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Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage debate -
Tuesday, 18 Jan 2022

Urban Regeneration: Discussion (Resumed)

I welcome everybody to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage. Today is the second in a series of meetings the committee has been holding to look at urban regeneration and how to bring some life, vitality and living back into our urban towns and villages across the country. In the first meeting, we looked at dereliction, decay and vacancy. We also looked a little bit at compulsory purchase. It is important to note that, even if you address dereliction and vacancy and have a town that is full to capacity, that town may still not be a very nice place to live. There are other aspects that contribute to nice liveable towns, villages and cities. In this second meeting, we will look at some other aspects in respect of transport, active transport and the public realm, which is really important. I refer to the nice places people have in towns, how to get around, through or to the town and how to get from town and town. We will look at many of the transport aspects of this question. We will also look at the Town Centres First policy and active transport.

I am delighted we are joined today by the Heritage Council. I welcome back Ms Virginia Teehan, chief executive officer who is joined by Ms Alison Harvey from the collaborative town centre health check, CTCHC, programme. Some tremendous work has been done up and down the country on that programme. It is vitally important research where they look at the baseline and economic aspects of towns and their spatial dimensions, transport, culture of the community and commercial and residential aspects. A baseline is created as a plan to implement actions to put life back into towns. Both Ms Teehan and Ms Harvey are very welcome.

We are joined by Mr. David O'Connor, assistant head of school, spatial planning and transport; Dr. Sarah Rock, lecturer spatial planning and transport; and Dr. Lorraine D’Arcy, senior lecturer, spatial planning and transport, Technological University Dublin, TU Dublin. They are very welcome. I thank them for supplying an opening statement. I am very interested in hearing their experience of active travel and all the accompanying aspects such as the reallocation of road space, pedestrian permeability and nice linkage through places. I am interested in hearing how we can get around towns to places of work, recreation, school, employment and all of the accompanying aspects so I look forward to their contributions on that.

We are joined by Mr. Conn Donovan who is the chairperson of the Cork Cycling Campaign. I have no doubt that a lot of what he will advocate for we will hear from TU Dublin as well because they probably have aligned desires in cycling. He is very welcome.

Finally, we are joined by Dr. Cathal FitzGerald, senior analyst, and Mr. Noel Cahill, economist, National Economic and Social Council, NESC. In particular, I look forward to discussing the transport orientated development paper that NESC produced about two years ago, which very much feeds into our work as a committee on housing, local government, planning and heritage. Therefore, this committee is about how we travel, build houses and create communities around the really good transport hubs that exist, and the high-frequency, comfortable, reliable and affordable public transport links, and how we can bring all of those aspects together. All the witnesses are very welcome.

Members are reminded of the constitutional requirement that they must be physically present within the confines of the place where Parliament has chosen to sit, namely, Leinster House, in order to participate in public meetings. Members attending remotely from within the Leinster House complex are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their contributions to today's meeting. This means that they will have an absolute defence against any defamation action for anything they say at the meeting.

For witnesses attending remotely, there are some limitations to parliamentary privilege. As such, they may not benefit from the same level of immunity from legal proceedings as a person who is physically present within the Leinster House complex. Members and witnesses are expected not to abuse the privilege they enjoy, and it is my duty as Chair to ensure that privilege is not abused. Therefore, if their statements are potentially defamatory in respect of an identifiable person or entity, they will be directed to discontinue their remarks and it is imperative that they comply with any such direction. Members and witnesses are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

The opening statements that were submitted to the committee by our witnesses today will be published on the committee website following this meeting. I ask witnesses to make brief opening statements as we have a lot of witnesses and questions to get through. The opening statements submitted are comprehensive and we would appreciate being briefed. I invite Ms Teehan to make her opening statement.

Ms Virginia Teehan

I thank the committee for inviting the Heritage Council to present again today. I am CEO of the council. As members may recall, Dr. Martina Moloney, chairperson of the Heritage Council and I met the committee two months ago in late November. Today, I am accompanied by my colleague, Ms Alison Harvey, planning officer and project manager for the CTCHC programme.

As outlined at the November meeting, the remit of the Heritage Council is very broad. The topic of today's meeting is of particular interest to us as we have, through many years, demonstrated an authentic commitment to addressing the many issues that impact towns and villages. We welcome the fact the committee shares our concerns in respect of an evident pattern of deterioration of the heritage, historic fabric and economic health of towns and villages.

The Heritage Council, which was established in 1995, is a prescribed body for the purposes of the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2021. The council has specific responsibilities under section 6 of the Heritage Act, which states:

The functions of the Council shall be to propose policies and priorities for the identification, protection, preservation and enhancement of the national heritage, including monuments, archaeological objects, heritage objects, architectural heritage, flora, fauna, wildlife habitats, landscapes, seascapes, wrecks, geology, heritage gardens and parks and inland waterways.

Since its foundation in 1995, the Heritage Council has undertaken extensive research, policy development and delivery to support the planning and management of Ireland’s unique national heritage. Our commitment to supporting historic town centres is evident from our initiation and management of the following key strategic programmes. The Irish walled towns network, IWTN, was formed by the Heritage Council in 2005 to unite and co-ordinate the strategic efforts of local authorities and other stakeholders involved in the management, conservation and enhancement of historic walled towns in Ireland, both North and South. The Heritage Council offers annual grants to the towns that participate in the IWTN.

The historic towns initiative programme was established in 2017. This capital grant scheme for heritage-led regeneration is managed in collaboration with the heritage unit of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. In 2021, ten towns benefited from grants from the project. The average value of each grant was €150,000. This year, the budget for the initiative was increased to €2 million and it is currently open for applications.

The collaborative town centre health check, CTCHC, programme was set up in 2016 as a pilot programme in response to the overwhelming level of demand, initially from the private sector, to support the regeneration of historic town centres. We are here today to talk about the CTCHC. It sets out to collect data on economic, social and cultural activities in each individual town. It is a health check for the town. The programme is based on a collaborative approach that includes local and national stakeholders. This collaborative approach guides the design, delivery, and evaluation of economic development, regeneration, and investment programmes in each town. The programme strongly supports the implementation of national polices, including the national planning framework, Project Ireland 2040, Housing for All, Our Rural Future and the Climate Action Plan 2021.

Surveying, data collection and data verification to create digital mapping are at the heart of the programme. A 15-step assessment process is conducted at the outset. Multiple surveys are undertaken in town centres on land use, footfall, business sector confidence, consumer behaviour and patterns, land and building ownership, air and noise quality, etc. Once these location-based data baselines are in place, the overall intelligence gathered enables business and civic leaders to create a roadmap for regeneration and targeted investment. This serves to bring about the renewal of their shared historic environment.

The participatory approach of the programme enables a comparative analysis of the results from towns within the programme. The same types of data collected and assessed are used for all towns. The collective nature of the programme and the uniform nature of the data add to its value. Operating collectively within a combined programme with multiple participants strengthens its impact nationally.

This unique value generation, including the creation of social capital, is recognised by international partners. The programme has recently been selected as one of five best practice case studies by the EU-funded ESPON Heriwell programme, which promotes cultural heritage and heritage-led regeneration as a source of societal well-being. The value of this programme is summarised as follows: it is data driven and evidence based and creates scientific baseline data sets capturing economic, spatial, commercial, social and cultural activities; the process creates spatial data, a geohive, which in turn supports the implementation of UN sustainable development goals; it supports the creation of data for EU funding streams for regeneration of town centres; it creates social capital and public value, and facilitates social cost-benefit analyses; it results in the creation of local regeneration engines; the enhanced collaborative process facilitates increased participatory democracy; the regeneration of historic town centres creates a focus for local communities; and the process results in an enhanced pride, a sense of place and a sense of citizen belonging.

The CTCHC programme is extremely successful. It has grown exponentially since its inception in 2016 and was included in the programme for Government published in June 2020. The commitment in the programme for Government was expressed as follows:

We will... Prioritise a Town Centres First collaborative and strategic approach to the regeneration of our villages and towns, using the Collaborative Town Centre Health Check (CTCHC) framework to gather data and lead actions.

Our work demonstrates that there is a clear need and demand to operate the CTCHC programme nationally. Currently there are 15 towns participating in what, it must be remembered, is a pilot programme. There are 45 towns on a waiting list.

At the Heritage Council we incubate ideas and provide advice and solutions to the key issues which impact heritage and its protection. That is our key function as stated in our founding legislation, the Heritage Act. It is not the role of the Heritage Council to operate programmes such as the CTCHC programme on a national level. As I have stated, the evidence emerging from our work demonstrates a clear need to adopt a national and collaborative approach to seek to resolve the issues facing Irish towns. We very much welcome the work of the Towns Centre First committee under the leadership of the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke. It is our hope that the pending Towns Centre First policy will adopt the valuable learnings from the CTCHC programme and recommend that a unit is established at Government level, within the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, which will be responsible for the roll-out of the CTCHC programme nationally throughout Ireland.

I thank the Cathaoirleach and committee members for their attention. The delivery of the CTCHC programme is detailed and complex. I have done my best in the time allocated today to summarise the key points, outline the programme’s value and impact and convey our recommendation that it is rolled out nationally. We have submitted to the clerk of the committee a detailed document outlining the operation of the programme to accompany our attendance today. Ms Harvey and I are happy to answer queries and provide further information as required. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.

Dr. Sarah Rock

I thank the Chair and members of the committee for inviting Technological University Dublin to contribute today. I am joined by my colleagues: Mr. Dave O’Connor, head of environment and planning at our school; and Dr. Lorraine D’Arcy, senior lecturer.

There are many facets to urban regeneration, some of which were discussed at the first session of the Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage on vacancy and dereliction. Today, we would like to discuss the importance of good urban design and transport and mobility to regenerating our villages, towns and cities. Last year Technological University Dublin undertook a pilot evaluative research project in conjunction with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council on its Covid mobility and public realm works, focusing on Blackrock village.

A copy of our phase 1 interim findings has been included in our submission. Today, we want to outline briefly some of our key learnings from that study.

Blackrock village was like many towns and villages around the country. It had a once-lively main street that fell into decline. Street space was largely given over to cars, a dual carriageway separated the community from the village and a new indoor shopping mall turned its back on the main street. Like so many places, it had assets and potential but these became diminished.

With Covid, the local business and community network worked with the council to reimagine Blackrock main street and provide for social distancing. Footpaths were expanded, a lane of traffic was removed, some cycling facilities were provided and thoughtful planting and seating were provided as well. The result was more people, fewer cars and a clear endorsement from business and the community. This balance between movement and place is rare within an Irish context. We believe a mix of new and existing elements combined to make this project succeed. These included existing Government policy and legislation that supported the redesign and facilitated quick delivery; a vision within the council from which the Covid response could be rapidly built upon; and an active and fairly cohesive business representative body that wanted change.

However, what was quite new was accessible and speedy Government funding in the form of National Transport Authority-administered active travel funds and a recognition that speed was of the essence. There was leadership and action by the local authority, coupled with a culture of innovation and interdisciplinarity, such as engineers, architects and others, working together in the design and implementation approach. There was an open and collaborative approach to stakeholder engagement and a willingness to listen and adapt the design, without losing the overall project objectives. In addition, there was a recognition of the importance of research and evaluation. Due to of the foresight of the local authority, we now have an Irish evidence base from which to learn and build upon.

If we were to add what additional ingredients -----

Dr. Rock's screen froze. Can she continue from "additional ingredients"?

Dr. Sarah Rock

Yes, perfect. It froze at just the right moment. If we were to add what additional ingredients could help other agencies successfully replicate this elsewhere in the future, it would be the following. First, we would add integrated funding. Funding streams can be quite narrow in their focus, whereas good urban regeneration is always multifaceted. One way to do this might be to allow a percentage of spend on a project to be non-traditional and more flexible. For example, we could allow for street trees, seating and small play areas as part of an active travel fund, thus encouraging both place and movement functions to be addressed. Another example would be to ensure research and evaluation is an integral component of significant schemes so we can always learn from them.

Recruitment is also important. This would mean a public appointments process that recognises the value of interdisciplinarity. Those who are recruited into the public sector to work on projects that impact on the vitality of our towns, villages and cities must come from a range of skill sets and backgrounds. More flexibility is needed in recruitment, at both a local and national level, to attract specialist, diverse and interdisciplinary appointments, including urban designers and public engagement, health and community specialists.

On transport demand management, the recently published Five Cities Demand Management research report recommended a broad and integrated range of traffic demand management measures which, if implemented, can greatly enhance the mobility and liveability of our urban centres. These include, for example, 15-minute neighbourhoods, parking and traffic management and low emission zones. Experience elsewhere shows us that this can enhance local economies while creating people-friendly places and increasing health and accessibility.

Walking, for example, is one of our most neglected, yet highly effective, forms of transport. In September 2022, Technological University, TU, Dublin, together with Rialtas na hÉireann and the Walk21 Foundation, will host the 22nd International Walk21 Conference on Walking and Liveable Communities. This conference will bring together a global community of academics and practitioners to explore how supporting and encouraging walking and walkable communities can help deliver sustainable development goal commitments by 2030. We are grateful for support, in the spirit of multidisciplinarity, from several Government Departments for this.

The current system, whether it is funding, recruitment, design or implementation, is generally not set up to react quickly enough to deal with the large scale and transformative changes that are required over the next five years and beyond. However, we learned over the past two years that when it is needed, we can do things differently and change is certainly possible.

I call Mr. Conn Donovan, chair of Cork Cycling Campaign, to make his opening statement.

