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One off housing

24

Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,535 ✭✭✭ flutered


    there has been one off houses built in this country since adam was a rugrat, the house that i am in is a one off house, circa 1880, broadband is wireless, never down, privately run, admittadly not 20 gig, the well out the back was there probably before the house was built, no esb pole placed on the site, the roadway has been there since before the famine, security, well i am old i am not worried, i have my own system in place, i have seen a trailer for tonights, today to night, now there are security issues, the pub is 100 yards away, the post officce is less than a half mile away, as is the local shop, plus one of the largest hardware outlets in munster, the only time i will be in a town is to visit the watchmaker, am i happy you bet.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 6,084 ✭✭✭ oppenheimer1


    Liam Byrne wrote: »
    Yeah, planning is a disaster in this country - one look at all the ridiculous Bertie Bowl and Dublin Docklands projects, as well as all the "development land" sold just off what were supposed to be ring roads and you'll see that.

    As for busybodies sticking their noses into stuff that they have no right to, Anglo & Lenihan spring to mind, but that's probably a subject for a different topic.

    You do have to wonder who gained from all of these developments; in most cases the towns and communities didn't.

    A lovely, strong-community village in Clarina in Co. Limerick was ruined by a half-assed (now unfinished and abandoned) development that now has a roundabout that goes nowhere, ugly metal supports for an unwanted hotel and a shell of a "retail and office space" building that has never been occupied, while the people who did buy a few houses there have incomplete roads.

    Yes, god knows who stuck their noses in to ensure that got the go-ahead, but it wasn't someone with a brain or a sense of community.

    Planning is the domain of the Local authority. I've said it before and I'll say it again, that some of the counties with the worst planning decisions with regards to zoned land were Fine Gael controlled ones.

    For once you cannot solely blame the bogeymen in FF for bad planning decisions across the country.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 6,084 ✭✭✭ oppenheimer1


    I built a one off house on family land, it was one of my dreams since young to do it, ah bless :o

    So for those subsidizing me:
    A survey was done, well located, installed, pipes and pump installed, pump is serviced annually.
    The council will be getting no water meter on this property!

    Septic tank installed, complies with all current standards so the council are not involved here.

    The road was there since before I was born so it's nothing something new.

    There is a main ESB line along the road and many, many thousands were paid to the ESB to setup a connection. The ESB certainly know how to charge.

    What else?

    We were paying for waste collection and the wheelie bin for years while I watched Joe Higgins on the news in Dublin go to jail over it. :rolleyes:
    Broadband is satellite so nobody subsidizing that. There will never be cable TV in this area.
    And the Eircom line is nearby, not big deal to get a connection if that will be done someday.

    If you wish to talk about wasteful housing in rural areas, it's in the villages and not one off houses.
    Our village (and many others) had a developers buy a parcel of land, try to cram as many houses on it as possible. Houses that nobody was ever going to buy, the biggest local employer is the Spar shop.
    They have since gone bust and the estate is locked up, nobody knows what will happen them

    You don't understand the issues at all. Yes the infrastructure is already there such as roads and electricity. You're neglecting the fact that that infrastructure has to be maintained. The next time your power goes out in a storm it won't be you thats getting a bill for the repair. The next time your local road is resurfaced you won't be getting a bill for it yet if there were no people living in the countryside these costs wouldn't arise... costs which are being carried by the taxpayer to afford some the luxury of living in one off houses.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 18,163 ✭✭✭✭ Liam Byrne


    Planning is the domain of the Local authority. I've said it before and I'll say it again, that some of the counties with the worst planning decisions with regards to zoned land were Fine Gael controlled ones.

    For once you cannot solely blame the bogeymen in FF for bad planning decisions across the country.

    Huh ? :confused:

    Where did you see me blame FF (other than the Bertie Bowl and the Dub Docklands) ?


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 3,772 ✭✭✭ Cú Giobach


    The next time your local road is resurfaced you won't be getting a bill for it yet if there were no people living in the countryside these costs wouldn't arise... costs which are being carried by the taxpayer to afford some the luxury of living in one off houses.

    I hope you remember that comment the next time you have to travel on a country road.
    People in the country do pay taxes you know.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 259 ✭✭ cailinardthair


    You don't understand the issues at all. Yes the infrastructure is already there such as roads and electricity. You're neglecting the fact that that infrastructure has to be maintained. The next time your power goes out in a storm it won't be you thats getting a bill for the repair. The next time your local road is resurfaced you won't be getting a bill for it yet if there were no people living in the countryside these costs wouldn't arise... costs which are being carried by the taxpayer to afford some the luxury of living in one off houses.

