Sir, – Michael McDowell questions, mainly in a Dublin city and suburban context, whether urban renewal can be encouraged to become more congruent in terms of visual relationship with neighbouring buildings and speculates whether “the planners, the architects and the elected members of local government” can strive to oversee new construction planning with “visual style and grace” (“Who considers the aesthetics of our cities?”, Opinion & Analysis, June 7th).
In this vein, more attention ought to be given to the opportunities that the incorporation of a community-led village design statement (VDS) approach in more urban areas could provide. Evident in Senator McDowell’s former Dáil constituency, a pilot VDS scheme was adopted in Sandymount over 10 years ago in partnership with Dublin City Council which, despite its relative age, remains a good template of co-operation between a local community, councillors and council officials to set out a shared vision for an urban village that others could follow.
For the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Development Plan 2022-28, local councillors voted to include continuance of a policy objective encouraging and supporting the community in the preparation of VDS initiatives, where it has been tentatively suggested that Foxrock and Killiney could be potential areas for pilot approaches in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown to be undertaken in this context. A VDS approach could seek collaboration on village design principles in these areas, garnering feedback ideally through public consultations on suggestions for more holistic and sympathetic future construction. A VDS initiative could also entail seeking views on supporting built heritage and conservation, public realm improvements, as well as biodiversity protection and enhancement.
At present, Government funding support for rural VDS statements can be derived from the rural-themed Town and Village Renewal Scheme (as was the case with a recent VDS prepared for Hacketstown in Carlow), along with separate part funding from the Heritage Council (which is available for both rural and urban areas). The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage should contemplate similar full funding support to be made available for urban VDS statement preparation and a resolution from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council was previously unanimously agreed by local councillors calling for this to be introduced.
Nevertheless, despite an effective disparity in available funding support between rural-based and urban-based VDS initiatives, often in urban areas there would already be sufficient scope for professionals with a relevant background in urban design to contribute to VDS initiatives in a volunteer capacity to help guide preferences in their own area of residence.
The core objectives of the points made in Senator McDowell’s article in terms of improving urban design approaches should be supported but instead of including just council officials and local politicians in such deliberation, as he has referred to, local communities also should be permitted to contribute more, and a stronger emphasis on village design statements across local and national government would address that goal. – Yours, etc,
Cllr JOHN KENNEDY,
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council Offices,