Mr. Conn Donovan

I thank the committee for inviting me to speak today. If a drug was developed that lowered the risk of developing heart disease and cancer by 40%, governments across the world would rush to ensure their citizens had access to it. This drug already exists, albeit not in pharmaceutical form. It is called cycling to work. Equally, if a technology was developed that lowered the average person’s transport carbon footprint by 67%, it would be seen as a game-changer. This technology already exists. When people choose a bike instead of a car, even one day a week, they can achieve a significant reduction in their carbon footprint. Improved public health and lower transport carbon emissions are just two compelling reasons it makes sense for central and local government to promote cycling as a form of everyday transport.

Several pervasive narratives in Ireland suggest that cycling is not a realistic transport option for people. We often hear that our climate is too wet, that our cities sprawl too far or that cycling is just not part of our culture. The reality is that Dublin has comparable weather to Copenhagen, two out of three primary school children live within 2 km of their school and 84% of residents in Dublin support building more physically-separated, on-road cycle tracks. There are two main reasons more people tend not to cycle in Ireland. They do not think cycling is safe and driving is often very convenient. Government can address these issues using carrots and sticks. The carrots include the provision of safe cycling routes, high-quality bike parking and compact neighbourhoods, while the sticks include transport plans that limit unfettered vehicular access in urban areas, increase parking charges and reallocate road space.

Transport-oriented development, TOD, helps to create vibrant, liveable and sustainable communities. Government should prioritise TOD ahead of low-density greenfield development insofar as possible in the coming years. We must, however, appreciate what TOD would mean for cycling in Ireland. It would lead to the development of small urban areas where it may be safer and more attractive to cycle. These would be in or near larger urban areas where it is often not safe to cycle and more attractive to drive, and therefore the adoption of TOD development must not be seen as a silver bullet for the promotion of active travel, but rather one piece of the puzzle in helping to achieve modal shifts.

The Merwede district in the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands offers a good example of what TOD can look like. This new neighbourhood will eventually be home to 20,000 people, but the entire new road network for this development will consist of just 60 m of roads, or four short dead ends. Parking will be limited to one car for every three households. Small electric vehicles will carry out waste management and deliveries, and urban spaces and the public realm will be quiet and car-free, with an emphasis on biodiversity and place-making. Perhaps Merwede's greatest asset is that it will be in the city of Utrecht, where cycling policies and investment over several decades have made the bicycle a popular transport option. The Merwede piece of the puzzle therefore fits in nicely with the existing picture in that city.

In Ireland, we must be careful to ensure that TOD is not used as a Trojan horse to justify building more roads and thus locking Irish society further into car dependency. The docklands development in Cork city will eventually be home to 25,000 people and there is a target that 70% to 80% of local trips will be taken on foot, by bike, or by public transport. Last year, Cork City Council approved plans to build a new dual carriageway in the docklands. In its submission to the public consultation regarding this proposed dual-carriageway, Cork Chamber of Commerce noted that "a new high-capacity multi-lane provision for cars is not in keeping with the national and regional commitment to high density, low car and compact growth".

Last month, funding was provided to 26 towns to deliver town centre first plans. In 12 of these 26 towns, not one girl aged between 13 and 18 cycled to school, according to data from the Central Statistics Office. These towns are not outliers. In 2016, no teenage girls cycled to school in more than 120 towns with populations greater than 1,500 people. In 1986, more than 19,000 girls cycled to secondary school, but by 2016 this number had fallen to 700. Teenage girls cycling to school face challenges above and beyond poor infrastructure, but they are a well-researched group and may be considered an indicator species for how inviting it is to cycle in a town. Town centre first plans and policy ought to be compared and contrasted in the coming months with the healthy streets approach of Transport for London, TfL. The healthy streets for London policy seeks to make that city's communities greener, healthier and more attractive. Economic analysis collated by TfL has demonstrated that high streets in which it has been made safer to walk and cycle are also more economically viable and vibrant. Specifically, these streets enjoy higher retail spends, lower retail vacancy, and increases in people stopping, sitting or socialising.

Specifically, these towns enjoy higher retail spends, lower retail vacancy and an increase in the number of people sitting, stopping and socialising. It is imperative that Town Centre First plans in Ireland seek to make walking and cycling a more attractive option for people living locally.

Last December, the committee had an extensive discussion on the ways to incentivise urban living and bring derelict properties back to life. The town centres living initiatives synthesis report noted that the public realm in Ireland is dominated by cars and there is a perception that streets are not safe for children. When we are designing the master plan for a large brownfield site or adopting policies to bring existing buildings back into use, we must consider whether it will be a healthy place to live.

We know that when urban areas are dominated by cars, communities suffer. Less social interaction, increased risk of death and disease, sleep disturbance and developmental delays in children have all been associated with living near busy roads. Urban areas in Ireland need to be healthy and attractive places to live. To ensure this, significant modal shifts away from private cars and in favour of walking, cycling, light mobility and public transport must be realised. I thank the Chair.

I thank Mr. Donovan. I now call on Dr. Cathal FitzGerald from NESC.

Dr. Cathal FitzGerald

I thank the Chair and members of the committee for the opportunity to discuss the NESC 2019 research on transport-oriented development, TOD. I am joined by my colleague, Mr. Noel Cahill. Members should please note that we are members of the NESC secretariat rather than members of the council and we are speaking to the committee in that capacity, in the interests of time and taking as read the role and membership of NESC.

Our research on TOD was published on our website, but I will summarise some of the key points briefly for the committee. In 2019, we assessed the opportunity to apply TOD in Ireland. TOD is a specific type of urban development. It is not about making development happen, which is a separate issue that the council has examined. Rather, it is about the nature of the urban development that does happen. It addresses problems of sprawl, long commutes, harmful emissions, pollution and poorer quality of life. It does this by maximising the provision of housing, employment, public services and open leisure spaces within close proximity to frequent high-quality transport services.

TOD means locating higher density housing, typically in excess of 50 dwellings per hectare, within a radius of 400 m to 800 m of a transport stop. Typically, that transport stop is a light rail or dedicated rapid bus transport corridor. More homes are within walking or cycling distance of public transport. That transport must be high-quality and high-frequency, and must be integrated into a network.

The emphasis on active and public transport is important. TOD also means the active discouragement of car usage and ownership by reducing parking availability and situating parking away from homes at garages on the outskirts of a development. Our research is based on case studies and revealed four key elements which are necessary to deliver successful TOD development.

First, there is a need to articulate a vision. TOD begins when policymakers clearly articulate what it is their actions are intended to achieve, whether this is compact urbanisation, as was the case in the Netherlands or, as we see in Freiburg in Germany, a city of short distances. The high-level vision spurs the second important factor, that is, the decision. State level or local authorities take a formal decision to deliver a TOD at an identified suitable location. Without this, business-as-usual car-orientated design and development scenarios can be expected. The third important element is the tailored institutional set-up. TOD is aided by a publicly led body or team at the helm, one which does the land use and transport planning for the site and then prepares the site for development in accordance with the master plan. Fourth, the TOD model requires an appropriate funding system. TOD means making significant investment in large transport and other infrastructure ahead of demand. Our research shows the importance of capturing the value of State investment and the uplift in the price of property in the area around the investment. Policymakers must actively install a funding model appropriate for TOD, one which applies value capture to deliver homes and facilities ahead of population increases.

It is notable that there is no successful modern example of transport oriented development in Ireland. The NESC's 2019 assessment of the policy context found that while one of the four required elements was in place, that being the national planning framework’s vision for compact growth and sustainable mobility, this did not appear to be the case at that time for the other three elements we considered important, that is a decision, the publicly led institution, and the appropriate funding model. It is important to say that since then, there have been some promising moves in relation to Dublin, Galway and Limerick, with plans for Heuston, Shankill, Terryland and Colbert Square. An ambitious vision has been set out for the redevelopment of the Naas Road-Ballymount-Park West area, the City Edge project, and Cherrywood has some positive features. The planned investment in commuter rail in Cork also provides an opportunity for TOD. I understand a Bill to progress land value sharing has also been published. The extent to which these plans result in new transport oriented development in Ireland remains to be seen. Mr. Cahill and I are happy to answer any questions on that topic that members may have.

I will move to the opportunity for members to put questions to the witnesses. If members keep each slot to seven minutes, we will be able to bring everybody in and we may have time for a second round. To be clear, the seven minutes includes the time to ask and answer the questions. If we could be straight to the point with our questions, it would give more time for witnesses to answer. That would be helpful. If members indicate who they wish to answer a question rather than putting it out to the entire room, that might help the process as well. I will first go to the Fianna Fáil slot and call Deputy McAuliffe.

I thank the witnesses for being here. Many of the topics they have discussed are the backbone of the conversations that many Tidy Towns groups have when they are out and about each week carrying out their work. I will be going to my local Tidy Towns group in Santry this evening. These conversations happen right across my constituency in Finglas, Ballymun and Santry.

I was interested to hear Dr. Rock talk about what I would call an urban town or an urban village. My constituency is in the difficult position of not being the priority of a local authority, in that it is not the city centre, and equally it does not have the local democracy that the outer towns in the county have. It is sandwiched between local authorities in Fingal, such as Blanchardstown and Swords that are rapidly developing, and the city centre, where we are trying to concentrate footfall. In places like Ballymun, Finglas and Santry, there are often two options: either continued dereliction because of a lack of investment by both public and private operators, or the only opportunity of development being that which comes with significant intensification and when that is developer led, it does not deliver for the community. Intensification is appropriate but it is right to say that communities have fears around that because often they are the places where housing has been put before facilities in the past.

I have two areas of questions. One is around the question of how we drive development that is not necessarily solely around the delivery of housing. I am not saying that we should not have it for the delivery of housing, but how do we develop it? From what I can see, Dublin City Council or local authorities do not seem to have the remit to develop in the way they should or in the way local authorities in other countries have done. If any witness, other than Dr. Rock, has looked at Housing for All particularly around the issues of Croí Cónaithe towns and cities, and when compared with the funding allocated to many rural towns to tackle dereliction, funding which is not available to Dublin urban villages, I would be interested in having a conversation on that.

My second question is for Mr. Donovan. In Dublin North-West, we are unlucky in our history in this area but lucky that we have significant transport projects coming down the line. In the west we have a new Luas line proposed and a new metro line through Ballymun.

In the east we have a new BusConnects route through Santry, Finglas and Ballymun and we have two great orbital routes across the constituency, with one along Collins Avenue linking Clontarf to Glasnevin, while above that there is a route from Finglas to Kilbarrack that goes along Glasnevin Avenue and so on.

We are retrofitting a very old area with very good and active public transport models but that creates much conversation and controversy. Motorists have not had to share the road for the best part of 100 years and at that time they shared it with horses. Many people take for granted that everyone supports this. I have dealt with the great Dublin Cycling Campaign organisation, for example, but I ask Mr. Donovan in particular how we can bridge the gap in what is sometimes a very toxic conversation between people who share the roads. It can sometimes be bus users versus car users. How can we try to make people realise these cyclists are not some sort of alien Lycra-clad beings but they are actually our work colleagues and children? How would we promote that?

These are two very broad areas but, to be fair, the topic for overall discussion is also very broad. I am happy to hear the views of Dr. Rock, Mr. Donovan and anybody else who wishes to contribute.

Dr. Sarah Rock

My colleagues may also wish to contribute on this. I am having Internet access issues today so I missed a bit of the Deputy's contribution. I can certainly respond to what I did hear.

On the question of housing and mixed-used development, there are a number of considerations. When one is near a well-located area, such as a crossroads or an urban centre, it is really critical to have mixed use. The ground floor use should bring a sort of vitality to an area. One cannot have empty ground floor units everywhere and they can only work in the right locations. What is also critical for that is maximising accessibility to those areas via walking. That local accessibility via walking is absolutely critical in ensuring that sort of life and vitality exists in an area that can make that sort of mixed use more viable.

On the retrofitting of older and more established areas, the walking element is again relevant. Our rush tends to be towards other modes of transport but the most important intervention we can have in existing areas is making the streets more comfortable and safer for those travelling on foot. Once we get that right, we can start to work on the other forms of transport. That is the critical element that is the essence of contributing to a healthy, active and livable neighbourhood.

Some of my colleagues may have additional points.

Mr. David O'Connor

I will be brief. We have highlighted Blackrock because we have an evidence base there but really the measures emphasised by my colleague, Dr. Rock, could apply to many places such as in the Deputy's constituency. We have done much civic engagement around there. A mixture of public and private investment and measures within Housing for All such as land value sharing and urban development zones cannot be overstated in their importance, especially in urban areas where, unfortunately, there has been a tradition of speculation and land values being pushed upwards. That level of public investment is absolutely vital in creating the type of mixed neighbourhoods and quality of community facilities.

In many cases the type of densification or density can be overstated. Freiburg has been alluded to in Dr. FitzGerald's NESC report and in such places the densities are not that much higher than what we have been able to achieve in Dublin and other Irish cities. It is about the quality of the neighbourhood and the design of those places.

Mr. Donovan, we will return to that question as I am out of time in that slot. However, the conflict between road users with limited space in our towns is an important question. The next slot is for Sinn Féin. I call Deputy Ó Broin, who has seven minutes.

I confirm that I am in Leinster House. I thank the witnesses for the presentations. I am a strong advocate of both compact growth and transport oriented development so I endorse a large portion of what has been said. The real challenge, and Deputy McAuliffe's questions alluded to this, is the implementation. My questions are directed to Dr. Rock and her team in the first instance, but other witnesses should feel free to speak if there is time to do so. What are the best ways to achieve the outcomes we have discussed here? That is our core problem. For me, there appear to be three problems. The first is policy-making. Infrastructure investment and delivery are very fragmented, with two Departments and multiple agencies in transport and housing. That is before one gets into the mix of public and private. Are there models of best practice from other jurisdictions that find a better way of overcoming that fragmentation so that at both the policy-making and funding levels there is greater co-ordination and consistency?