    So you mean to say that whenever your road gets resurfaced or the power goes out, someone comes to your house with the bill for it? :confused:
    I pay taxes and so do people in my area so we are entitled to the same needs provided by the state as everybody else is


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 6,084 ✭✭✭ oppenheimer1


    I hope you remember that comment the next time you have to travel on a country road.
    People in the country do pay taxes you know.

    But cities and towns generate more wealth. The only reason small country boreens have to be maintained is because of one off housing. Many L designated roads would have long been abandoned or turned into agricultural access only but for one off housing.

    I can't understand why so many one off houses got permission in the first instance and were not blocked on the grounds of bad taste. To call them one-offs is a bit wrong because they're far from one offs. Many rural houses that have been recently built all have a pretty similar design, a glorified concrete box, with nothing making them architecturally interesting or distinctive. They should have been prohibited on the grounds of bad taste if nothing else.


  • Banned (with Prison Access) Posts: 1,332 ✭✭✭ desaparecidos


    You don't understand the issues at all. Yes the infrastructure is already there such as roads and electricity. You're neglecting the fact that that infrastructure has to be maintained. The next time your power goes out in a storm it won't be you thats getting a bill for the repair. The next time your local road is resurfaced you won't be getting a bill for it yet if there were no people living in the countryside these costs wouldn't arise... costs which are being carried by the taxpayer to afford some the luxury of living in one off houses.

    There's plenty of services paid or subsidized with the public purse which are exclusive to towns, which people in one off houses do not benefit from, yet pay for anyway.

    Water and sewerage infrastructure is an example.

    Also, roads around my home haven't been resurfaced for years.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 3,772 ✭✭✭ Cú Giobach


    But cities and towns generate more wealth. The only reason small country boreens have to be maintained is because of one off housing. Many L designated roads would have long been abandoned or turned into agricultural access only but for one off housing..

    Not true, most roads connect villages or have established old farms and houses built many years ago. These roads are where many of these new houses are built.
    Would you advocate moving people out of these old established sites to save your precious tax money and if so and the roads left to decay, how would the food you eat get to your local shop, By air??
    The argument you are giving is practically Stalinist in its nature.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 6,084 ✭✭✭ oppenheimer1


    So you mean to say that whenever your road gets resurfaced or the power goes out, someone comes to your house with the bill for it? :confused:
    I pay taxes and so do people in my area so we are entitled to the same needs provided by the state as everybody else is

    What if taxes were imposed that reflected the costs of providing services to people in rural areas? You will find that rural roads cost more to maintain (due to the amount of them) and electricity more to provide (greater distance to travel and greater exposure to damage from the elements) in addition to serving fewer people.

    Think of it like this. There is a town at the bottom of a mountain and one of the residents decided hes had enough of town life. He decides to build his house at the top of the mountain. He then expects the other people in the town to pay to upgrade the dirt track to the top of the mountain to a tarmac road, not only that they expect them to maintain it. He wants electricity for his house so he pays the ESB to bring a line to him. A storm comes and breaks the long line to his house, he expects the other residents in the town to pay for the repair.

    After a while the town residents get fed up of paying for the expensive maintenance of the services to the house on the mountain. They also want to invest in a new next generation broadband system for their town. They look at their budget and they see that the road maintenance bill is mostly for this road to the man on the hill, consequently they cannot afford the new broadband which might attract investment to the town. They decide not to fix the road... the man on the hill gets angry demanding they do because he paid his taxes and is entitled to it.

    The long and the short of it is that the maintenance of any network (road/comms) over a large geographic area to serve relatively few people is very expensive. This expense prohibits upgrading. For example if broadband didn't have to be brought to every backwater in the country the money used for that could have been spent in the cities to bring high speeds to a more concentrated number of people. This would stimulate growth in the urban economy. Instead we're left with a thinly spread often inadequate broadband that really serves the needs of no one.


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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 18,163 ✭✭✭✭ Liam Byrne


    For example if broadband didn't have to be brought to every backwater in the country the money used for that could have been spent in the cities to bring high speeds to a more concentrated number of people. This would stimulate growth in the urban economy. Instead we're left with a thinly spread often inadequate broadband that really serves the needs of no one.

