By Conor McNally
It may be ten years old, but the ‘A New Heart for Dublin’ planning proposal put forward by the Progressive Democrats in 2006 still remains the most radical re-imagining of Dublin city.
In 2006, Ireland was nearing peak property boom with astronomical house prices throughout the country and especially Dublin city. Thousands of houses were being built in the western suburbs and satellite towns surrounding Dublin. However, a finite amount of land meant there was a limit to the number of houses that could be built within the city itself.
This was where the Progressive Democrat plan came in. They proposed moving Dublin’s port out of Dublin to Bremore, a stretch of coast north of Balbriggan in North County Dublin. The area in Dublin freed up by moving the port would become home to a new neighbourhood made up of shiny high rises suitable for the young, upwardly mobile inhabitants of Dublin circa 2006.
“This new quarter could house upwards of 80, 000 people who would live and work in an area designed to suit modern life. Amenities such as parks, marinas and waterfront walkways would be close at hand, while the offices and businesses which locate here would allow most residents to simply walk to work,” the 2006 plan proposed.
Niamh Moore-Cherry, an associate professor in Geography and Urban Planning in UCD, said earlier this year, “It was never realistically going to be built”.
“It would have been incredibly expensive and difficult and I have had people tell me that they never did any significant inspections on the land banks they proposed to build the high rise buildings on so building the proposed high rises may not have even been possible. There is also nothing in the plan about the facilities that are needed for families and that build a community,” said Moore-Cherry.
“The plans fit with a lot of what was being proposed in Dublin at the time, where there was a real emphasis on building high and there was a lot of crazy stuff going on,” said Moore-Cherry.
Reading ‘A New Heart for Dublin’ it’s hard to discern how much in-depth planning went into the plan beneath the striking graphical representation. The poster child for boom time madness in Dublin was the sale of the old glass bottling plant in Ringsend, which valued the 25 acres site at €412m. If you do the sums, that breaks down to €16.46 million per acre.
The proposed plan from the Progressive Democrats valued the reclaimed land at: ‘Up to €50 million per acre’, meaning that, ‘Dublin Port’s land bank of 660 acres could release between €25 billion and €30 billion at 2005 prices’. That €50 million is €33.5 million more than the per acre value of the glass bottling site, widely considered one of the worst deals in the whole property boom.
‘A New Heart for Dublin’ can be viewed through a couple of lenses. It’s a relic that in a two page planning proposal perfectly encapsulates the flagrant greed of a time when, as a country, we collectively lost the run of ourselves.
Or you could see it as a radical proposal that, although not perfect, was a noble stab at re-imagining a city which had been the victim of muddled and corrupt planning for most of its history.
Whichever way you choose to see the plan, it is hard to look at Dublin now without seeing those skyscrapers.