Second, we have a major problem with transport infrastructure lag. The final iteration of BusConnects is very positive, but it is still delayed over three years rather than the original first year. Again, are there models from other jurisdictions of best practice where they are able to have both the residential development and the transport infrastructure, whether it is new developments or retrofitting existing developments, with greater density housing and more active transport infrastructure?

Third, I refer back to the issue of public support. I get very concerned when I see the way some of this debate goes. My view is that people are entitled to an opinion, even if I do not agree with it. Rather than us ending up having an argument in which people are shouting at each other, we have to find a better way of participating earlier in the process to get the best possible outcomes. Blackrock is interesting because there is probably a longer list of the unsuccessful projects for some of that street furniture infrastructure for active mobility transport. We could also talk about Sandymount or Woodford Hill in Clondalkin, or Lucan's current transport plans. From the work Dr. Rock has done, are there principles of participative planning that are not necessarily in the mainstream of our planning process which we might want to incorporate to ensure not only that we get a less conflictive process but a better outcome at the end?

The questions were directed to Dr. Rock.

Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy

Yes, but I will step in, if that is okay. I will take Deputy Ó Broin's question and expand on it a little. There are other models outside of the planning realm that we should consider, these being community development and sport, health and well-being, and some of the initiatives community groups have at local level. We could look at how we can replicate the types of frameworks and structures they have through their network of local sports partnerships and so forth and use that for a bottom-up, community upwards approach. We know that when it comes to individuals' behaviour they are mainly influenced from the top-down plus bottom-up. Top-down policy is how we design our infrastructure and our bottom-up is individuals, families and decision-makers, and they are influenced by many things. If we want to influence change, we must understand that.

Taking a step back from the reliance on our narratives regarding BusConnects and public transport infrastructure, which are vital and important parts of the jigsaw and transportation development is a part of that, we need to think about our all-day travel and needs. Most of our public transport infrastructure is fundamentally based on the commute because that is the data we have. Traditionally, we have collected data on the commute and we have a bias towards that. We have to think about how we get everywhere during the day and integrate those trips. By learning more about local needs, what people want and how they spend their days, we can start from that point.

Our colleague, Mr. O'Connor, will come in here on policy.

Mr. David O'Connor

To follow up on that briefly, I emphasise not just policy but also something Dr. Rock emphasised in our paper which is the concept of multidisciplinarity. All the evidence from successful traffic management schemes shows that one of the key ingredients is very good communication. That is not something that is the forte of transport planners, planners and engineers, although it is something we certainly would deliver and teach in our programmes. However, traditionally it is hard to build those types of teams within local authorities.

Here in Ireland, in places such as Westport, Waterford and Clonakilty, the really successful schemes were where teams worked together. Indeed, we saw it in Blackrock, where the architecture, parks and engineering divisions worked very closely and had a plan in that regard. Facilitating local authorities to work together in collaborative teams is key.

Dr. Sarah Rock

The Dún Laoghaire Covid mobility works were probably unique in the fact that the council put itself out there, probably in a way that was never done before. The approach to stakeholder engagement, although not perfect and generally taken in a highly restrictive time, was really open. Those concerned learned as they went along. Key was the ability to meet people on the ground face to face insofar as it could be done to hear about their needs and issues and adapt on the ground while going along. That was unique. There is a lot to be learned from that process.

Ms Virginia Teehan

I reiterate the word "collaborative". My colleague Ms Harvey may be able to add more on this. The approach we have taken is very much on a town-by-town basis, but it is a broad-brush collaboration, including the business stakeholders and town citizens.

The Deputy asked about examples internationally. Ms Harvey has very good examples that relate to Scotland and its holistic approach. "Holistic" is a phrase that is really important.

The recent allocation of funding to towns by a variety of Departments is really valuable, but it does create a sense of dismemberment in that the sense of collaboration and strategic investment are sometimes lost in the more piecemeal approach. My colleagues may wish to add to those comments.

I will bring in Dr. FitzGerald first, and then Ms Harvey.

Dr. Cathal FitzGerald

I wish to respond to Deputy Ó Broin's specific question about something we have learned from abroad that can help to solve some of the collaboration challenges. For a successful mixed-use development to deliver on all the requirements, it involves leadership and the involvement of the public, private and non-profit sectors. The second of the four key ingredients that we identified was an institutional element. An example we found really interesting was from Nantes in France, where in 1979 a new public private partnership was put together involving the local authority, a transport company, chambers of commerce, banks and the NGO sector. All have shares in the company. It is majority-owned by the municipality. It has responsibility for transport planning, land use and investment over the long run. The collaboration for specific sites is institutionalised, and it has been successful. It involves a seven-year timeframe.

The second lesson from France relates to the corridor contract idea. When a new significant transport corridor, such as a tramway or quality bus corridor, is being planned, the institution that has been established enters contracts with landowners adjacent to the proposed route. It involves a co-operative agreement whereby the public company commits to building, extending or renovating the transport line while, in reciprocation, the local landowners agree to densities, use, planning restrictions and objectives. This ends speculation along the transport route. It also allows the zoning and the uplift that comes from that to be managed to the mutual benefit of the transport company, residents and local landowners adjacent to the route.

I thank Dr. FitzGerald. Unfortunately, we are out of time in this slot. We will return to the point on collaboration because it is extremely important. I will invite Ms Harvey to comment when we do so. Since no one is indicating they wish to contribute in the Fine Gael slot, we will proceed to the Independent slot.

I thank everyone for making submissions to the committee. I apologise; I am hopping between this meeting and a meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine this afternoon. That is how busy we are. I have read all of the submissions. It is a really exciting issue. Before I ask anyone any questions, I would like to draw particular attention to a document commissioned by Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII. It is called Travelling in a Woman’s Shoes and was delivered by the consultancy Arup. In a week when we have seen so much about vulnerability and women and transport, it is a must read. It is a very important document full of policy recommendations. It focuses on women and safety, and talks about why they feel they cannot travel within their towns and communities, particularly when coming home from the cities they work in. It also refers to issues around vulnerability. It makes for awkward reading but is a real wake-up call with regard to planning.

When we talk about transport planning, we need to look at this issue and ask ourselves why this report has been sitting on desks since July 2020. Again, it is called Travelling in a Woman’s Shoes. It is a call to action and I will circulate it in the next five or ten minutes. It is something all of us should be mindful of when considering transport policy and why people do not opt to walk or cycle. The report includes some very stark figures and qualitative research showing the reason that women in particular are using private cars to travel short distances, which is that it allows them to feel safe. It is a real wake-up call for every one of us.

I will not deal with all of the submissions. They were very comprehensive. We had an opportunity to read them. I will focus on just two. I have a few questions for the Heritage Council and a few for Technological University Dublin. I thank Ms Teehan from the Heritage Council for the comprehensive submission she made today and for the appendices that accompany it. Within that submission, she talks about the establishment of a unit within Government to deliver the collaborative town centre health check programme nationally as part of the town centres first policy. Will she touch on that? I will put three or four questions to her before asking her to answer.

Ms Teehan is suggesting or recommending a national view. She also mentions issues in respect of compulsory purchase orders and compulsory sale orders similar to those used in Denmark and Scotland. Will she briefly tease out what differences there are between what is going on here and what is going on in Denmark and Scotland? What have we not talked about or included in our policy plans in Ireland?

Ms Teehan also talked about the establishment of community development trusts and town and city development trusts. It must be remembered that we have city and county plans and that the courts have found that these represent a contract with the people. Citizens can have a legitimate expectation with regard to how we plan our cities under city and county development plans. I am interested in hearing about Ms Teehan's own experiences and those of the Heritage Council with regard to town and city development trusts.

I will move on to my final questions to the Heritage Council. I am quite excited by what I read about this Irish towns diaspora network. There are real opportunities there. It is something I have never really heard about before. It is about how we can tap into the diaspora. I know of a particular project in Kilcullen, County Kildare. Someone who had gone away to the United States and been very successful decided to financially support two or three restoration projects because of their link, connection and family. The person still has not come back to Ireland and does not intend to but was drawn back to a town they had lived in and felt they were in a privileged position to do something. I like this idea but I do not know enough about it.

I will touch on TU Dublin. I live out in Blackrock so I am particularly interested in its interpretation of the success of the works in Blackrock because it is a view I do not share.

They talk about change and bringing people with them. I picked up from the TUD presentation issues around the executive and decision-making, but we must have democratic accountability and oversight of projects. Citizens own their towns, villages and cities and want to be involved. I am a former county councillor for Blackrock, without getting too parochial about this, and I did not feel included. I shop there, walk there and go to the library there and I felt partially excluded. I say that despite many of the councillors being my colleagues. It depends who we are talking about. While businesses might say one thing, residents might say a different thing, so it is always a matter of hearing the different perspectives and views.

We talk about transport governance. Mention was made of an article in which it was said transport projects are ultimately political and require accountability and oversight. I agree with that. That is a very important part of our debate and our argument. How will we bring in people? Projects such as BusConnects have been referred to. We do not need a history lesson in BusConnects to know that people felt left out-----

Senator Boyhan, you have been speaking for over six minutes now and have asked six or seven questions.

I will wrap up on that point.

I suggest that witnesses send in written answers to questions if we do not get time to answer them. I am sure we will get time to broach those subjects, Senator Boyhan. They are important. I am just tied by time. I ask Ms Teehan to address just the question about the Government's national unit dealing with collaborative town centre health checks. We can come back to the other issues. Is that okay, Senator Boyhan?

Yes, that is perfect.

Ms Virginia Teehan

I thank the Senator for his questions. I will be brief because I realise Senator Boyhan is out of time. We very much support the Heritage Council and the work that has been done on this pilot programme. It is hugely important to the development of towns which are hollowed out right across the country, in both urban and rural areas. The Heritage Council quite simply does not have the resources to roll this out nationally. It makes sense that it is properly resourced but in the way in which it has been developed by the Heritage Council, which is holistic and collaborative and has the support of the business community, the citizens and the civic leaders in towns. That is vital. Ms Harvey will be happy to answer the Senator's other more detailed questions either in writing or, if there is time in the meeting, verbally.

Ms Alison Harvey

Thank you, Chair-----

Thank you, Ms Teehan. There will be time at the end of the meeting. We will get into a second round and we can come back to all those questions. If every member turns up, I need to stick to seven-minute slots; if not everybody turns up, we can have longer.

I will take the fourth slot, which is a Green Party slot. I will set a timer for myself to be fair. I have a question for the NESC. Is there enough integration and collaboration between the Departments with responsibility for transport and housing? There is a budget of €4 billion per annum for development of housing. Do we see commensurate investment in public transport? Is there enough collaboration between those two Departments to give leadership?

Dr. Cathal FitzGerald

When we did the analysis in 2019 we looked at the extent to which the policy set-up in Ireland was conducive to delivering transport-oriented development. The elements we looked for, unsurprisingly, were the four we saw as being critical: the vision, the decision, the institution and the funding. At that time, we reviewed the national planning framework, the national development plan and the regional spatial and economic strategies, which were in draft form at the time. While we found that in the first instance the vision was present in that the national planning framework does set out an adequate vision for compact growth, sustainable mobility and having 40% of new homes within existing developments, there is an institutional issue. We find that responsibility for transport planning, transport investment and housing development are separate. They are complex areas and there are good reasons specialties are required across Departments.

Where TOD is undertaken, as opposed to everyday development throughout the country, more intense collaboration is required. We find that having separate entities for investing in transport planning and housing is sub-optimal. This is why we think that once a decision is taken to deliver transport-oriented development at a suitable location the institutions that support it are required very quickly afterwards.

This brings us to the next point on funding. The typical funding models for Exchequer Vote and capital expenditure, noting that of the €130 billion in the national development plan €3 billion will be spent on transport this year, do not capture the uplift to allow building the infrastructure, services and green spaces that make these areas attractive in advance. If we look at what we are planning now with the metro and quality bus corridors, do we have mechanisms in place in advance? We put a thought experiment in our analysis. If at each of the 16 stations along the metro route 1,000 homes got a typical uplift of €114,000 from being proximate to the nodes the State is providing it would mean in excess of €1.5 billion that could go to capital and operational expenditure, as happens with Transport for London. It starts by having the vision in place, which we do, and quickly afterwards making a decision on the site having formal institutional co-ordination and, flowing from this, the ability to capture the uplift. I would say that in 2019 we felt there was no institution to prevent a siloed approach.

My next question is for TU Dublin. Is there enough emphasis in local level planning to indicate clearly where the active travel routes should be? There should be a clear indication as to where the active travel route should be and the desired location, wherever it might be. Does this happen enough at local level? We end up in conflict situations when we try to retrofit these active travel links through housing estates. Perhaps Mr. O'Connor will answer this.

Mr. David O'Connor

I will begin. Certainly it is taken account of but being in the local plan or the development plan does not mean it will be activated. It is about placing emphasis on activating it and making it happen. We certainly welcome the delivery of the active travel teams. We go back to our point about public appointments and being able to bring in the right type of people, including community people and communications people to realise these things and make them happen.

I echo the points made by Dr. FitzGerald on the institutional framework and arrangement. Where this has successfully happened has been in an agency-based approach. Abbotstown was happening very well and there was very innovative design on walkability and permeability until, unfortunately, the economic collapse. The Grangegorman agency will do similar work on permeability. Dublin City Council has come in with filtered permeability mechanisms. The points on multidisciplinary teams and flexible public appointments are key. My colleague, Dr. Rock, will also comment on this.

Dr. Sarah Rock

Local area plans are a foundation of our local democratic process. They are real opportunities to engage the public on establishing a vision for an area. This vision can include many things, one of which may be active travel. There is a much greater opportunity to work very collaboratively with the public quite early and establish a much greater long-term vision for the area. Collaborative planning is a very resource intensive task but is absolutely essential and critical to the success of schemes and projects. It is very important to emphasise resources for it so that when it comes to delivering projects such as active travel they meet less resistance than they otherwise might.