    Firstly, broadband isn't available "in every backwater in the country".

    Secondly, you're ignoring the fact that you and I pay the same taxes but you've gotten your townie sewerage system included in that tax while I have to pay for installing a septic tank, pay for maintaining it, pay for emptying it, and will now have to pay some government lackey to sign off that I've done the above.

    If it leaks, I'll have to pay for it too.

    Likewise with our local water scheme, which the council took over after years of investment by the locals, including paying for maintenance and fixing leaks.

    Who pays for leaks to your sewerage or water system ?


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 6,084 ✭✭✭ oppenheimer1


    There's plenty of services paid or subsidized with the public purse which are exclusive to towns, which people in one off houses do not benefit from, yet pay for anyway.

    Water and sewerage infrastructure is an example.

    Also, roads around my home haven't been resurfaced for years.

    You will find that if you look at the numbers that the amount of tax generated by urban areas more than pays for the services they use such as sewage and water. The surplus from this tax take is then used to subsidise rural services as rural dwellers do not generate enough taxes to cover the costs of even the limited services they use.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 18,163 ✭✭✭✭ Liam Byrne


    Add in the following : the fact that our taxes paid for "ring roads" that some planning idiot (from some party or other) later zoned as development land, creating junctions on that road and further urban sprawl, necessitating yet another "ring road" outside that.

    I mean, how many lanes does the M50 have now ? And why are Dublin city areas like Tallaght and Clondalkin and Swords - and even more sprawling "retail parks" OUTSIDE that ?


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 6,084 ✭✭✭ oppenheimer1


    Liam Byrne wrote: »
    Firstly, broadband isn't available "in every backwater in the country".

    Secondly, you're ignoring the fact that you and I pay the same taxes but you've gotten your townie sewerage system included in that tax while I have to pay for installing a septic tank, pay for maintaining it, pay for emptying it, and will now have to pay some government lackey to sign off that I've done the above.

    If it leaks, I'll have to pay for it too.

    Likewise with our local water scheme, which the council took over after years of investment by the locals, including paying for maintenance and fixing leaks.

    Who pays for leaks to your sewerage or water system ?

    I may have got my townie sewage and water included in my taxes but you've got your own long expensive highway maintenance, and the long power line maintenance in your taxes. As I've said the taxes I pay more than cover the services I use while the taxes rural dwellers pay don't even break even on the even limited services they use.

    Wrt to broadband, if the government weren't committed to rolling out a national broadband network to make 1mb available to all that money could have been invested in bringing a higher speed to urban areas where the faster speed would have the potential to create growth. What we got is an inadequate network spread thinly over the country when it would have been more beneficial to have a high speed network concentrated in towns for the same money.


  • Registered Users Posts: 259 ✭✭ cailinardthair


    What if taxes were imposed that reflected the costs of providing services to people in rural areas? You will find that rural roads cost more to maintain (due to the amount of them) and electricity more to provide (greater distance to travel and greater exposure to damage from the elements) in addition to serving fewer people.

    Think of it like this. There is a town at the bottom of a mountain and one of the residents decided hes had enough of town life. He decides to build his house at the top of the mountain. He then expects the other people in the town to pay to upgrade the dirt track to the top of the mountain to a tarmac road, not only that they expect them to maintain it. He wants electricity for his house so he pays the ESB to bring a line to him. A storm comes and breaks the long line to his house, he expects the other residents in the town to pay for the repair.

    After a while the town residents get fed up of paying for the expensive maintenance of the services to the house on the mountain. They also want to invest in a new next generation broadband system for their town. They look at their budget and they see that the road maintenance bill is mostly for this road to the man on the hill, consequently they cannot afford the new broadband which might attract investment to the town. They decide not to fix the road... the man on the hill gets angry demanding they do because he paid his taxes and is entitled to it.

