a denial of our Irishness. Was bungalow blitz really in the proclamation? Anyway, accordingly the authorities here have acquiesced and there's now a slow but steady war of attrition between the cement mixer and the green hills of this soon to be destroyed lakeland paradise. I see plans for a national park across the county have been quietly dropped.
I suppose there might be a sociological observation lurking somewhere in all this. Is it possible that Irish people have some perverse, deep seated hatred for both towns and the countryside? Or is that too harsh a judgement on their willingness to leave the former to crumble into the ground while pouring concrete over the latter?
Sorry, couldn't help a rant. This whole thing is maddening.
I guess we'll be taking our kids on holidays to England, Scotland and Wales… hell, maybe even Holland and Germany, in decades to come so that they can have at least a fleeting glimpse of what countryside looks like.
excellent post, nothing more to add to that
I don't think bungalow blight is as bad as suburban sprawl. That's probably been even worse as far as infrastructural development is concerned.
Just look at the state of Dublin's burbs. Huge swathes of the city beyond the canals is loosely packed houses with large - and largely unused - gardens that are all an irritating distance from amenities and public transport. Is it any wonder that commuting is such a nightmare?
I'd agree generally with your analysis.
One-off housing has been a total disaster for quality of life in Ireland.
Long commutes, terrible broadband, car-based society.
Commuting is, in fact, the worst affect, as it means families have less time to be engaged socially in the community and voluntary work. Commuting is also "dead time".
Why irish people are more obsessed with "dead money" (i.e., renting) than "dead time" boggles me!
Friend of mine is being charged €2,500 by ESB to have his new house (built beside his parents house in a suburb in Dublin) connected to the national grid. He was told by them that this is the standard price everyone pays when being connected, no matter where you live in Ireland.
The actual cost to connect his house is probably less than €500 (2 hours labour, literally plugging him in) while I'm sure the actual cost to connect a one off house is much higher (more cabling and man hours). So in effect by paying this standard amount, he is subsidising people that are building one off houses in the middle of nowhere.
Worse? The density in Dublin's suburbs is relatively higher than 'bungalow blight', making it easier and cheaper to provide infrastructure.