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Cloughjordan Ecovillage, a glorified suburb?

  • 08-06-2021 10:12am
    Posts: 0 ✭✭ [Deleted User]

    When you picture an off-grid community, you probably imagine a small commune located somewhere in say West Cork inhabited by New Age types. Generally speaking accommodation would be modest, with the option made available for pitching a tent on site with access to facilities in say a communal common area. All food production and work-related activity would take place within said commune. As the ultimate goal of such a community would be sustainability, you'd imagine it would be founded with bus and train routes in mind. Cloughjordan Ecovillage nonetheless seems to be a very Irish approach to the idea of sustainable living. Plots of land in order to build upon can set you back €100,000 or thereabouts. Rather than maximising land use on the site itself by providing high density blocks and townhouses - detached suburban style housing seems to be the order of the day.

    The historic village of Cloughjordan itself in fact seems to not only be more densely populated than the ecovillage, but also houses countless run down buildings and structures which could be renovated - breathing life back into the sleepy main street. Public transport in the area is almost non-existent, thus leading to a greater dependence on car use for inhabitants who were likely able to avail of better public transport in the places from which they originally came. Rather than building and creating a community by reviving the historic town centre, the ecovillage founders decided instead on a greenfield location outside of the village. An old building was bulldozed in order to create a road entry into the aite. Rather than using the land primarily for agriculture having bought the land at agricultural rates, it seems instead to have created a bonanza for the usual sorts who make ten fold what they'd have earned were it simply farm land passing hands. Rather than creating a vibrant town centre while integrating and incorporating the local community, thus spreading the language of sustainability, what has instead been created can only lead to an us and them mentality. The locals do what they've always done while the newcomers get to live in their eco theme park, oblivious to their surroundings and those inhabiting it.

    Though perhaps it would be unfair and too early to dismiss the Cloughjordan Ecovillage project outright with its visionaries given the benefit of the doubt and the opportunity to prove themselves, the whole thing nonetheless smacks of old fashioned property speculation and opportunism at its finest. For one, I can well imagine some local TD along with his farmer friend jumped at the idea of making a killing off of selling plots of land within a forgotten and isolated corner of Tipperary. Either way, the Cloughjordan Ecovillage approach doesn't seem to offer any solutions to Ireland's ongoing housing crises with its extortionate property prices and lackluster planning laws. If anything, it would seem to be perpetrating the Irish model of encouraging car use and the development of far flung suburban developments with substandard public transport services - at the expense of creating affordable housing located in communities with functioning and easily accessible services. I'm sure it's a nice experience for those living there, but should it really continue to be held up as a model of sustainable living and good planning?


  • Registered Users Posts: 606 ✭✭✭ houseyhouse

    Have you been there? Spoken to people who live there? I have and I don't think your description is accurate at all. For example I know that:

    - One third of the land bought for the ecovillage is for housing. Within that one third, houses are surrounded by an 'edible landscape' of apple trees, blackberry bushes etc. One third of the land is wooded, one third is farmed.

    - There is a community farm where members can take the produce they need when they need it. Also a bakery that supplies many of the homes. And there are locally produced eggs. In other words, a lot of food is produced in the ecovillage.

    - There is a lot of integration with the existing village. New businesses in the village have been started by ecovillage members/ are supported by the people living in the ecovillage. That includes a cafe and a book shop. The ecovillage folk also do a lot with the town heritage centre. There is also a co-working space in the ecovillage.

    - There's a train station in the village on the Dublin-Cork line. The village itself is small enough that you can walk/cycle everywhere in a couple of minutes. People car pool when driving to other local towns (Nenagh etc.)

    - Many of the houses were intended to be terraces, not detached dwellings, though many of the houses that have actually been built in the ecovillage are detached. The fact is that the people who could afford to buy into it are also the kind of people who generally live in nice detached or semi-detached houses. There are live-work buildings (e.g. for artists etc.) and there were supposed to be apartment buildings. As you can imagine, these are difficult for individuals to build and finance without a developer and the economic crash didn't help. There was talk of social housing as well at one point.

    - I believe there are people in the village who live communally with non-family members. There is certainly a lot of community spirit with many communal dinners and events.

    - There is a hostel for visitors, though I don't know what the rules are about 'pitching a tent'.

    It's not perfect and very easy for outsiders to criticize but they have revitalized a historic town, and are trying to model a (socially, environmentally, psychologically) better way of living. I bet they're doing a lot more to build a sustainable, community-centered future than most of us.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,583 ✭✭✭ El Tarangu

    While I'm sure Cloughjordan is not a panacea (I've never actually been), I do think it's a useful exercise to explore different ways of planning housing developments.

  • Subscribers Posts: 36,214 ✭✭✭✭ sydthebeat

    Cloughjordan is not the place to experiment with high density urban living.

    Its a village of 600 people for gods sake.

    If the powers that be want to experiment with high density sustainable urban living, they should run their experiments in the middle of a very large urban city.