Urban v Rural


Unfortunately the problem with low density, ribbon development of our countryside isn’t just the ribbon development. You have been able to “better your lot” specifically because people like me stayed in Dublin; while my lot got worsened because people like you moved to the countryside.

Every move to the country means that it’s more difficult (if not impossible) to have properly functioning towns and cities. Public transport won’t work as it should as we don’t have the critical mass of people in our cities to make it profitable. The same is true for hospitals and centres of excellence, leading to a scenario where we have five hospitals in County Mayo to serve a county population of 130,000. “Centres of excellence” became a dirty phrase, but when you have a life threatening illness, where would you prefer to go to - the specialist in a centre of excellence who deals with illnesses like yours every day, or a rural GP who might see one case a decade? Increased urbanisation would result in fewer hospitals but better healthcare. The same is true for internet availability - lower capital costs and potentially faster broadband. The same is true for a Cork-Limerick-Galway counterbalance to an ever-expanding capital. The same is true for the arts, theatre, galleries. For universities. For the cost and supply of utilities: electricity, water, gas. For the viability of small towns (if you need to get in your car to drive to the shop, you’re as likely to drive 15 minutes to the nearest “big” town as you are 5 minutes to the local corner shop). For getting businesses to not only want to locate in Dublin.

We’re all interconnected whether we like it or not. Solar panels and driverless cars and teleworking won’t solve all the problems. Sometimes decisions need to be taken for the good of society, rather than the good of individuals. Choosing to live in the countryside isn’t a decision that only affects you, your kids and your ten rows of carrots. No man is an island. Not even those that live on one.


Well, I don’t think it really hurts people in Dublin that much; if anything, it frees up a bit of supply. It probably does hurt the other cities and especially the towns, though. It’s no-one’s fault, as such, at least not any private individual, but it probably does contribute to the problems Ireland has. It’s the culture (as is our insistence on the three bed semi); arguably the government should be trying to incentivise changing it more, but you can’t really blame individuals caught up in it.


should all live in apartments because its more efficient?


I don’t know. I guess we should just add it to those other questions, like:

  • should all wear seat belts and stay within speed limits because it’s safer?
  • should all not ingest hard drugs because it overloads our healthcare system and rewards criminality?
  • should all pay their taxes so that those with more can help those with less?
  • should all try to recycle and not indiscriminately burn fossil fuels because it’s better for the planet?
  • in what circumstances should the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the individual?

We already recognise that the decisions individuals make across many areas affects society as a whole. We insist that motorcyclists wear helmets, even though the only person they are putting at risk is themselves. Except it’s not, because the consequences of a motorcycle accident not just on the person but on the resources of our healthcare system are so great that we’ve put laws in place to lower the risk. We don’t force everybody to drive in cars, but we do say “if you’re going to ride a bike, then you need to do this.”

We spend 95% of our lives inside buildings. I don’t believe that we should all live in apartments, but I believe more of us should live in cities or towns. Greater density doesn’t only mean apartments or semi-detached housing (though both have advantages over one-off housing). Terraced houses; better designed, denser housing estates; mixed-use neighbourhoods that combine offices, homes and cafes; “living above the shop” - I happen to believe that done well there is an overall better quality of life in urban areas. Is it perfect? No. Is it ideal for everyone? No. Does it provide the least worst option? Yes, I think it does. Many of the problems we have can’t be solved if we just keep on keeping on, pretending that there’s no impact to our decisions, pretending that all answers are equally valid. Sometimes the answer to a question isn’t subjective. Sometimes there really is a better way of doing things.

“Should all live in apartments because it’s more efficient?” No, I don’t think so. But it would be more efficient if we did.


Fitter, happier, more productive. A pig, in a cage, on antibiotics.


wow … just wow.

So you blame your poor urban lifestyle on the people who leave the urban setting which is too crowded to move out.

I am as rural as it gets … but I am 40min drive from O’Connell Street, 60 mins drive from Belfast city centre and have 4 very large town within a 30 minute drive. I can get to the Airport and specialist acute hospitals in dublin quicker than people living in SCD.

Its this infatuation with having to be close to everything which is the problem - hence the crazy rental and property prices in dublin and other main cities. When I lived in the generic semi-d in dublin you could count on one hand the amount of times I would have used the city centre on a personal basis each year. I knew a couple of my neighbours, but socially they all seemed to go back to their old neighbourhoods at weekends etc. Communities really didn’t exist.

When I made the move the reaction from most was ‘but your miles from everything’ … when actually pressed them about what everything was … they struggled to answer.

I have the flexibility to work from home or a coffee shop or a hotel lobby … so when I do commute either leave well before the traffic or after the traffic. I contribute more the the rural community than I ever could have done in the weird isolation of the suburbs.

I know its not for everyone; but I could never consider scraping over overpriced a generic semi-d in dublin again.


He’s not saying that he has a poor lifestyle. He has, by his standards, a better lifestyle than yours and is saying that it would be even better (or at least cheaper), if a greater proportion of the population shared it.

Good for you. :slight_smile: Some people can do this, some can’t. If I wanted to work entirely from home, my employer would have to spend at least several hundred thousand euro on hardware for me, each item of which would be used only intermittently, most of which would need to be replicated for each user and some of which would require serious planning bureaucracy. It really is more efficient to share it in a single location. I also regularly go in for short periods at odd times, so I don’t want to be too far from it.