    The long and the short of it is that the maintenance of any network (road/comms) over a large geographic area to serve relatively few people is very expensive. This expense prohibits upgrading. For example if broadband didn't have to be brought to every backwater in the country the money used for that could have been spent in the cities to bring high speeds to a more concentrated number of people. This would stimulate growth in the urban economy. Instead we're left with a thinly spread often inadequate broadband that really serves the needs of no one.

    your fictional argument sounds ridiculous. people in real life don't act the way you are describing. i wonder are you a troll, or have just never been to rural Ireland.
    my road hasn't been resurfaced in 9 years and there's no signs that it will be anytime soon, hardly crippling to a community, is it? you also do realize that house owners will pay by the pole to bring electricity to their house, as well as the connection fee?
    you mention that the road network serves a relatively small population. what planet are you living on? if only people who had a house on it used it, maybe, but many. many people will use it.
    you're making up theoretical situations to suit your argument. if you lived in a rural area then maybe you'd know what you were talking about, but i doubt you do.
    you're basically saying that even though i pay just as much tax as you do, i'm not entitled to the same services just because i'm not from a town or city


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 18,163 ✭✭✭✭ Liam Byrne


    I may have got my townie sewage and water included in my taxes but you've got your own long expensive highway maintenance

    Yeah, right!

    There's about 150 houses on the road, so it's far from "my own expensive highway" :rolleyes:

    It was also there for the last 100 years, and since it passes 3 of the local farms it's probably the same highway that would be there to ensure that you get your milk.
    and the long power line maintenance in your taxes.

    ESB is a commerical company, and charges appropriately.

    As I've said the taxes I pay more than cover the services I use while the taxes rural dwellers pay don't even break even on the even limited services they use.

    Again, yeah, right. There's no LUAS or even buses here, so I'm paying a fortune in fuel taxes alone.
    it would have been more beneficial to have a high speed network concentrated in towns for the same money.

    Only if that's where people who use it were located. Also, if you're suggesting forcing everyone to move to Dublin, bear in mind the laws of supply & demand on accommodation.......us living here probably saved you half the cost of your mortgage.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 6,084 ✭✭✭ oppenheimer1


    your fictional argument sounds ridiculous. people in real life don't act the way you are describing. i wonder are you a troll, or have just never been to rural Ireland.
    my road hasn't been resurfaced in 9 years and there's no signs that it will be anytime soon, hardly crippling to a community, is it? you also do realize that house owners will pay by the pole to bring electricity to their house, as well as the connection fee?
    you mention that the road network serves a relatively small population. what planet are you living on? if only people who had a house on it used it, maybe, but many. many people will use it.
    you're making up theoretical situations to suit your argument. if you lived in a rural area then maybe you'd know what you were talking about, but i doubt you do.
    you're basically saying that even though i pay just as much tax as you do, i'm not entitled to the same services just because i'm not from a town or city

    Thats not what I'm saying.

    In relation to your other point, roads should be resurfaced every 15 years. You road might not have been done but it will get its turn yet as some other part of your county got it this year. You will find that most roads are in rural areas even if you exclude roads linking principal towns.

    F1g9i.png

    As for who uses rural roads think about it for a minute. Rural dwellers do. Take a look at the map above (Longford). This is a typical scene in Ireland, the vast network of local roads only exists in order to maintain access for one off houses. If the houses were not there they could be abandoned as agricultural vehicles can negotiate rough terrain. In addition each of those roads has electricity, telephone and water.

    Just for a second here imagine that the only thing the government did was make laws and provide security. In this country taxes are very low. However absolutely every other service from roads to health etc was provided for by a private company, however this hypothetical private company is not out to make a profit, it just wants to break even. Like you would expect every service you use is charged for by the amount of demands you place on the system. Ambulance trips are charged per km, cost of repair to storm damage to electricty lines is divided by the number of people the outage effects.

    In this environment you'll find that a person living in a rural area will pay a lot more than someone living in a town. So much so that it would not be economically viable to live rurally. Fortunately (or unfortunately) we have a system of government that doesn't impose taxes according to use of services but rather the ability to pay. This means that urban dwellers (on the whole) subsidise rural dwellers (on the whole). In fact almost all economic activity takes place in towns so there is no reason for people to live in the countryside at all generally other than the fact that they want to.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 18,163 ✭✭✭✭ Liam Byrne


    In fact almost all economic activity takes place in towns so there is no reason for people to live in the countryside at all generally other than the fact that they want to.

    Interesting.

    I work from home for a number of reasons - it suits me, it's environmentally friendly and it's cheaper than renting an overpriced office in an urban centre.

    But hey - I guess me working and getting paid isn't "economic activity"....and that's just me, not to mention the farmers and landscapers and plumbers and mechanics and shopkeepers and pub owners that service myself and others.


  • Banned (with Prison Access) Posts: 1,332 ✭✭✭ desaparecidos


    A In addition each of those roads has electricity, telephone and water.