There is an understanding that this is a vision that the local community has bought into as part of an holistic package. It is not just about active travel; it is about understanding the many benefits and multifaceted elements of urban regeneration. There are many facets to it and active travel is one but it is very important to the overall vision.

I thank Dr. Rock. I will just make a comment before I move on. A lot of what we are talking about here is actually climate action as well, insofar as it involves reducing emissions from transport and having the town close to work, close to recreation and close to schools. Active travel, which Mr. Donovan mentioned, also brings about emissions reduction.

I will move on to the Social Democrats slot and call Deputy Cian O'Callaghan.

My first question is for TU Dublin and concerns TOD. We have seen a lot of damage done in the past by really poor speculative rezonings outside of towns and urban centres. I am thinking of leapfrog zonings with whole housing developments being built where there is no public transport infrastructure and where it is not feasible to provide such infrastructure for one particular development in a random field that should not have been zoned at that time anyway. With the changes that have happened around planning in recent years, do the TU Dublin witnesses feel there are sufficient controls to ensure this is no longer a problem?

Mr. David O'Connor

I may be able to take this question. We refer to the five cities report which is obviously focused on the cities. It points to what it calls Tier 1 strategic pillars, the first of which is the 15-minute city. We could talk at length about that. It is essentially about walkability and creating walkable neighbourhoods. It also refers to delivering the national planning framework, NPF, which is enormously important. There have been developments but for a period planning was very loose in this country and there were very limited controls on location assessment. There is an enormous population that is very disconnected. The NPF has made certain moves to address that and to stop it but counteracting it is going to take a long time. There are significant vacuum effects of development. It is going to be very difficult. The Connecting Ireland strategy is going to be very important. Increased investment in local links and in that strategy is crucial. The importance of encouraging compact development in our villages, town and cities cannot be overstated. That will not happen by way of the private market alone. The private market has to be regulated. There has to be public investment and schemes like Tosaigh and Croí Cónaithe will certainly be important in that regard.

I have a related question for NESC. Has it or anyone else analysed transport infrastructure funding and investment to see how well or otherwise it aligns with housing demand and projected population growth? Sometimes it does not align. It is spread geographically or politically around the country instead.

Dr. Cathal FitzGerald

Section 2.5 of the report we published examines the funding mechanisms in place in 2019. I will mention some developments since then. The best thing we could say is that funding was not a barrier to TOD but in a way it is a bit like general funding for housing and other infrastructure. The State must be active and take decisions, have specific priorities and follow them, sometimes ahead of population demand. We looked at the national development plan, NDP, and the extent to which there were citable amounts of money in support of each of the national strategic objectives. The NDP states that a mechanism will be put in place to allow the uplift in the investment to be used to fund some of the other ancillary services that are needed. Land value sharing is now an option but I do not know if that is exactly the same as land value capture. It may be more to do with rezoning as opposed to the actual investment and uplift we get from that.

One of the things we mentioned was that transport infrastructure funding, such as under the urban regeneration fund, should be separated out from having to compete against other worthy demands for funding, such as improving the public realm projects and so on.

They should have their own separate basket in seeking that funding for urban regeneration, which I know is important to the committee. We made some suggestions on how existing funding could be targeted to support transport and compact growth but that there was also probably a need for more sophisticated mechanisms. We listed 14 potentially new mechanisms that are used internationally in Japan, Germany and London, which we think could be progressed by the State in collaboration with private sector providers, those who provide patient capital etc. These are listed in our report. There is something there but probably more needs to be done.

I have a final question for Mr. Donovan of the Cork Cycling Campaign. In his submission and opening statement he stated that we have to be careful that transport-oriented development does not become a Trojan horse to justify more roads. Can he expand on that point please?

Mr. Conn Donovan

I thank the Deputy for his question. It is important, if we are developing new communities that we do not use these as a pretext to deliver more road infrastructure and that we think about what sort of communities those houses are going to be based around. If we are building a community where we have aspirations that 70% to 80% of the trips will not be taken by car, why are we then providing road infrastructure to justify or pass through that development? Part of the problem is that investment is realised when infrastructure is coming along, where it may be seen as an opportunity to fix some issues around a city but it is very important that we look at what is best practice in other countries. If we are asking people not to live with a car or have a car-lite experience, that we do not then subject them to a high car environment.

I thank Mr. Donovan, all of the other witnesses and the Chairman.

There is a minute left. Does the NESC wish to come back in on that question on transport-oriented and the development of roads? This is more about public transport links than road links, which would be my understanding.

Dr. Cathal FitzGerald

Yes, the objective of transport-oriented development is to move away from car-oriented sprawl and this has to be done with the focus on public and active transport in advance. The example to be looked at in Freiburg was that before the first home was occupied in that development, the tramline was already in place in Rieselfeld. In the overall development, within a couple of years of it having been opened, the bus had been replaced by a tram. The central point is that the central axis of both of these transport-oriented developments is a tram route. It is only then that one can start to look at dealing with cars, sprawl, parking and other issues that go alongside transport-oriented development.

I thank Dr. FitzGerald. I will move on now to the second Sinn Féin slot with, I believe, Deputy Ó Broin.

I am here but if Deputy Gould is still here, he can come in now.

I apologise as I did not see him since I have limited vision on the screen.

That is not a problem, Chairman. I thank everyone for coming today and for speaking to us. I have a couple of questions. As was just outlined, we conducted a survey on sustainable transport in my constituency of Cork North-Central. The survey found that 74% of people felt that it was not safe to cycle in our constituency. It also found that 64% of people noticed that the cycle lanes ended abruptly and suddenly.

Two key issues arose from this and perhaps Mr. Donovan from the Cork Cycling Campaign might like to comment. I first thank him and his associates for supporting the survey but I would like to ask him about the issue where Cork is divided. There is a great difference between the northside and the southside in the number of cycle lanes, and there is a great discrepancy. For anyone who wishes to cycle on the northside, where I am from, it feels that there is underinvestment and not enough funding being put in.

The other important issue is on cycle lanes and routes.

What people are telling me is that they want to see specific cycle routes so that they can travel to work, school and college. Mr. Donovan spoke earlier about fewer and fewer people using cycle lanes, especially young women and girls going to school, college or wherever. What are he key factors in fixing these issues? I will come back in if I have more time.

Mr. Conn Donovan

With regard to cycle lanes ending abruptly, part of the problem is that investment is handed out in a piecemeal fashion, so local authorities use that investment to deliver a small section. There is probably an underappreciation of the fact that delivering a small cycle route is like sprinkling small flakes over a city. It is not really going to give people an option to cycle across a city or from one trip destination to another. We really need to move to a place to where we are thinking about routes, as the Deputy stated. We need to have two trip destinations that people can travel between. We must offer people a safe and quality service between those routes. If there is a gap in that route, people are perhaps being exposed to a risk they may not be willing to take. As Senator Boyhan noted, according to the TII Travelling in a Woman's Shoes report, cycling is the most deemed to be the most dangerous form of transport for women in Ireland. We must, therefore, make routes high quality and inviting. As we are spending a lot of public money on cycle and walking routes in the next few years, we really need to appreciate that we are spending that money for people who are in cars now. We are not spending it for people who are cyclists or who like cycling; we are spending it to get people essentially out of cars and into cycle lanes, onto footpaths or into public transport with regard to BusConnects. There needs to be an emphasis on quality and routes as opposed to lanes.

On the Deputy's second question, there has been massive underinvestment in the area north of Cork city. It has happened for many reasons. There were a lot of quick wins on the southside in terms of old tracks and rail routes that could be converted to greenways. That is not the reason that it has continued to be so bad in recent years. Looking at areas such as Blackpool, 2 km from the city centre, there is no safe cycle route even though a national road and two urban streets are running parallel. It hits on the key point that we must ensure that cycling does not become a privilege of certain people, classes or genders in cities. It should be for everyone. Whether a person is aged eight or 80, he or she should have the option of moving round the city by bike.

Dr. D'Arcy has her hand raised.

Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy

Regarding Cork North-Central, the traditional neighbourhoods there really do provide more opportunities for filtered permeability in urban greenways. It is such a well-connected and permeable part of the city. I understand that there may be some reluctance to cycle because of the topography and the fact that there are some very steep places, but San Francisco has managed to run a very successful cycling programme where it has highlighted places for people to cycle, including relatively flat routes. It is about looking at what is there and how it can be best optimised. It is most important to link in with the traditional communities that are in the area. A great study was done by UCC a number of years ago, which looked at fear of violent crime. We focused on some of those north Cork city communities. Coming back to some of our gender work, there was a history of association with violent crime that had happened previously. The area had completely changed but people associated places with an event that happened because of the tradition of storytelling. It happens all over the country. This is where we need to engage with communities and find out where they feel safe, what they would like, what they can change and what can be done. There is a lot of potential in that area and in urban communities generally. Where the roads do not seem wide enough to put in a cycle lane or widened footpaths, it is where we should consider the filtered permeability and urban greenways.

I thank the witnesses. As someone who lives in and represents the area, everything they said makes complete sense. I have another question for the representatives of the TU Dublin. The research they carried out in Blackrock sounds very interesting. I know that we have very similar initiatives in Cork with on-street dining, pedestrianisation and improved public spaces. Cork City Council has done a lot of work over the past two years during Covid.

The key issues that arose time and again were the accessibility to these spaces and areas by people who have limited mobility or disabilities, and the removal of disabled parking spaces because of these pedestrianised and on-street dining areas. When the witnesses did their research, did they look at the consequences of the changes that were made in Blackrock and what effects they might have on people who are disabled and the accessibility for people in the Blackrock area?

Dr. Sarah Rock

Yes, it certainly formed part of our study. Blackrock was quite limited in that regard, in that there were no changes to the amount of disabled parking spots that were there originally. We were really only able to look at the things that changed rather than do an assessment of what was there before and if that was good enough. We were looking more at the impact of change. It certainly arose as a very important issue. We noted what the council endeavoured to do, which was through our interviews. We interviewed a number of different people including members of the public participation network and the disability consultation group. Although things were not perfect, we found that there was an appreciation of the openness of the local authority to engage with them on those issues. I am aware that there was some trial and error around the location of the disabled parking spots. This is the absolute critical thing when we are looking at road space reallocation. If we are looking at pedestrianised areas or shared street spaces we must prioritise, where possible, the disabled access parking spaces. In addition, we looked at other aspects such as access to chemists and pharmacies where traditionally there would not have been a disabled access parking spot outside of those areas. We noted that by moving some general parking spots it could reduce the accessibility to those types of users and people who would depend on them. One of the solutions was the use of a set-down or a loading space that would allow people to access those spaces. That was a very important part of it. It is certainly something that we fed into the research and into the recommendations for that also.

I thank Dr. Rock and I am sorry to interrupt her. I am aware that it is an important aspect. At the very start of Covid mobility, there was a focus on making sure accessibility was maintained where we were losing it with tables and chairs. We had to make sure we had footpath space left for people who needed that accessibility.

I thank the Chairman.

I thank all the speakers. It has been hugely informative. I will probably come at it from a slightly different angle. I am looking at the issues in the context of a very rural and provincial town with a population of 10,000 to 14,000 people. The great thing about those towns is that we have plenty of space in the towns. Many of these towns, historically, have very large and wide streets. We probably have a public that is averse to abandoning their cars and going into town centres. I have two very specific questions, mainly for the witnesses from TU Dublin. Perhaps they could deal with them for me. One question relates to an aspect that we discussed at our last engagement. I am still struggling to get a clear answer or a clear recommendation from the experts on which way we should be going. It concerns provincial towns where retail is obviously in demise and there is a compelling argument that we should get people to move into these houses that were former shop units. Yet, in all the time I have people coming into me looking for housing, I cannot get young couples and young families to put their hand up and say they want to live in a town centre, especially in rural Ireland. They still want that garden and they want that house with the green area. Can the witnesses point me to any place where we have looked at an alternative for those shop units? I am referring in particular to continental Europe. Is there some way to energise the units, be it through artists and artisans?

Have we looked at incentives and - dare I mention it? - tax schemes to cultivate that new alternative fledgling retail within those units? That is one aspect. The second one follows on from it. Where we do active transport in these towns, we do it very well, but then it becomes almost like a sore. It looks really good but it does not link in with anything else in the rest of the town. Could the witnesses point me to some town with a population of between 10,000 and 14,000 where there is a really good workable example? We have invested large sums in our greenways and all of that, which is laudable, but I do not think that gets to the kernel of getting people out and cycling. I come from Longford and there are hundreds of people out cycling on the greenway every Saturday or Sunday but when I am running in the morning, I will see at most three or four people cycling to work. We are not making that transition despite the massive investment in the greenways. Perhaps the Cork Cycling Campaign may wish to come in on that point. How can we cultivate that culture of getting people cycling in these provincial towns?

Mr. O'Connor indicated with his hand on the population question and alternative use.

Mr. David O'Connor

I am happy to respond to that comment with the example of the town of Wexford, where I grew up and whose population was within that bracket. It was one of the first towns in Ireland to have a pedestrianised main street. I am thankful that this is still doing well and that it has been treated very well by the local authority. It is well pedestrianised. When I grew up, it was a very walkable town. Unfortunately, our towns have expanded. People have moved further and further away, so this has become a very difficult challenge. There is evidence from UK research suggesting that where main streets are regenerated and pedestrianised, retail sales can increase by up to 30% and that retail vacancy rates can decrease. The Scotland's Towns Partnership evidence that the Heritage Council mentioned certainly fully supports the idea that, when done well, this can be good for business in the town centre. Public realm improvements can lead to adjacent units doing well and can bring people back into the towns.

