Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Integrating Ballymun? Flawed Progress in Ireland's Largest Estate Regeneration Scheme

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Integrating Ballymun? Flawed Progress in Ireland's Largest Estate Regeneration Scheme

Article excerpt

Urban regeneration in the Republic of Ireland takes place in the context of the rapid, 'Celtic Tiger' economic growth of the 1990s. The boom transformed Irish society and led to greater affluence for many people, along with continuing and arguably worsening inequality for those excluded from its opportunities. In particular, Ireland's small social rented sector has become the focus of the country's most concentrated poverty and social exclusion. The Ballymun regeneration programme in North Dublin aims to facilitate physical, social and economic change in order to integrate the area more closely with the more affluent surrounding suburbs. This article reviews the issues involved in restructuring such a large area of social exclusion within a rapidly changing European capital city, using a framework that disaggregates the concept of integration into three elements: market, citizenship and reciprocity. With just over half the physical refurbishment complete, progress has been made but some fundamental issues remain. The article concludes that although substantial advancement has been made with physical regeneration, progress with wider economic and social integration has been uneven and in some cases flawed.

Ballymun in Dublin is famous internationally as an icon of failed public housing. The large peripheral estate development (Figure 1) was the outcome of a major public housing intervention and the brief adoption of industrialised procurement and construction methods by the Irish government in the mid-1960s, in response to a housing crisis in the old tenements of inner city Dublin (Power, 2000). Its 4,800 dwellings included six fifteen-storey flat blocks and thirty eight- and four-storey blocks, by far the highest proportion of flats in any part of Dublin (Norris and Murray, 2004). Conditions in Ballymun deteriorated during the 1970s and 1980s; for example, the condition and management of the blocks, the concentration of vulnerable tenants, and widespread drug use (Power, 1997; Somerville-Wood, 2002). In the mid-1980s, many of the economically active residents moved away due to the introduction of a financial incentive scheme to relinquish their tenancy. Small-scale refurbishment was carried out in the early 1990s, but the work was deemed only partly successful (Norris, 2001).

After further public pressure, Dublin Corporation (now Dublin City Council, DCC) gained the government's support in 1997 for a comprehensive regeneration programme managed by the special purpose vehicle Ballymun Regeneration Ltd (BRL). There were approximately 18,000 people living in Ballymun at that time, and deprivation was still severe. A regeneration masterplan was launched in 1998 (BRL, 1998a) after a local consultation process, and still forms the basis of the programme. The regeneration involves demolition of the system-built flats and replacement with houses, maisonettes and low-rise flats, plus an accompanying programme of social and economic development in order to 'integrate', 'connect' or 'link' Ballymun more closely into the wider urban area in social, economic and physical terms. Alongside BRL, many other state agencies, voluntary organisations, community groups and private sector companies are also involved in the regeneration of Ballymun.

The Masterplan included a strong commitment to transforming the nature and quality of Ballymun's built environment by replacing the monolithic system-built flats, poor quality community facilities and extensive unregulated green spaces with a new layout based on the existing five neighbourhoods already recognised by residents, new houses and flats of various designs in mainly small-scale schemes, high quality public and private sector buildings, an extensive use of public art, and imaginatively designed parks and play areas. There is evidence of much good quality design in the redevelopment, although it has come at a high price. The original cost was estimated at euro442m, but had risen to almost ? …

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