    No. Electricity and telephone are provided by profit making companies, who charge users for the liberty of connection.

    Water paid for by tax does not exist in the countryside. How many times does this have to be said? People pay thousands to source and maintain their water supply. Similarly the waste treatment on their land.
    In this environment you'll find that a person living in a rural area will pay a lot more than someone living in a town.

    They do. It costs substantially more to live in rural areas as it does in a city.
    In fact almost all economic activity takes place in towns so there is no reason for people to live in the countryside at all generally other than the fact that they want to.

    Not living close to scummers is also a reason.

    I grew up in a rural area and but have been renting for the past year in a city far away from home because that's where I got a job. I have to say I hate living in a city. The noise of neighbours, the constant noise of cars, the horrible yellow glow in the night sky, scummers everywhere. Give me lovely views and the dead of night silence looking up at the visible stars any day.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 6,084 ✭✭✭ oppenheimer1


    No. Electricity and telephone are provided by profit making companies, who charge users for the liberty of connection.

    Water paid for by tax does not exist in the countryside. How many times does this have to be said? People pay thousands to source and maintain their water supply. Similarly the waste treatment on their land.
    Eh yes it does. I know the area in that map personally and I know it is connected to the council mains. In addition my parents also live rurally - in a one off house and their water is provided by the council.

    Yes electricity and telephone are provided by profit making companies, but these companies are in a highly regulated environment where legislation mandates them to provide connections. It doesn't matter whether its government or private companies, the end result is the same, the other users of the system must subsidise the cost of providing services to these rural dwellers. It doesn't matter to me who takes the euro out of my pocket whether it be the tax man the esb or eircom all I care about is the fact is that its not in my pocket any more.


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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 18,163 ✭✭✭✭ Liam Byrne


    Eh yes it does. I know the area in that map personally

    How do you "know the area in that map personally ?

    Don't tell me you've actually visited it using some of those pesky roads ? :eek:

    Hope you paid your taxes for those!
    .......the other users of the system must subsidise the cost of providing services to these rural dwellers. It doesn't matter to me who takes the euro out of my pocket whether it be the tax man the esb or eircom all I care about is the fact is that its not in my pocket any more.

    So how much would it cost you to drive to the farm on non-existent rural roads to collect your milk and cheese and vegetables ?

    I'd guess that all of those would be cheaper to me if regulations allowed me to get them directly from the farmer instead of being forced to subsidise the cost of them being delivered to factories and supermarkets and then drive in to purchase them.

    But then what would I know ? I'm only a country bumpkin and not a sophisticated, educated city slicker.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 19,987 ✭✭✭✭ mikemac


    It doesn't matter to me who takes the euro out of my pocket whether it be the tax man the esb or eircom all I care about is the fact is that its not in my pocket any more.

    ESB is a commercial company.
    And they more then cover their costs on linking new builds to the grid. It's not a few hundred euro....it's closer to few thousand and maybe more

    A lot if you live by the main road and if they need poles to get to your land, the price escalates.

    I was shocked when I heard the quote, maybe you would be too.
    Now you say for that money I get a lifetime of ESB maintaining my line and taxpayers pay for this? No problem, sure don't I pay for your sewage and water?


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 6,084 ✭✭✭ oppenheimer1


    Liam Byrne wrote: »
    How do you "know the area in that map personally ?

    Don't tell me you've actually visited it using some of those pesky roads ? :eek:

    Hope you paid your taxes for those!



    So how much would it cost you to drive to the farm on non-existent rural roads to collect your milk and cheese and vegetables ?

    I'd guess that all of those would be cheaper to me if regulations allowed me to get them directly from the farmer instead of being forced to subsidise the cost of them being delivered to factories and supermarkets and then drive in to purchase them.

    But then what would I know ? I'm only a country bumpkin and not a sophisticated, educated city slicker.


    You're strawmanning. There are no regulations preventing direct purchase of produce from a farmer. The reason we have supermarkets is that their scale allows them to sell more cheaply even after delivery has been factored in as a cost. This has nothing to do with one off housing, most (not all!) people who live in the countryside do not work in the countryside, they commute to towns and cities. Yes there are arguments that our towns and cities are badly designed and have problems but one off housing is not a solution, it is in fact replacing one problem with another larger one.