A chacun son gout. I like the “weird isolation of the suburbs”, or as I prefer to call it, quiet, peaceful anonymity and the absence of meddlesome busybodies. I neither know my neighbours much, nor particularly want to know them. 8)

On this, at least, we can all agree. :smiley:


@madness … as I stated from the outset it isn’t for everyone; but what irks me is assertions that the decision I have made to better the life for me and my family is somewhat against the greater good. Like it or not there are people living outside of the urban centers and always will be – do people really want a flight to the cities leaving ghost towns all over the country which will then cost even more to provide basic services to?

I am fortunate to be in a positon to work from wherever suits me as is my wife, your career and need to be tied to a specific location is fine and if people move from the urban centers there will be more space and less congestion for those who need to be there.

Also, the anonymity of living in a generic estate and not having any meaningful social contact with your neighbors is obviously something your personality appreciates; however some people like me enjoy knowing our neighbors and the associated community around us … but to call them busybodies is just nonsense and I would assume that your insular lifestyle probably dictates your attitude towards others and misrepresenting their intentions.


OK, “meddlesome busybodies” was supposed to be tongue in cheek. :wink:

The answer to that might well be total rural depopulation, so you don’t have to provide services for these places at all. :wink:

Then again, I sometimes think the ideal world population could be one in very low single figures. :wink: :laughing:


I agree with absolutely everything that you’ve said here. Firstly, I agree that it appears you need to drive everywhere. And secondly, I agree that you being able to get to Dublin airport and Dublin hospitals quicker than people from the other side of Dublin, highlights that we don’t have the critical mass of people or the population density needed to build a functioning, integrated public transport system.

Let me try to answer: O’Connell Street, Belfast City Centre, four very large towns including all the services and amenities that they contain.

I too have had the flexibility of working from home or a coffee shop or a hotel lobby. But I found it a lonely, isolating existence. I like my work to also be a community, full of people and friendships. And yes, cities can be anonymous, but if all one was to do was sit in their house, then you wouldn’t be contributing to the community regardless of whether you’re urban or rural. It takes effort to get out there, regardless of location.

True. I’m not trying to pretend that you personally would enjoy it more. I believe you when you say that cities or towns aren’t for you. But factually, can we agree that it’s cheaper to provide services to a million people living in a city than a million people spread out across the countryside? “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” Our cities and towns are broken, but to make them work, we need to start somewhere.


What services are you thinking of? My rural location has no nearby police, fire brigade, or hospital (not even in a nearby town, let alone locally). Locals paid for the water service, and they pay for local road maintenance. There are no telephone lines capable of carrying a broadband service. Bin collections are privately paid for. There is a higher standing charge for electricity for rural dwellers.


This is true, but the same people who would like to see Dublin having a better, more efficient, integrated transport system, are also the same people who refuse to allow taller buildings in the city, I don’t mean you, I mean planners, An Taisce, certain environmentalists ect

Its very hard to have both urban sprawl and a better transport system, Dublin needs to start building up

And as always high prices uber alles


I agree. -ish. We don’t necessarily need “high rise” the way most people think of it. We just need better design and urban planning. Take Paris and Amsterdam - the majority of these cities aren’t “high rise”. Many of the older apartments buildings are only 5 or 6 stories high…

5 or 6 stories is coincidentally the height that most people think of when they imagine “beautiful” cities. We could certainly do that, and in fact if you look at many of the streets in our cities, we already have. We have the buildings - we just don’t make use of the upper floors. You’ll have a shop on the street, and nothing above it. This idea of “living above the shop” doesn’t just increase the population density, but it also makes areas more livable. It means that when offices close at 5pm, there will still be people in the area. And where there’s people, there’ll be cafes, shops, restaurants - exactly the amenities that people want to be a “short walk away from”. If you look at the following diagram showing how good design can be both low rise and also dense…

Those “low rise/high coverage” areas give exactly the same population density as a towering apartment block. And we already have them - Stoneybatter, Portobello, Drumcondra, Fairview - it’s what people have lived in for years. But this is where the problem becomes less about our city centres, and more about our suburbs. Comparing the city centre of Dublin (pop: 527,612 / density: 4588/km2) to Amsterdam (826,659 / 4908/km2) they’re not too different. It’s when you hit the suburbs, that’s where we lose out: Amsterdam maintains a density of 904/km2 whereas Dublin drops to 257/km2. Again, it’s not a matter of building massive apartment blocks. While we’re building those identikit housing estates, Amsterdam encourages individuality and density by setting plot sizes and design guidelines, but then allowing people to do what they want…


Yeah thats more or less what I mean Outspann

Small changes could make a big difference


I’ve said it before \nd I’ll say it again.

Too much Crumlin, not enough Phibsborough. :smiley:


Unfortunately, our inner suburbs are largely full of low-density housing, so we don’t really have the option to shift to the approach you mention… To get sensible density in central Dublin we probably just do need to build up in the relatively few available sites.


How many people are required for this critical mass? What city could be used as an example?
Paris, London, New York all have huge populations but living costs are crap. The supposedly efficiency of living in smaller buildings is lost because there are so many people there to fill it all up. What then? Increase density again?

Those cities all subsidise their public transport systems too. Not everyone works in a city centre and not everyone should or can. Some jobs must be elsewhere, supply depots need space, docklands need docklands not city centres main street etc etc


Yup. Just keep packin’ 'em in! Nobody needs to own more than ten books, one pair of shoes and a change of outfit for work. :neutral_face:
Be interesting to see how the bed in this one works when you’re eighty instead of eighteen:



A spurious point.

Most people’s housing needs change quite a bit over the course of their lifetime.

Most people living in inner Paris in their 20s are doing it because of their job.

Most people doing it in their 80s are doing it by choice, and because they have high income or wealth.


I was really questioning whether such dwellings should exist at all. Just because there are people prepared to live in them doesn’t make them ok.