‘15-minute city’ plans already in place in Paris and Melbourne
Dublin could become a '15-minute city' under an ambitious plan drawn up by city businesses.
The idea from Dublin Chamber of Commerce is that, through radically revamped planning, people would be able to get to work, shops, essential services and leisure facilities within a 15-minute walk or cycle from their home.
It would put an end to the practice of segregating the city into parcels characterised by a single purpose, such as office districts, residential areas, shopping zones and entertainment strips.
The Chamber says a greater blend of uses would cut commuting, car use, congestion and pollution and make Dublin an all-round healthier, more vibrant and more liveable city.
Paris, where the term '15-minute city' or 'la ville du quart d'heure' was coined, has adopted the idea as policy, but other cities have been working on similar concepts.
Melbourne's '20-minute neighbourhoods' are an example, while Barcelona's 'superblocks' have also helped transform how the city functions.
Dublin Chamber spokesman Graeme McQueen said arranging the city in this way could have prevented some of the ghost town scenes that emerged when workers vanished during the most restrictive periods of lockdown.
"The model that's been created for Dublin is one where people flush in and out of the city, morning and night, and when they stop, whole areas have no purpose and no life.
"Our vision is that every corner of the city would be a vibrant community in its own right so that the whole city has a life."
Iconic districts such as the Grafton Street and Henry Street shopping areas and the IFSC and Docklands financial and business hubs would not be threatened, the chamber says, but much more mixed use should be encouraged on brownfield sites available for regeneration.
The 2km restriction on movement introduced in the early days of Covid-19 had brought the benefits into focus, the chamber's 15 Minute City report says.
"People across the country became increasingly aware of their local facilities, and what they did and did not have access to within a 2km radius," it says.
The concept would require more co-ordination between the four Dublin local authorities and could be assisted by the introduction of a directly elected mayor to provide overview and leadership, the chamber says.
Changes to the planning process would be needed, including the end of the automatic right to appeal planning permissions.
The chamber argues these unnecessarily add a year to a planning application when many concerns and objections could be addressed by way of amendments and undertakings.
"Things just take too long. There are good ideas, but they get side-tracked and bogged down. There are aspects of the planning system that need to be looked at to see whether they are relevant for the current day," Mr McQueen said.
All four local authority development plans are coming up for review soon and the chamber says the 15-minute concept should be central to the new plans.
The chamber also wants a pilot programme established in one community in each of the four areas to see how the concept could be implemented.
Dublin's local authorities have moved quickly to install new cycle lanes and trial increased pedestrianisation since the Covid-19 restrictions placed limits on the number of passengers public transport can carry.
The chamber says these changes would support the 15-minute concept which places a big emphasis on the walkability of city neighbourhoods.
But the chamber also wants continued investment in public transport so that, while every resident has essential services close by, they also find it easy to travel anywhere in the city.
That was particularly important to ensure equal access to specialist services, such as hospitals or large entertainment venues which, by their nature, could not be replicated in 15-minute blocks.
Meanwhile, a glut of office space in the city could see some buildings converted to a mix of homes, shops and small business units which could help kick off the kind of mixed development the 15-minute city concept has in mind.