Dublin’s distinct communities, urban villages, and Georgian core are intrinsic to the city’s unique feel and atmosphere. There is a great opportunity to introduce ambitious and progressive planning to put Dublin on the map as a smart and sustainable city, enhancing the city’s unique feel and atmosphere. As policymakers grapple with how to adapt urban centres to the post-pandemic economy and reduce emissions in the face of climate change, one solution is capturing people’s imagination: the 15-minute city.
In this article, our Managing Director, Peter Horgan shares his opinions and advocacy for the concept that supports “re-balancing” the city of the future. Let’s start by identifying what the concept entails.
The 15-Minute City
The 15-minute city is a powerful urban vision that promises to improve people’s quality of life by increasing access to places and amenities, enabling them to choose a more local, sustainable lifestyle. The idea is both quaint and revolutionary, aiming to redesign cities so that people live, work and have access to the services that they need within a short 15-minute walk or cycle.
Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo was among the first to seize the idea in 2020, with plans providing the core of her successful reelection campaign. Her plans to transform the city of Paris into a city where young children could walk to school and residents knew their neighbours struck a chord with a number of people and ultimately sparked enthusiasm in cities such as Dublin, Milan, Barcelona and Lisbon.
The 15-minute city is a fresh, compelling narrative for sustainable urbanism, built around people’s experiences and lifestyle. From citizens, to local authorities, to institutional investors, the focus on community, user experience and quality of life is high priority for everyone. This leads to more people-centric design solutions, which in turn helps to make places and cities more desirable for residents and visitors alike.
Local government plays a vital role in urban planning for the city and the Chamber has previously called for more joined up thinking collaboration across the four local authorities. Cooperation between local government, communities, and industry can deliver the changes needed to create a 15 Minute City in Dublin.
Opportunities for Dublin
Ireland has not yet experienced well-planned, people-centric, environmentally responsible urbanism at scale. Now the cities across Ireland stand ready to show the population exactly how great – and green – urban life can be. The National Planning Framework recognises a need to drive towards a more sustainable compact urban form, placing an emphasis on Irish cities as drivers of the nation’s future. As the National Planning Framework talks about compact urban growth and sustainable mobility, it is very much in line with the idea of the 15-minute city.
According to a YouGov population survey, 61% of people surveyed who live in Dublin stated that they would prefer to live in a place that prioritises walking and cycling over car ownership and driving. One proposed solution is to build upwards rather than outwards. High-rise living plays an important role in reducing the dependency on cars. This will ultimately result in less traffic congestion and fewer emissions. Higher density builds will allow for the 15-minute city to be fully realised with workplaces and amenities at convenient locations.
Dublin is a thriving European capital with a residential population of more than one million people and an estimated 11 million overseas visitors per year. With existing areas around the urban centre already built-up, the challenge is to find new ways to increase the residential density with the current cityscape. One way of overcoming this challenge is to rethink our conservation laws. The most sustainable way of preserving buildings is to make them relevant again. Given that Dublin city consists of many disused Georgian buildings, there is an opportunity to transform older buildings into the comfortable homes that the modern city-dweller desires.
With this in mind, we must look at what opportunities are available to us in Dublin:
- The city and surrounding suburbs are projected to grow by 235,000 – 290,000 people by 2040, bringing new residents to help increase the diversity of the city.
- Younger populations are much more likely to choose city and car-free living, these new residents and professionals will undoubtedly help the city move in a more sustainable direction.
- Dublin City Centre is a perfectly walkable 15-minute neighbourhood with a variety of community amenities.
- Dublin continues to attract large international businesses and direct foreign investment, making it a European hub of economic productivity and innovation.
In order to take the next steps in transforming Dublin into a 15-minute city, we need to begin by looking at the most important element of the urban area, the people. It is only by understanding how people move and live in a city that we can plan for the future.
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