    One off housing is not sustainable, but I'm not against living in the countryside per-se. Development in the countryside should be done as a community centred around villages, where the appropriate infrastructure can be put in place, relatively cheaply. There was a certain amount of this tried in the boom but it was poorly implemented and too many exceptions for one off developments were made which bound the strategy to failure.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 18,163 ✭✭✭✭ Liam Byrne


    You're strawmanning.

    Maybe partially, but check out the regulations relating to Health & Safety and even "home baking for sale" and get back to me.

    More interesting is the question that you avoided. How do you know those areas personally, and did you use the rural roads to get to know them ?


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 6,084 ✭✭✭ oppenheimer1


    Liam Byrne wrote: »
    How do you "know the area in that map personally ?

    Don't tell me you've actually visited it using some of those pesky roads ? :eek:

    Hope you paid your taxes for those!
    Well I wouldn't have had to go there if the person I was visiting didn't live in a one off house:D

    This actually kind of proves my point, the raison-d'etre for these roads is to provide access for one off houses and the only people who use them actually live down those boreens or are visiting.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 18,163 ✭✭✭✭ Liam Byrne


    Well I wouldn't have had to go there if the person I was visiting didn't live in a one off house:D

    Fair point, however the fact remains that you used those roads.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 19,987 ✭✭✭✭ mikemac


    One off housing is not sustainable, but I'm not against living in the countryside per-se. Development in the countryside should be done as a community centred around villages, where the appropriate infrastructure can be put in place, relatively cheaply. There was a certain amount of this tried in the boom but it was poorly implemented and too many exceptions for one off developments were made which bound the strategy to failure.

    Ah, the famous Section 23. Building estates in rural areas. Not necessarily a bad thing.
    Prices were high due to the massive tax breaks so many or most bought by investors. Many hoping to flip them or write off tax.
    Very few locals would buy a house with an inflated house price due to tax incentives.

    Even with price drops, many have turned into ghost estates.
    Yet another wasteful scheme.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 3,772 ✭✭✭ Cú Giobach


    The discussion in this thread is so off the wall it really belongs in AH.
    People shouldn't live in a stand alone house in the country, WTF. :rolleyes:


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 16,391 ✭✭✭✭ mikom


    oppenheimer1...........Judge Dredd, Megacity 1, and the long walk into the cursed earth comes to mind.


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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 6,084 ✭✭✭ oppenheimer1


    One-off Housing killed my cat
    By Mark Waters
    Thursday, September 18, 2003

    OK, this one's personal. One-off housing killed my cat.
    For much of my youth I lived in so-called ribbon development housing on the outskirts of Castlebar. The 'development' consisted of a number of one-off houses clinging to the sides of the busy main road. Each house was individually serviced with its own water supply, electricity supply and telephone line and septic tank. Each had its own access to the main road. Each had its own means of handling refuse disposal. In short, each dwelling was a castle, self-sufficient and living in splendid isolation from its neighbours.
    My cat was a beauty; her fur was a kaleidoscope of black, white and gold. We had rescued her from certain death after her mother -a stray- gave birth to a litter in a coal bag outside our house. She grew strong and healthy and one day produced a litter of her own. A few days after, following an unfortunate altercation with a neighbour's dog she decided it would be wise to take her five babies to a safer place. That place was in another neighbour's yard -on the other side of the busy main road.
    The arrangement worked well for a few days. The kittens were safe and their mother would cross the road a few times a day to be fed at our house. Then one day the inevitable happened. The cat was killed crossing the road by a motorist who was driving so fast that he probably didn't even notice. We did our best to nurse the motherless kittens but without their mother it was hopeless and one by one they faded away and died.

    Our cats paid the ultimate price but we ourselves suffered in little ways every day as a consequence of living in a one-off house. Services were inferior. Our electricity gave out a light that was a pale imitation of that of our friends in town. Our water supply had weak pressure. Our septic tank left our back garden looking like a marsh.

    Later when the internet arrived it came at a crawl. Our telephone line was so far from the telephone exchange that we would have been quicker driving two miles to the nearest shop and buying the newspaper rather than wait for it to download.
    And everything was so far away. Hours of our life were squandered travelling to and from school, to the sports clubs, swimming pool, and the houses of friends and, later on, to and from discos and pubs. Like most of our neighbours we were a single car household and huge demands were placed on the car. Cycling was an option only if you were willing to take your chances on the Russian roulette of the road.

    And the road itself was like a knife cutting through the heart of the community. It was so dangerous that you were taking your life into your own hands if you dared to visit your neighbour. So we didn't. We retreated into our castles, and to our televisions, barely connected to the world by our cars -the very things that were imprisoning us in our homes.