The two successes I will point to are ones I have mentioned. The first is that of Clonakilty. The Cork county architect, Ms Giulia Vallone, has been instrumental in bringing together a team and working with the planners, engineers and town executive team to regenerate those public spaces and beautiful squares there. There was an awful lot of work to bring the community back in and to activate those spaces. This included car-free days, street parties and the like. Similarly, a very integrated approach was taken in Westport, County Mayo. There was a plan and the architect, Mr. Simon Wall, worked together with a team of people who moved around the town bit by bit and bucked the trend.

It is a cause for hope that, due to Covid, houses are being sold in many of these towns. The real estate markets are doing very well and that is very encouraging to see. It is one of the few good things to come out of Covid.

Ms Alison Harvey

To respond to the Deputy's points, a Dutch delegation came to Dundalk in 2019 and we were talking about vacancy rates. The Dutch are talking about consolidating their town centres, that is, making them strong and shrinking the amount of zoning on the edge to push activity back into the town centres. At that stage, we were talking about small town vacancy rates of 24% for ground floor retail while the Dutch were at 6.8%. We were listening very intently to what they were telling us about what they are doing. The Netherlands is very strong on what to do with small town centres.

We have published research on meanwhile use. This aims to show the steps that can be used to get out of dereliction and vacancy. You really want to establish your baselines at the very start. That is very important for public spend as it allows you to show the impact and the outcomes.

Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy

A point was made about getting younger people to live in town centres. Mr. Chris Leinberger in New York conducted research on where people wanted to live. He found there was an association between television programmes and where people wanted to live. For example, in the 1960s and 1970s people watched “I Love Lucy" and they wanted to live in the suburbs. In the 1990s, people watched “Seinfeld" and "Friends" and they wanted to live in urban areas. In Ireland, the soaps tell us that if we live in an urban area, it is full of crime and you will get murdered, and the association is made that it is a lovely thing to live in the countryside. There are cultural aspects to whether people want to live in certain places. We must highlight to people that the cost of living is lower if they live in these areas because they will have reduced their transport costs. Sometimes that fact does not communicate well when people are getting a free site from a parent, building in the community and can have a big house in the long term. There is a narrative there needs to be considered. As I said earlier, we have a top-down policy, but we the bottom-up that we need to understand.

A request was made for an example of where a greenway is linked to urban areas and I think west Limerick is doing that really well at the moment. A recreational greenway has existed for many years, but following investment, awareness of the greenway has been heightened among communities. In particular, in Newcastle West, where there has been some public realm works done over recent years, there is now a great linkage that brings the greenway to the town and an increasing number of children now cycle the greenway every day to get to school etc. This is what is really important. I understand that greenways came about because the investment was justified by tourism data because that was the only sector that had data at the time. We now need to see the transportation value and we need more research in that area to capture that data, as Ms Harvey has mentioned.

Deputy Flaherty has indicated a wish for Mr. Donovan to comment and I will bring Mr. Donovan in as part of the next round of questions.

I welcome all our guests. I tried to balance two meetings but did so very badly so missed all of the first hour. I apologise to the witnesses, therefore, if what I ask them has been covered already.

As the focus of this session is urban regeneration and I have a particular interest in transport, I would like to hear from the witnesses whether they agree - if they disagree with me, that is fair enough - that transport policies and choices are inextricably linked to urban regeneration or, indeed, the failure of urban regeneration. I hope they will agree with me but I want what I have asked about to come out of this session.

We had a very interesting session of the Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action in which we had participation by officials from the Departments of Transport and other Departments. The witnesses present will probably be disappointed to hear that those officials expect an increase in the number of cars on our roads and streets by 2030. Notwithstanding the expected shift to public transport and active travel, according to the Department officials we are still going to have more vehicles in 2030. I believe that that view should challenge all of us. If we are trying to create liveable villages, towns and cities and breathe life into rural Ireland by making villages and towns viable, we are not going to succeed if these places are clogged with cars. Therefore, a discussion on how to use public space is critical and we need to make a lot of noise about how problematic the growth in the number of vehicles would be.

Recently, I was overseas in Rome and saw that quite a lot of the vehicles there are, by necessity, very small and light. You do not see that in other cities. We see a trend of increasing size and weight of vehicles. If we must have cars in urban areas, then insofar as possible they should be as small and as light as possible so that we can make the best use of urban spaces. I am interested in hearing the views of the witnesses on that and I ask them to shed some light on the practice across the world in the area of light vehicle policy.

I would say that Mr. Donovan will agree with me that the best light vehicle is a bike. I think that we need to do a hell of a lot more to make cycling attractive, viable and safe for everybody.

The witnesses have addressed the issue of road space reallocation, which is critical. One of the criticisms of the BusConnects programme is that it does not talk about the reallocation of road space rather then the finding of new space for buses. I think we must move away from that policy. We need to recognise that the car is the lowest in the hierarchy of road users, and rightly so. The car is very energy-inefficient and it is a space-inefficient mode of transport. Every decision we take at a policy level needs to recognise that.

Is the national planning framework fit for purpose? The framework allows for 50% of all new developments to be located outside of urban areas and I think that undermines towns and villages. While I acknowledge that the percentage is a step in the right direction, the framework is up for review in 2024 and it needs to be seriously reviewed if it is to take us to where we need to get.

Each slot is only seven minutes.

Finally, the expertise is at a senior level in local authorities. The big decisions on cities, towns, villages and across Ireland generally are made at the executive level of local authorities but I think there is a dearth of transport planning expertise and knowledge, and there is a dearth of expertise in urban design. In Limerick, we have made some very good strides recently and brought in some very good people, which I think will change things but Limerick is probably the exception. Have we enough expertise at a senior level? It is important that we have such understanding at director level. Have we got that knowledge across all of society? It is not just in local authorities that that is important. We need that understanding across the Civil Service and across society in general. There probably is not enough time for the witnesses to answer my questions but I ask them to do their best and all of them can respond.

I forgot to tell the Deputy that there are seven minutes in each slot and to leave time for witnesses to answer. Dr. FitzGerald raised his hand to notify us that he wants to respond to the question on transport policy and choices. I will allow him to reply and we might be able to return to the other questions.

Dr. Cathal FitzGerald

I will first respond to the point made about regeneration and then the point about expertise. With transport-orientated development, there is a tendency to see all of these locations as being large-scale or massive sites like former military air sites, etc. They have regeneration at their core and they have done since the concept was developed in the 1900s with the idea of garden cities. Montpellier provides us with a good example of regeneration that was planned in terms of layout, routes, safety and lighting. These things have recently become most important. The amenities are built to serve the community. This is a mixed use brownfield site that includes colleges and industrial sites. By having the vision, decision and a dedicated institution they were able to take a 36 ha site that was run down with factories and turn it into mixed living, offices, regional government headquarters and create a swimming pool, etc. There are 50% private market homes and 50% social and affordable homes. There is a tendency to think of these large-scale sites as being a blank canvas and a greenfield site somewhere on the outskirts of a town but we should not look beyond the regeneration capacity of transport-orientated development. We should not lose sight of the fact that the Land Development Agency, LDA, was established as a regeneration agency as well as a development agency.

In our NESC report of November 2020 on housing actions, we spoke about expertise within local authorities and the need for specialist teams, possibly within the LDA, to support local authorities that must engage on an irregular basis on massive planning or compulsory purchase order, CPO, which means that the expertise at senior levels is not there. So why do we not have teams that can master plan a CPO, who are specialists in it and are available to local authorities to undertake that work?

Ms Alison Harvey

The vacancy levels are so high. The first town we completed the baseline for was Tralee. The rate for that town was 24%. I am referring to ground-floor retail. The target in Europe is 5%, and the proper range from 5% to 11%. I started a programme with no funding in the first year, basically because people kept coming to the Heritage Council to ask me for help.

On land use and transportation strategies, it is so important we look at what we have already and how land is being utilised or wasted. On the vacancy rate, one town with a massive road going through its centre had a ground-floor vacancy rate of 31%, which is unheard of. We really need to use the data wisely and target the vacancy rates we need to have. We should not be above 11%. Our rate is quite embarrassing at meetings with people from the Netherlands, Scotland and elsewhere. There is land already available. It is a matter of how we use the existing stock.

Dr. Sarah Rock

I reiterate our point. Urban regeneration is multifaceted but transport plays a very important role in it. We absolutely share that view. If we approach it in the wrong way, we essentially kill a town. If we approach it correctly and make it about people, we can bring life to a town. Part of the reason for the death of many towns in recent decades is that we focused on road-based transport. We might have ploughed a national road through the heart of a town. The approach taken is intrinsically linked to the vitality of a town.

On large vehicles and the trend towards having them, we share the view that large vehicles are completely unsuited to urban locations. They are very dangerous. Children cannot be seen around them. They are unfit for open roads. We absolutely support a move away from large vehicles and SUVs in general, which result in so many other problems.

Regarding the multidisciplinarity of senior level decision-making, it is essential there be more diversity and knowledge in higher level decision-making in local authorities with a view to understanding and valuing the importance of urban design and transport and all the other elements that come together to shape and inform urban regeneration.

I am sorry for being so enthusiastic; I did not leave too much time for answers. I will be much more strategic with my seven minutes. I will focus on TU Dublin. It was said that transport projects are ultimately political and require accountability and oversight. I agree with that. BusConnects and such projects, rational as we may believe them to be, need to be both challenging and championed politically. Those are two profound statements. I want the delegates to comment on them. Before they do so, I will make two other points.

The delegates referred in their submissions to a Dublin transport advisory council and giving it limited executive powers. I am interested in reserve functions and the importance of our city and county councillors, who are democratically elected. I like to see equal weighting. Deputy Leddin talked about councils being led by the executive, but we have elected city and county councillors. They have a really important role, have their finger on the pulse and are very close to the citizen. That is one of the great things about local government in Ireland. That is an important point. The delegates might refer to the Dublin Transport Authority Advisory council. They talked about the legislation being in place and would like to see it rolled out.

The TU Dublin delegates talked about regulations concerning messaging and imagery in the car advertising sector. They made a comparison with the advertising standards for alcohol and gambling in Ireland. That is interesting.

Those are three questions I would like the witnesses to tease out with me in some detail.

Mr. David O'Connor

I will start addressing the questions raised by the Senator. I thank him for raising them and reading our report in detail. The matters raised were in our additional material.

On BusConnects, we believe it is not only rational but also essential to have interconnectivity. It is about making the entire city more accessible to everyone. It is about a network that is always available and accessible to everyone. Building it up will take time but it is important. It has been very controversial, however. There were 70,000 submissions, which is phenomenal. This is unprecedented in planning. These are matters we watch and get involved in. Perhaps the number of submissions is a barometer of how important the matter is and how people want to engage with their own neighbourhoods and city. The proposal is really to address the issue of accountability. That is not to say anything about the NTA and the project itself, which we believe are good; it is a matter of proceeding with projects of the kind in question and giving people a say.

We have mentioned the Dublin Transport Authority Advisory Council. It actually exists in legislation but it is a very diverse body. It includes representatives from businesses, communities, the Garda, disability groups, elected representatives and executive services. It is wide in scope. It is typical of many metropolitan transport authorities in America and Transport for London. The Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 states it should, and can, be established, but it does not vest any powers in it. It could be given a nominal power to vote on the transport strategy. At least it would be a forum for this type of debate, but involving councillors, communities and businesses. If the debate takes place upfront, projects might become a bit more acceptable. That is why it is worth proposing.

On advertising, we are aware that the French have introduced legislation to do exactly what has been alluded to, just because the imagery is so incredibly powerful and disconnected. The biggest spend by most of us will be on a car. We are aware that 80% of all trips made by Irish people when they step outside their doors are by car. There is a huge level of car dependency. Most people, when asked, say they would prefer something different, such as a walk in the neighbourhood or cleaner air, but the messaging is very powerful. Perhaps it can be done in a different way.

Does someone from TU Dublin wish to take the second or third question? One of them was on imagery.

Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy

I am happy to respond on the question on imagery. Car advertisements on our television screens show large cars moving freely through an environment with no traffic or congestion, and no other road users. It is about getting there faster. It is all very sexy. A lifestyle is being sold but it does not reflect the reality.

We have had a huge increase in the number of SUVs and larger vehicles recently. If we are to be climate conscious and conscious about the amount of energy powering cars, be it electric or based on fossil fuels, why do we need two tonnes of vehicle to be moved to buy a pint of milk? Is that energy efficient?

We must also consider sedentary behaviour and the influence it is having on our physical activity levels as a nation. A total of 11% of all premature mortality in Ireland is caused by physical inactivity. We have a sedentary population and an obesity problem. It is not just about our body mass but also about our concentration, cognitive ability, physical and mental health, and community health. It is particularly the case with community health. A lack of social cohesion and loneliness are estimated to comprise an even bigger killer than smoking. When we leave our houses and get into our cars, we do not meet anybody else. We get out of the car at the opposite end of our journey. However, if we walk, cycle or take public transport, we meet our neighbours and are more connected to our community, and therefore we have greater health and wellness.

This is backed up both in Ireland and internationally by our statistics. In regard to big vehicles, high fronted vehicles are far more dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. If people are hit by an older, lower fronted car, their legs are hit and they are tipped onto the bonnet. Their core body did not take the impact. However, if hit by an SUV, a jeep or any larger car, the entire body takes the impact and they are much more likely to die even if hit at a lower speed. These are things we must consider. Mindful guidelines must be given around advertising in the same way as was done with other public health issues.

