It is importance that the Galway City Development Plan 2023-2029 include the provision of – and support for – residential housing for all socioeconomic groups and diverse family units to be developed throughout the city centre. Providing such multipurpose and varied residential housing and accommodation within the city centre areas is extremely important for Galway’s future viability and sustainability. Proper planning practice encourages the development of residential housing for different types of people of various ages, income and backgrounds, and not just single purpose use such as student accommodation. Providing city centre residential housing encourages families to once again live in the city and to work, shop, and enjoy all that Galway City centre has to offer. Diverse housing options are a cornerstone for the redevelopment and regeneration of neighbourhoods, and it has been proven that housing investment and development of this nature has a powerful and positive effect on a neighbourhood’s vitality.
First Principle of City Planning: Get people to live in the city
There is clear consensus among those who plan, maintain and study cities that it is essential they find ways to enable and encourage people to live in them. Cities that use planning and public policy to enable people to live in the city centre, and near city centre neighbourhoods, are more economically and culturally viable, and more sustainable. We know this because in the 1960’s and 1970’s cities made a variety of planning and public policy mistakes that ended up hollowing out the city centres of many across the world. The problems were multifaceted but at their core city leaders failed to focus on enabling people of different socioeconomic backgrounds, family size, age and income, to live in their cities and provide the kind of amenities and policing that made urban living attractive and safe. One of the biggest mistakes made was to think of the city as a place to be commuted to for work and left again at night. This kind of thinking left large parts of many cities bereft of life after working hours. Another mistake was to concentrate social housing in only certain areas. Viable and sustainable approaches to city centre regeneration require that we integrate where people live with where they work and socialise. This integration and meshing of residential uses and people of all backgrounds has always been at the core of urban living and thankfully it is once again being embraced in many cities across the globe. Making the city viable requires enabling people to live in the city again, encouraging a mixture of residential uses, and improving its public realm. Galway needs to be mindful of this as it chooses its pathway to develop and grow as a vibrant city over the next two decades.
Benefits of Living in Galway’s City Centre for People and the Environment
By encouraging people and families of all socioeconomic backgrounds and size to live in the city, Galway will benefit by having:
- Less Traffic: Urban residents can walk to attain their daily needs for exercise, to socialise or for community activism. They can also easily make use of the public transport system. Galway has a severe traffic problem; providing housing in places where people do not need to drive cars daily is a key part of solving our traffic problem
- Having families living in the city centre will regenerate the life of the city and add to the sporting, cultural and economic vibrancy and sustainability of Galway
- More residential apartments, flats and housing: Galway is in serious need of more housing units of various types and as of this writing the lack of available housing in Galway is severe. There are significant tracks of land available within the city centre to build more residential apartment, flats and housing
- More eyes on the street reduces crime and anti-social behaviour: ‘Eyes on the street’ provide informal surveillance of the urban environment. For residents and visitors to move safely through the streets, other people need to be present, contributing to a general atmosphere of safety and welcome
- More business for local shops, restaurants, and pubs: This is important especially when tourist numbers are low in the winter and during economic downturns. Having people living in the city sustains local businesses on all levels
- A Lower carbon footprint for the city: Less driving and the economies of scale associate with urban living will reduce Galway’s overall carbon emissions
- More walking and cycling and public transport use enable increased physical activity and reduces general healthcare costs and air pollution.
Considering these benefits, it is imperative that the Galway City Development Plan 2023-2029 include the need, and support for, the development of multipurpose residential accommodation for people of various ages, family composition, income and backgrounds, particularly in the city centres area.
Submitted to Stage 1 ‘Pre-Draft’ the first phase of public consultation on Friday 5th March 2021