    This is the legacy of one-off housing and this is the reality of Bertie Ahern's notion of supporting one-off housing as a means of creating viable communities in the west.
    One-off housing developments may save the politicians at the next election and they may save the farmers by putting a few euros in their pockets to delay the inevitable day of reckoning before they finally accept that their lifestyle is unviable and unsustainable. But they will not save the farmers' sons and daughters. The farmers cry that their children cannot build on their land and are forced to leave. But it is not the lack of one-off housing that causes the sons and daughters to jump ship; it is the cost of living and the quality of life that the consequences of one-off developments force on them. They leave because to stay means to pay more for poorer services and to suffer boredom, loneliness and a denial of their potential to contribute to and enjoy a fully functioning community.

    A community of one-off houses has a serious disadvantage before it even starts out on the road to viability, sustainability and growth. Services cost more money and offer a poorer quality than they do in co-ordinated developments. Scarce resources are spread ever thinner across the landscape. The potential for economic development is limited. Everyone is pulling against everyone else instead of in the same direction.

    Co-ordinated development does not provide the solution to all our problems but it provides a more solid foundation from which to tackle them. It gives us the breathing space to fulfil the potential that is often frustrated by a lack of common purpose. The loneliness and isolation of the elderly and housebound, the struggle of the GAA clubs to make the numbers for teams, the difficulty teenagers face trying to get to the disco because it's twenty miles away, the drink-driving roller coaster home after a night at a pub because of the lack of taxis, the difficulty of organising a community festival; these are just a few of the things made more difficult to deal with when we have to first surmount the obstacle of a dysfunctional and disconnected community.

    We delude ourselves into thinking that one-off housing is about freedom and the rights of the individual. But if everyone is given complete freedom and the right to build where they like then no one is free. Everyone is compromised by everyone else. Without co-ordination the friction between individuals becomes so great that we all grind to a halt. With rights comes responsibilities. In the case of property rights these responsibilities are crucial. How landowners use their land has a huge impact on the broader society. It could be argued that many landowners are being so irresponsible in their attitude to the land that its potential for future generations has been irrecoverably damaged.

    We delude ourselves into thinking that this is Ireland and that we are different. Dr. Seamus Caulfield, well known for his work with the Ceide Fields, has suggested that the definition of an Irish village is different to that of its British or European counterpart. He says that housing of the one-off type, where dwellings could be up to two miles apart and still be considered part of the village, were commonplace in the west of Ireland for much of our recent history and that planning strategy should take this into account.

    But if we accept this argument then we must also acknowledge that many of these uniquely Irish villages were unviable and have all but disappeared and all those that do survive rely on the dubious foundations of farm subsidies and the release-valve of emigration to sustain them. To accept a one-off housing policy and to encourage development along the lines of the allegedly uniquely Irish village is to condemn us to repeat the mistakes of a past which few of us would wish to return to.

    We delude ourselves into thinking that our leaders don't have the vision and ability to solve the problem. But we have county development plans and national strategies -developed with strong input from politicians- which are often models of vision, reason and common-sense but which are then totally compromised by the short-term interests of the self-same politicians.

    The conflict between the short-term interests of politicians -always with an eye on the next election- and the long-term view of the planners has lead to a paralysis that has damaged the integrity of the planning process. Furthermore when politicians have the power to influence or reverse individual planning decisions it undermines confidence and defeats the whole point of the process. The politicians should only have the power to frame policy. Then they should let the planners get on with the job of implementing that policy.

    Support for a one-off housing policy is tantamount to support for no housing policy at all. It shows a lack of any vision or hope for the viability and sustainability of communities in the west of Ireland. The long term benefit is sacrificed on the altar of blind short-term individualist thinking, a way of thinking that has stifled our potential so often in the past. The archaeologists at the Ceide Fields with justifiable pride state that their discovery proves that there were human settlements in Mayo 5000 years ago. Looking at the settlements around me today it is hard to see that we have made much progress since.


    This article was originally published in Castlebar.News (www.castlebar.ie) on September 18th 2003.

    A good pre-boom article on the topic and sums up many of my feelings. One off housing has been a disaster in this country and the place is now blighted with monstrosities such as this:

    new-ugly-house2-2.jpg

    During the boom there was 70,000 of those placed on the landscape per year.


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