I thank Dr. D'Arcy. Often, how the marketers wish the car to be seen when advertising it is not the way many of us vulnerable road users view those vehicles as they come behind or beside us. Ask a seven-year-old child walking along the street how he or she views a large SUV on the road. I want to bring this back because what we are looking at is developing how to bring living and light back into the towns. It is not just about transport. If someone does not feel safe on a street, or if a street is not a nice place to step out to from your residence, it is not going to be somewhere you will want to live. It will be hard to sell the idea that streets have to be safe and inviting. That includes the public realm, walkability and safe walking routes.

I forwarded the link to that Travelling in a Woman's Shoes report by Arup. It is an important document. I have just sent it to every Oireachtas Member and every city and county councillor. Today, particularly, let us stop, take time out and read that report. I appeal to everyone to advocate the strong recommendations in that report in whatever strand of work they are involved in on transport.

I thank the Senator for doing that. I will ensure that is circulated to all committee members who are not in attendance. It will be part of our correspondence for next week. I have slots left: the third Fianna Fáil and the third Fine Gael slot. If I do not have anybody to take them, I will go into the third round, which is open questions, whereby somebody can raise his or her hand if he or she wishes to ask a question. We will first of all go with Deputies Eoin Ó Broin, Leddin and Gould who want to come in, as do I. We have an hour left. I want to leave time for our witnesses to wrap up and address some of those questions we did not get to. I call Deputy Eoin Ó Broin, who has seven minutes.

I thank all the contributors. The discussion is genuinely very interesting. I have two quick comments to contribute to the discussion and then a round-the-houses question for each of the contributors. While not discounting the importance of advertising, particularly in respect of people's lifestyles, when it comes to people's decisions about where they live, price, size and comfort are absolutely key. One of the biggest difficulties with suburban sprawl or one-off rural houses is that it is often far cheaper to get a much larger quality home. Dr. D'Arcy is absolutely right that people do not necessarily think about other costs at the point of purchase, such as transport. This relates not just to Dublin and Cork cities. I talk to many people in mid-sized regional towns where the cost of purchasing a second-hand or new house in the urban core is now very expensive. There is a real challenge in that if we want to incentivise compact growth, we have to make it affordable for people. There were some interesting figures recently which show, notwithstanding the national planning framework, the vast majority of new homes that have been built are still being built on the wrong side of the M50 in the commuter belt and not in the inner core of Dublin. Affordability is, therefore, absolutely key.

In regard to Bus Connects, Mr. O'Connor highlighted a good point in that 70,000 submissions is a sign of success. What is most important about that consultation is that the NTA changed the nature of the consultation in response to the public engagement. It was meant to be single round, but it became two. There was meant to be one version; there were three. The NTA is in fact still engaging with people. It had a meeting recently with interested parties in Lucan to look at the initial reaction to the first phase of the C-spine and potential gaps. That is an example of where there is top-down infrastructural development of significant change there is real merit in that process.

That can be combined with what Dr. D'Arcy and Dr. Rock spoke of earlier, which is getting out early and adopting a grassroots, bottom-up approach to get some valuable things. We need to talk in more detail about how we improve that public participation and consultation, because there are far more examples of how this stuff does not work well, than does. I ask contributors, not only in response to my question but generally, to share with us the experience they have, because that would be useful. I was quite taken by Dr. FitzGerald's comments around the institutionalising of the participation. Again I go back to the fact that there are two Departments, 31 local authorities, and a range of other development models. Let us keep in mind we are producing a report, hopefully, with some recommendations to Government. If there were one or two priority changes that they would like to see at central or local government level that our contributors think should be considered in our report on foot of these three hearings, what would they like us to recommend? They are probably getting the sense that most of us sitting throughout the entire meeting are in a similar space to all of them. What are the key recommended changes they would like to see beyond their submissions?

I thank the Deputy. That was going to be my wrap-up question for all the witnesses but we will deal with it now, although they have to spend less than two minutes on answering that question when the temptation is to spend much longer on that. I will start with the Heritage Council and the same order as we invited opening submissions.

Ms Alison Harvey

First, there needs to be a third way based on that public participation, which CTCHC programme has at its core. That is why we are taking the time to work with these people and set up the projects. That is probably why we have such a long waiting list of more than 45 towns. To move that forward, in the 2019 Town Centre First policy we recommended that we need to scale up that CTCHC programme so that everybody can work together in collaboration and get the stuff done that needs to be done. As I said earlier, the vacancy rates at the moment are really high.

The second thing is to look at Scotland's Towns Partnership to see whether a model like that would be useful in Ireland. Certainly they have been very good in supporting what we are trying to do with the CTCHC programme. The programme that we run was set up at the start because the private sector came to us and asked would we help. In my professional opinion regeneration cannot be done alone by the public authorities. It has to have the private sector. We have to bring them in. We need to look at ways to do that efficiently and effectively.

I thank Ms Harvey. These are important questions. I will give this slot a bit longer so if everybody can answer the question in around two minutes each, that would be helpful. I now call TU Dublin for its two major recommendations.

Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy

I will cover the first recommendation and Mr. O'Connor will take the second. On the first one, we need to have a real conversation about the lifelong costs of where we live and the influences on those decisions. Frequently our first home, and this is compounded by the grants that are given for first-time buyers, is a suburban home. It ticks the boxes, we think we want the three-bedroom semi-detached but we do not talk about how we will end up sitting in the car all weekend dropping children to sports clubs because where we bought that house is on the periphery of the city or out in the countryside and we are not close to amenities. We think of the immediate bricks and mortar, and not about how that serves us in the long term. If we found ourselves with a physical impairment and inability to drive we would be isolated in that place. Studies I did ten years ago found that people who lived in the newer suburbs spent significantly more on transportation costs, spent less time at home, and had higher education levels and higher salary costs, moreso than everybody else. People who lived in deprived neighbourhoods in the suburbs were spending more than €10 per week more on transport fuel than their counterparts in the urban deprived areas in the more traditional sense.

They were also earning nearly more than €16,000 per annum than them in the first place. We need to have a real conversation about the lifetime costs.

Does Mr. O'Connor wish to come in?

Dr. Sarah Rock

I can come in on the second point. Mr. O'Connor may have additional information to add. The most critical point we would raise from our statement that would support a really open or different culture of collaboration, particularly at the local authority level, which is the coalface of where these sorts of changes happen, would be that flexible public recruitment process that would value interdisciplinarity. In a practical example, at the moment, if one is working on a significant project, one can advertise for an engineer, a planner or an architect, but yet these people may not necessarily have the skills in public engagement. It is a very particular skill set we currently try to address in some level in our programmes in TU Dublin, although traditionally it is not part of their education. We need to bring in specialists, people who understand how to engage with stakeholders, to get the absolute best out of them. That would probably be the key recommendation I would take from that.

Does Mr. O'Connor wish to add anything to that?

Mr. David O'Connor

I will add a third point based on the discussion we just had, and that is simply to refer to the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland and ask it to review advertising for private motor vehicles in the context of the Government declaration of a climate emergency and public health - simply that. On the points Dr. Rock made, we have seen examples of public appointments for active travel teams, which have to be multidisciplinary, that have all come from a single discipline. It does not matter what the discipline is; they have to be diverse teams and have to take account of less traditional, maybe degree, qualification and experiential backgrounds to build successful teams. It is not just I but everybody here who has pointed out that success nearly always come from that type of integration and multidisciplinary working.

I call Mr. Donovan of the Cork Cycling Campaign to give two recommendations.

Mr. Conn Donovan

Deputy Ó Broin mentioned potential active leadership or getting active travel infrastructure projects over the line. There is a massive need in Ireland to market these campaigns and to sell them to people and change the narrative. We are spending almost €1 million a day on these projects, but I often do not see money that actually sells the message of why we need them. Compared with the UK, Manchester and London both have cycling commissioners, and they are people who have great skill sets and are very senior, perhaps almost to the level of a Deputy, who can go on the media, visit communities and market those campaigns. Perhaps one of the reasons we have stronger and stronger bike advocacy groups around the country is that there is probably a lack of leadership, and those groups are forming and going into an empty vacuum to promote projects.

It is a huge honour for me to be here today, but I am primary school teacher. I go back to senior infants tomorrow. There should be someone on the radio tomorrow in Cork selling the message of why we need active travel, why we need to take road space away and the challenges we are facing regarding public health and climate action. Cycling commissioners for each of our regional cities who can sell the message the schemes would be very important.

Dr. Cathal FitzGerald

Before outlining a couple of recommendations, it is fair to say that town developments are ideal locations for social and affordable housing with the institutions driving them. All of the case studies we looked at without exception had social and affordable housing at their core. That said, with housing development and supply, in particular, affordability has to be engineered in.

That brings me to the two recommendations from the council. The first one would be a cost rental scheme at scale - a national scheme beyond pilots - with modest supply-side subsidies in terms of the land or through finance. It would be a useful existing mechanism at scale.

The second recommendation would be policy innovation around new off-balance sheet financial instruments.

Patient capital and finance could come in in advance of development and we could use our ingenuity and innovation to work within balance sheet and fiscal rules.

One recommendation uses the mechanisms we already have in cost rental and the other is some policy innovation around patient finance off-balance sheet. They would be the two I would go for, otherwise there is no guarantee that the supply would be transport orientated or affordable.

There are three very strong messages coming forward in much of that, which are relate to communication, collaboration and leadership. Those themes would encompass much of what has just been recommended.

It is my slot for questions now. Mr. Donovan gave the example of the Merwede district in Utrecht and said they planned that cycling infrastructure with several decades of investment. Ireland, on the other hand, spent several decades planning for cars. That is why we have such a car culture and urban sprawl. It was planned and that was the way it was naturally going to follow. How do we, with urgency, bring about behavioural change and the change the climate requires? How are we going to develop sustainably as well? How do we bring that in quickly? We do not have decades, like the Utrecht model, to reverse this. How do we do it quickly?

Mr. Conn Donovan

There may be a misconception in Ireland that people in the Netherlands cycle because it is flat or the weather is conducive to cycling. The reality is that much money and much time was spent promoting cycling and active travel. Meanwhile, perhaps the opposite happened in Ireland. For every car that was on the road in Ireland in 1990, there are now three. Nobody asked us about that. There was not any policy position taken, but that has happened. We need to play catch-up very quickly. In our cities and in some of our towns, we need to get the modal share targets that our European colleagues have now in about eight to ten years if we are going to hit any of our climate change targets. Big projects are slow and take a lot of time. They can get stuck in planning and there can be planning paralysis. We need to look at many pieces of the puzzle and see what places we can slot in more quickly.

Dr. D'Arcy mentioned things such as permeable streets and filtered permeability. Things like that can be done very quickly. We saw for Covid how quickly things can be deployed. Low-hanging fruit such as 30 km/h zones are very quick interventions that do not take much time or millions of euros of investment or long planning yet can produce results.

We need to look at perhaps 15 solutions and categories in terms of how long they will take, and do the quickest ones today. There is no reason there is not a 30 km/h zone in the vast majority of Irish urban areas. The way we are doing it at the moment seems to be street by street. If we continue that way, it will take decades. The vast majority of people in Europe who live in towns and cities live in 30 km/h zones. It is frightening to cycle on a road where there is no cycle provision when a car passes you doing double or sometimes even triple your speed.

There are many solutions. We need to look at the ones that will bring results quickly, but we also need to look at ones that will take longer.

Dr. D'Arcy raised her hand.

Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy

There is much we can do in relation to access to bicycles. We spoke to people about what would help them to make those changes. There are great Bike Life studies being done at the moment. We worked on a European project called DIAMOND where one of our topics was around surveys on gender and bicycle sharing. One of our key findings was that women of low or no income said bicycle sharing gave them one of the greatest opportunities, because for €20 per year they had access to the equivalent of a Dublinbikes or city bikes. They asked for more child seats or cargo bike options. They said they could not afford to buy a car or bicycle.

The bike to work scheme is great but it is incentivised in a way that the more someone earns, the better the discount they get. We are not reaching everyone in society and we do not reach our students. We have to look at people's life change stages and talk to them about how we can get them on bikes. We need to make it safer for people who are reluctant to cycle because they have a child. How can we get someone who moves to a new city on a bike? We have to think about those behavioural issues and individual concerns as well as the infrastructure. As I said, urban greenways and filter permeability are some of the quickest, easiest and cheapest things we can do.

I have another question on road space allocation or creating those kind of safer walking routes that require the taking away of car parking spaces. It is always contentious when this is discussed at council level. Local businesses always say they will lose business because people cannot park outside the business they want to go to. I know TU Dublin has done a study on Blackrock and from what I have read, it indicates an increase in footfall and probably an increase in economic activity where a change is made. This was again distorted by Covid-19. Do we have any really good research from before Covid-19 that takes in where we have given over that road space allocation and prioritised pedestrianisation and where local businesses have benefited rather than lost out from the loss of car parking spaces?

It is an argument we see time and again at council level and councillors often give in to that lobbying, not taking the difficult decision that would probably after six months of a trial show as beneficial. Where have we really good examples of this in Ireland or Europe? I would prefer an Irish example.

Ms Alison Harvey

Tralee is worth looking at as well because there has been collaboration in that respect. That started with the collaborative town centre health check, CTCHC, programme we did a few years ago and those relationships continued. During Covid-19, the engineers met the people from the chamber on a regular basis to ensure they were happy in terms of space and widening of pavements etc. Tralee has really jumped in with help from Kerry County Council and the chamber. It is definitely worth a look. The vacancy rate we discovered when we did the baseline was 24%, which was very high, so those networks that were created are really important. This goes back to what we said about participation and a collaborative approach.

Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy

I refer to a project I worked on when I was doing consultancy before I returned to academia. It involved Oliver Plunkett St. in Cork. We worked on surveys in the area and spoke to many shopkeepers who shared those concerns. They were really worried about that. We did much engagement and when pedestrianisation was introduced, there was an initial drop in footfall but four years later, it won European street of the year. There is a phase in behaviour change; generally there is an initial drop-off and then we find there is an increase in time when people become more familiar with the change and the street becomes a destination to be enjoyed.

We have not traditionally done evaluations in Ireland. We have anecdotally great examples, including Tralee and other places all around the country where we can find people speaking locally about them. We have not been formally evaluating them and this is a real strength of the project in Blackrock, where we have done such an evaluation.

In the Cork project and numerous places, I have noticed shopkeeper concerns about parking spaces outside their shops but we have found, more often than not, the shopkeepers themselves are parking in those spaces. We must be aware of that. Thinking about people's behaviour we must also understand that people fear change. We must understand their concerns. They might not want to say they have nowhere to park their cars so we must work with them and allow them to outline their concerns.

Does a trial over 12 months, for example, give people a certain amount of comfort that the measure may not be permanent and could be reversed? When they see the results, people may want more of it. That has been my experience of the process in most cases, although in some cases the plan has not gone perfectly well. Is the trial a good "method" to put before a council?

Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy

Yes, quite frankly.

That is a clear and concise answer.

Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy

It should be for an extended period. Not only does this allow people to say they do not want the change but it also gives an opportunity to highlight limitations in a project and what people might like to see done differently or better.

Ms Alison Harvey

To clarify the Tralee example, those relationships have continued and it was not a pilot. I was sort of trying to highlight the CTCHC project we did in 2017. A few months later, Tralee won an award as the most enterprising town in Ireland as well. As I said at the start, we are trying to create social capital and empower people, ensuring they can hear each other and start to listen. Tralee is definitely a good example.

There are many people who wish to contribute but I cannot see who they are. I will move to the next slot and we will have time to come back to this. There are 40 minutes left for another round of questioning.

I apologise as my computer speakers were muted and I understand the Chairman was trying to get me to shut up the last time.

I was going to call you.

I hope to be brief. In adding to Dr. D'Arcy's point, we hope that in the miscellaneous provisions legislation we will soon introduce the experimental traffic orders regulation, which will be critical in enabling local authorities to do those trials without fear of ending up in the High Court. That will be really important.

On the same point, I have spoken with a senior planner in Utrecht in the Netherlands. He said that even in the Netherlands they always had difficulty persuading businesses to change a street, remove parking, introduce cycle lanes, widen footpaths or whatever it might be. In that country they have a compensation package and if the business can demonstrate that it has been affected by the change to the public realm, it can be compensated. The evidence is they never have to pay out because 98% of the time the businesses do better when the work is done.

I go back to a question I asked previously but I did not leave the witnesses with enough time to answer. That question relates to the national planning framework and I direct it to the witnesses from NESC and TU Dublin. Will they comment on the national planning framework and whether it is fit for purpose? Would they like to see a substantial review of it in 2024? As I said earlier, my concern is that it allows for much development outside our urban settlements, thus diminishing the potential of our towns and villages.

Dr. Cathal FitzGerald

We looked at the national planning framework and the extent to which it sort of provided the overall vision for a transport-oriented development. In setting this out there are statements around compact growth, use of brownfield sites and sustainable mobility objectives. I suppose that although it is on a statutory basis and legislative footing etc., we are expecting it to sit on the top of a hierarchy of plans, with its vision flowing down through the myriad of plans below it at regional assembly level and with the National Transport Authority plans for the greater Dublin area, as well as local authorities. It is probably not enough in terms of actual implementation. We must go to the lower-level plans to see the extent to which they set out where a transport-oriented development will be, what the density and mix will be, for example, or how this is to be funded. Rather than making a criticism of the national planning framework, this is a comment on the extent to which it relies on a hierarchical trickle of authority into those other plans.

An important finding is that there should be a good and fair assessment of what is compact growth on new greenfield or brownfield sites. We should consider whether brownfield sites fit the definition. The council in its most recent report has said we must look again at how we assess, designate and monitor sites to ensure the targets within the national planning framework are being complied with.

Mr. Noel Cahill

The national planning framework allows greenfield development and it would be interesting to know the date on the balancing of greenfield and brownfield development. The target is 50% each for greenfield and brownfield development. My sense is we would probably be doing well to achieve 50% brownfield development. It is also important to consider the type of greenfield development.

The greenfield also can be more or less compact. One can try to get more compact, good, new urban development that is well linked with public transport, walking, cycling and so forth.

Mr. David O'Connor

I can come in here with a few points to endorse what has been said. It would be a good idea to review the targets. When the national planning framework, NPF, was released, the targets seemed ambitious. I thought many of them were simply unachievable, especially for the more rural towns and villages. I thought we would never do that because we would never have, first, that type of public investment and, second, what was being called for, which was more or less a migration back to these smaller towns. Covid has proved us all wrong on that and that has been very welcome. Let us review the targets, even if it is 40% in cities and 50% outside urban areas. A lot of that is in smaller towns and villages. If it is reviewed, importantly, it must be tied into those provisions within Housing for All we have mentioned, particularly the land value capture and the urban development zones, and the public investment through Project Tosaigh and the Croí Cónaithe fund to activate those sites that otherwise will not be activated and to regenerate the public spaces to make the towns more attractive so people will want to go there. It should be tied into Housing for All and we should make sure to hot-wire that public investment, because otherwise it simply will not happen.

Deputy Ó Broin has alluded to the fact the issue of compact development is really an issue of affordability. There are some interesting studies by Professor Patrick Le Galès. As people become higher income and more middle class, they start to move out, but as they become higher income again and upper middle class, they start to move back in. People do not want to move away. They want to move in and live with other people, but it is simply a question of affordability. Affordable housing, and activating it through the Land Development Agency and helping local authorities to deliver housing where it is needed, is going to be key. Then, if we are developing the smaller rural towns and villages, it is to connect these places. It is almost like regional BusConnects type programmes. The connecting Ireland strategy is very important there as well.

Does Ms Harvey wish to come in on that question?

Ms Alison Harvey

Yes, I will add a few points. We need a data driven system. We have to examine that. The OECD has made recommendations in an interesting report in 2019 on a data-driven public sector and the pathway to a data-driven public sector in Ireland. That is very important. Ms Teehan and I have stressed that the programme we have set up is data driven and that creates public value in itself. It also leads to the democratisation of data, which is also important.

I wish to highlight the upper floors of the town centres. The vacancy levels we are looking at are 80% plus. The vacancy rates I gave the committee related to commercial, ground-floor retail. There is a lot of potential there. The problem is we do not have the data and we do not know the buildings' condition, so we need to get stuck into that if we are going to reuse and target our town centres. In addition, we would need a national enabling policy to free up how we do infill, try to pay to do up the traditional front of the building and deal with the conservation deficit in the financial model.

I will call Deputy Gould. We will have time for a fourth round so members can raise their hands again. Deputy Ó Broin is indicating and I am indicating. If anybody else wishes to speak, we might be able to have five-minute slots.

I have a few questions so I will try to be brief.

You have seven minutes.

Mr. Donovan from Cork Cycling Campaign spoke earlier about changing attitudes, changing the message, trying to get people to buy into that and - Chairman, you touched on this - changing people's behaviour, their attitudes and the culture of society at present regarding the car. Society is about the car instead of it being about walking, cycling and using public transport.

Mr. Donovan mentioned what we need to do to change that. Perhaps he will comment a little more on that. Also, Dr. D'Arcy spoke about access to bicycles. She referred to the bike to work scheme being a great scheme for people who have decent jobs and wages. She also mentioned having a shared bicycle scheme, trying to get access to bicycles for more people, and making it cheaper and easier to access. Is there an example she would suggest in that regard?

With regard to the Heritage Council, the town health checks is an excellent idea. It is very positive. Does it work in an urban setting? My constituency of Cork North-Central includes Blackpool and Shannon Street. Blackpool is a village within a city. It has great heritage dating back hundreds of years. However, it has been neglected over the years, resulting in dereliction, vacancy and no investment in cycle lanes or green spaces and public parks. Looking at what happened in Blackrock, I would love to see something similar happening in Blackpool.

Ms Harvey spoke about vacancy. There is a report released today which says there are 90,100 vacant properties at present. In Cork, there are 8,880 between the city and county. These are a blight on the communities, and if we are going to make communities good places to live and have a good public realm, the issue of vacancy and dereliction must be tackled. Otherwise, these will not be communities in which people will want to live.

Mr. Conn Donovan

I spoke about some of the possible solutions. Much of the public awareness is about new cycle routes and new projects that encourage walking and cycling. What we probably need in each of the regional cities and in Dublin is a cycling strategy that sets out where we are going over the next five, six or seven years. It is not just the cycling network but things such as public bike share schemes, the maintenance of cycle paths and bike promotion. One thing that is desperately missing is a modal share target for cycling in cities. The cycling national framework from 2009 had a 10% target for 2020 for all trips to be by bicycle. In Cork we estimate, according to the last census, that it is probably 3.6% in the city and suburbs. Now we have the Cork metropolitan area transport strategy, CMATS, which is forecasting 4% by 2040. We need a target and we must know how we are going there and have a roadmap. We made that part of our public consultation and we brought people along. We could have a way to tell people the story of how we are going to get to where we need to be in a few years' time.

Ms Harvey has her hand up.

Ms Alison Harvey

Cork City Council approached us and asked us to work with it. It was the community development people in Cork City Council and it was interesting to get that inquiry. We are working with University College Cork, UCC, in Cork and doing the pilots in the city area for Blarney and Tower. We are doing the peer review of the data we have collected. Everything we do is peer reviewed before we release it. In fact, the person is coming down to do the peer review this week. I have also had inquiries from Galway and Dublin.

Given that I have said our waiting list is 45 to 50 towns, it is very unlikely we are going to do the city centres anytime soon unless we get the resources that were committed or promised under the programme for Government. However, the principles are still the same - to try to gather the data, to talk to the people and to do the participation. Also with regard to Cork, Cork county is on the waiting list as well.

It is a pity I have not been able to get down to Cork during the lockdown, but there is a wonderful team in Cork City Council. The conservation officer is working with us, as is the engineer. The planners are on board.

It will grow and grow. We have had inquiries about the area. We are talking about doing more. It depends on the resources. Only one person is involved.

I thank Ms Harvey. I had a question for Dr. D'Arcy on shared bikes.

Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy

I agree with the Deputy. Quite a lot is happening, but it might not be very visible in the public realm. Shared bikes are a great opportunity for people to try things out. Shared bike schemes in urban areas have great potential when they are linked with our public transport network for that last mile. There is also significant potential for them to take a second car in households off the road. We discussed equity of space. Car parking is the storage of private vehicles and private property. When people start to park on footpaths, that is generally a second car that does not fit on a driveway.

There is significant potential for e-bikes in places like Cork, where the topography can be a bit difficult for some people, in particular those who have not cycled for a number of years. There is a huge growth in the number of women aged in their 50s and 60s cycling on e-bikes. The cost of a good cargo e-bike is equivalent to the cost of a private car. Many households are now tied into that asset and will not necessarily get value from an e-bike. They are probably not willing to take the immediate risk of selling a car to buy an e-bike if it is not going to be suitable for them. A shared scheme where people can rent bikes and give them a go would be brilliant. Trips to school are a key issue.

I made another point on vacancy and dereliction. I am not sure if someone can answer my question on urban regeneration.

If Ms Harvey can take the question, I ask her to be brief.

Ms Alison Harvey

On compulsory sale orders, we held a webinar on what other countries in Europe do. The Scottish have a proposal on CSOs. To be fair to local authorities, a CPO is very hard to do. I dealt with them during arbitration hearings when I worked in the private sector. We need a range of tools. Clearly, if the vacancy rates are at the level I have said, which I want to highlight are not the norm, we need new and innovative ways of dealing with that. Economic theory backs up compulsory sale orders. Dereliction is an unproductive use of a building or land. Things need to shift.

We have questions from Deputy Ó Broin, me and Deputy Leddin. There are 20 minutes remaining. If we stick strictly to seven minutes per slot we will be able to get it done.

I will need less time because I want to make a couple of comments of my own rather than ask questions. The exchange on the national planning framework allows us to conclude on a really interesting place. While we have dealt with a wide range of issues, the primary function of the committee is housing and planning, with a small amount of urban regeneration built into that. It is to be hoped the recommendations we make to the Department and Minister will focus in the first instance on those, although not exclusively.

Part of the problem with the national planning framework and the fact that between 2018-21 we have not seen compact growth is in part because there is a time lag. For example, we have very large amounts of suburban and commuter belt development in Dublin, which involves planning permissions granted over ten or, in some cases, 15 years ago, well before the national planning framework. We need to start thinking about how we ensure planning or zoning decisions that were taken at an earlier stage are forced to catch up when there are significant changes in policy. Otherwise, there will be significant lags. Given the urgency around our climate targets, we do not have time to lose.

Likewise, we still do not have new rural planning guidelines or residential density guidelines from the Department, both of which have been enormously delayed. That creates huge confusion in local authorities and very mixed practice. The committee calling for those two sets of guidelines to be published as a matter of urgency is crucial.

I refer to the point made by Dr. D'Arcy on studies on suburban development and isolation. One of the small improvements is that where we are building new suburbs, such as Cherrywood, Adamstown and Clonburris, we are trying to make sure we do not make the same mistakes. Densities in Cherrywood, for all its problems, are significantly higher. Much of the infrastructure, including cycling infrastructure, was built before the houses. While there are greenfield developments, they are high density, mixed use and have active transport built in from the start. That is crucial.

Mr. O'Connor referred to affordability. Poolbeg is not a suburb, but it is an attempt to have high-density inner urban transport oriented development in a strategic development zone. There is no affordability in Poolbeg as it currently stands. In fact, there is a very difficult conversation to be had between a variety of Departments, Dublin City Council and the owners of the site. Currently, we are being told that the all-in development cost of a standard two-bedroom unit is €500,000 to €600,000. In an ideal world, we would be doing exactly what the NESC report outlined in 2019. Crucially, affordable homes are absent. Even social homes could be under question because the cost of purchasing Part 5 units could be above the Department's ceiling. Whether it is Poolbeg or the City Edge scheme, which is in the middle of the city rather than at the edge, taking into account those of us who live along the M50, affordability is key.

We are awaiting legislation from the Government on directly elected mayors. Many cities in other jurisdictions people have spoken about as being models of good practice have much stronger, and more democratically accountable and devolved, local and regional government. I am saying these things almost as a checklist because we have to put them into our recommendations. I thank all of the contributors today. I learned tonnes from the presentations. They have been exceptionally useful.

Does anybody wish to comment on the important points raised by Deputy Ó Broin, especially directly elected mayors and local powers to be able to carry out certain functions?

Mr. Conn Donovan

The point on directly elected mayors is important. The Mayor of Paris, Ms Anne Hildago, has brought about change in the past three years. She has a vision for the city and a mandate to bring that vision forward. It is very clear where the city is going. It is taking hugely ambitious steps to get to be the city it wants to be. We would love to see that vision in Irish cities. It is not just about cycle lanes; it is about changing the whole feeling and character of a city. It would be an important step. Limerick is moving ahead with it and there was a vote in Cork. It is something to think about for the future. It would give people more of a chance to buy in to change. We would know where the city is going for a five-year period.

I thank Mr. Donovan.

Mr. David O'Connor

I thank the Chair. I agree that Deputy Ó Broin made important points. The point was well made in The Irish Times at the weekend that we should not forget the importance and what used to be the pre-eminence of local authorities and local development plans. National guidelines are very important, but local authorities comprise elected representatives who make the plan and, as was mentioned, that is a contract with the people and they should be empowered to make the plan for themselves. Directly elected mayors can strengthen that system in cities.

The point on Poolbeg is interesting. I would like to see a future where local authorities are well skilled and empowered so that places like Poolbeg are put under pressure in terms of attractiveness, as well as places in north and west Dublin and regional cities so that there is an evenness and equality of space. It is to be hoped that is a future we can envisage and plan for.

Dr. Cathal FitzGerald

I want to echo the point that the vision to deliver growth in French mid-size cities was, in almost all cases, preceded by a vision set out by directly elected mayors. Even before the institution came together to solve the collaboration and collective action problems, the vision was set out by directly elected mayors in those cases. It is an important factor.

I thank Dr. FitzGerald. It is importance to have the leadership, vision and ability to communicate why we are doing something and what we expect the good result to be.

Ms Harvey has consistently referred to this aspect as well, namely, the collaboration that is required to ensure a plan is not seen as being solely that of the Government, the council or the planners, but rather as a town's plan that will bring together all the people and stakeholders involved. That will ensure a plan has more buy-in, which is critically important.

I have a slot for my questions now. Starting with the witnesses from NESC, one of its recommendations detailed earlier concerned the development of large-scale cost-rental schemes serviced by high-frequency, reliable, affordable and comfortable public transport. Regarding that recommendation, does the LDA, as set up, have the power and ability to pull together the land management elements to enable it to have the required influence on transport policy and infrastructure to realise it?

Dr. Cathal FitzGerald

The establishment of the LDA as a statutory body is important. Its primary objectives of sustainable urban development and affordable housing are correct. In that regard, it must be equipped with a planning role and the tools to assemble land, including the ability to use CPOs, adopt a master planning approach and harness the land value capture aspect. Those elements are probably still not fully attached to the agency. If it is to fulfil its initial objectives, encompassing regeneration as well as the development of public lands, and assemble lands for those purposes, and even if it does not exercise CPO powers, what we have seen from European examples is these types of agencies operating in the shadow of the law. They do not necessarily have to invoke some of their powers. The ability of such bodies to bring actors together in these undertakings, including landholders, to realise a master plan on a statutory footing is important. Therefore, the establishment of the LDA has been an important development. From our engagement with it, I know the agency is ambitious about what it is trying to do. The LDA is an important player in almost all the examples I cited in the opening statement concerning where TOD is beginning to emerge. My colleague Mr. Cahill may also wish to contribute on this question.

Mr. Noel Cahill

Briefly, the LDA is initiating some promising cost-rental developments. Its proposed projects are the largest developments of this type planned to date, and the agency is well positioned to undertake these large-scale cost-rental developments. Given the scale of the housing challenge, however, very large-scale provision of cost-rental developments will be needed to really make a difference to rental affordability.

I thank Mr. Cahill. For everyone's information, the chair-designate of the LDA will be in with the committee next Thursday at 5.30 p.m., so we will probably be able to follow up on some of these questions then as well.

Regarding planning, I refer to situations where we seek to develop the derelict upper, second-floor and third-floor levels of buildings where people once lived over shops. Those buildings were once used commercially but never will be again. In the context of trying to adapt those buildings for residential use, often the ability of those wishing to undertake such development is curtailed regarding the public realm, including extending the footpaths outside doors, for example. It is hard to encourage people to live in such buildings in town centres if they will be stepping out onto busy streets with only a narrow footpath, perhaps 2 ft or 3 ft wide, in front of them. Much of the required development in this context is needed outside these buildings. How do we pull together public realm design and endeavours to address dereliction and vacancy on the upper floors of buildings to enable the development of residential opportunities? How can we focus the local authority in respect of developing the public realm facet, while at the same time focusing on the redevelopment or reuse of vacant buildings? Ms Harvey has indicated that she wishes to contribute on this matter.

Ms Alison Harvey

Returning to the Dutch delegation that came over to us in June 2019, they went through designs they had worked up to extend the space in front of shops by 2 m to produce private space in the public realm. We are all taken by those designs, because some retail units will never return to that previous use, but hopefully some will. Perhaps the independents will come in, but that all remains to be worked out. A design-led solution exists, however, and the Dutch are implementing it. As I said, they are consolidating their town centres, and we could send information on that approach to the committee.

I thank Ms Harvey. I am out of time for my questions. I wanted to get into master planning in this context and at the lower level of local areas, but I will move on to the last member to pose questions. I call Deputy Leddin.

I think we would all agree that we could stay for much longer to interrogate this subject because it is so interesting. We will produce a good report from this session. Regarding accessibility and urban freight, both topics are frequently used as excuses for not changing the configuration of our streets. Again harking back to a trip to the Netherlands, I am reminded of an experience where I saw many more people with disabilities than I would see here at home. It struck me that because the Netherlands has a coherent and complete cycle network that it doubles up as a network for people who use various kinds of mobility devices. I ask the witnesses to comment on the accessibility arguments in this context and to bring some informed knowledge to this facet of the discussion.

Similarly, concerning urban freight and last-mile delivery, it is often argued that delivery vans, typically white, must be able to access our small streets to make deliveries and keep businesses going. Outside my office here in Dublin, though, is a cargo hub. I think it involves DHL or UPS, or one of those parcel companies, and it is run by Dublin City Council. A trailer full of parcels and deliveries is left in that spot each morning. Cargo bikes then come and go from it all day long to collect and deliver the parcels to businesses all around the city. Will the witnesses also elaborate on the public health co-benefits of much of what we have been talking about today? Not enough is said about how important it is to improve air quality, reduce noise pollution, etc., and I would appreciate it if the witnesses could contribute more to the discussion on this aspect.

To whom is that question directed?

I am not sure. It could be for the witnesses from TU Dublin, but I see that the representative of the Cork Cycling Campaign has indicated.

Mr. Donovan had his hand up first, so I will bring him in.

Mr. Conn Donovan

This is an important question. We are trying to reduce the number of people needing to travel into city centres by car. We must also appreciate, however, that there will continue be a requirement for access by car and that some people will rely on cars for such access. If we are going to retain on-street parking, we must realise that it must be reserved for people who need it. Fingal County Council has good examples of putting in place small mobility hubs where there is blue-badge and age-friendly parking. Bike hubs are located next to those spaces. Therefore, the days of leaving on-street parking as just a free-for-all must come to an end. If we are going to keep on-street parking, which, realistically, we must on many streets, then it should be provided to people who require and rely on it.

Dr. D'Arcy has her hand raised.

Dr. Lorraine D'Arcy

On the question about accessibility, this is not about preventing everyone from driving into urban centres. It is about ensuring that those who need to drive into urban centres can do so in the most efficient way possible, while also providing anyone who does not need to drive with full support to walk, cycle or use whatever mode of travel they may choose which is the most efficient for them.

It is not about stopping people; it is about empowering people.

We also know there are quite a number of people with disabilities who cannot drive and, therefore, require a caregiver to bring them places. That, in turn, puts an additional burden on the carer. Recent work done by one of our students found that to access these carers and people with disabilities to interview them around public transport interchanges, it was so hard to get them primarily because they are so burdened by all the stresses they have. They do not necessarily engage in public consultation. We need to think more creatively about how we get real and valuable information from them. One of the things we have done is create a walkability app, with an international consortium, that we hope to get up and running. The Walk21 conference that we will be hosting this year is being co-funded by the Department of Health, the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, and the Department of Transport. It is an interdisciplinary conversation about how we can better learn from each other and collect these metrics, such as air quality, physical activity and the delay in dementia, for example, if one lives in a more walkable area, and how we can incorporate that into the justification for our projects and funding.

Dr. Sarah Rock

I wish to make a small additional point to that quickly. It was good to hear Dr. D'Arcy raise the issue of public health co-benefits. Using air quality as an example, without sounding too dramatic, poor air quality is one of our biggest silent killers in urban areas, so much so that about half of new asthma cases in Irish urban cities can be attributed to poor air quality due to traffic, which is an astounding figure. That is based on an international study of air quality by The Lancet.

We have a massive knowledge deficit around that area. I know it is something the EPA is working on with regard to additional monitors. That is something we need to know about because we can taste it in the air but we cannot really see it that much. People do not know about relationships between traffic, for example, and air quality. The WHO recently changed its guidelines around what it considers to be an acceptable level of risk when it comes to air quality. We might be quite surprised to find how much we would fail in that area, but there are lots of things we can do. Low emission zones are an important aspect. Even measures like widening footpaths and adding street trees. Not only do we improve the pedestrian experience but we have an ability to start to improve our air quality. I believe that is a critical issue.

I have a small point to make about the freight hubs. We should, absolutely, be integrating with logistics a lot more. That is the whole multidisciplinary side of things. There is huge potential there for mobility hubs, particularly for the last mile or last few kilometres of journeys. Freight is changing; there is no doubt about it. Reference was made to what was outside the window, and that is happening all around the world. There is a significant area there that we have the potential to tap into as well.

Dr. Cathal FitzGerald

I will make a quick point on public health. It goes back to research that was undertaken during the early stages of the pandemic. It was felt the density that was key to transport-oriented development, which makes them so useful and deals with other secondary benefits, was also linked to vulnerability to infection. Some of the early data indicated that the highest infection and mortality rates were in the more dense cities and metropolitan areas. We must remember that research subsequent to this found that there were different types of density and that the resources of the people living in those high density locations rather than the density per se was leading to some of those infection rates, including people's ability to take time off if they are symptomatic, etc., and the fiscal resources of the communities and the services available to them. Insofar as TODs are provision of services as well as provision of public transport, we must remember that it is not density per se that is linked to these types of problems, but the nature of the people living in the dense location.

Ms Harvey and Dr. Rock have indicated that they wish to come in. Is that an old hand raised, Mr. Donovan? It is a new hand.

We will go first to Ms Harvey and then Dr. Rock.

Ms Alison Harvey

I wish to make a quick point. Step 12 of our 15 steps in the baseline phase 1 is air and noise quality. I wish to make everybody aware of that.

I will let Dr. Rock have the last word as we are about to finish up.

Dr. Sarah Rock

Sorry. That was an old hand from earlier.

Ms Harvey has actually had the last word then. We are out of time. It has been three hours of fascinating discussion and the committee appreciates the expertise of the witnesses and the time they have given the committee and their opening statements. It is quite obvious the role we have as a committee is focused on housing, planning, local government and heritage, but we have definitely gone into the arena of the committees on transport and climate. It shows how they are inextricably linked. I note something from many of the opening statements. They did not stress the importance of compact growth on climate action. This seems to be something that was missing from many of the opening statements. To me, this is one of the driving forces behind this. I know carbon reduction was mentioned in some of them, but to me this should be the driving force behind it.

We talked about affordability in housing as well. Having to travel long distances because a house is affordable, far away from where a person works, is not affordable for many people. The cost of the fuel used is only going in one direction. We have to cover so many areas. We talked about health, the cleaner air in our communities and all those benefits that accrue from developing, and bring life and living back into our rural towns. We talked about the working from home and digitalisation that we will see. In the past, people got up early in the morning to leave their town and came back late at night because of the commute. They only barely saw their town at the weekend. However, now that there is an opportunity to work from home, we have come to realise the importance of having those nice spaces around us. When you walk on a wide footpath, there is a sense of safety about it. When you see those green spaces and trees, there is a sense of well-being. Intrinsically, we know what we want as humans and it is about us providing that leadership, collaboration and communication about where we are trying to get to.

I thank the witnesses for their time. This is our second meeting on this topic. We will have a third meeting next week. I wish to correct something I said earlier. Our meeting with the chair designate of the LDA, Mr. Cormac O'Rourke, is actually at 1.30 p.m. next Thursday and not 5.30 p.m. as I had said.

The joint committee adjourned at 6.03 p.m. until 1.30 p.m. on Thursday, 20 January 2022.