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Posted: 25 January 2007

Urban sprawl leads to fragmentation in the Greater Dublin housing market, study shows

According to new research led by Dr Brendan Williams of the UCD School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Policy, contrary to National Spatial Strategy and Regional Planning Guidelines, the outward growth of the commuter belt now stretches to over 100 km from Dublin through Leinster and into south Ulster.

This major sprawl-type settlement trend has led to a near-total dependency on private motorcar use as house buyers choose to trade lower, more affordable house prices for higher commuting costs.

The study shows that housing development is taking place in a dynamic but unstable manner, often the result of major problems with managing the land supply process. The absence of housing, land-use and transportation policies, is posing major problems for accessibility, sustainability and quality of life.

“Attempts to constrain rather than manage the growth of Dublin are unlikely to achieve their aim of balanced regional development and instead” says Dr Williams, “could lead to further deflection of housing demand to outlying counties.”

The independent research conducted for the Society of Chartered Surveyors outlines a growing segmentation or fragmentation in Irish housing stock. From 2007 onwards, the Greater Dublin Area housing market will become more selective and this will result in some fragmentation and diverging price trends - certain market segments will remain strong while others will weaken over time. Locations with good infrastructure and transport links are likely do better than those with weak location attributes or services.

“While outlying commuter areas were in strong demand when there was no alternative, this is unlikely to continue if emerging Dublin supply trends continue” says Dr Williams. “The envisaged weaker Dublin locations will allow for movement of some of the deflected population back to the Greater Dublin Area”.

Somewhat surprisingly, the study records some population losses in relatively modern suburban areas of Dublin, including parts of Tallaght, Blanchardstown and Templeogue, as the population of these areas ages with children moving on to new locations. This is leading to a potential under utilisation of infrastructure. In contrast, areas near good infrastructure and transport links such as Dundrum are seeing significant population growth.

Following the findings of the study, Conor Hogan, President of the Society of Chartered Surveyors has called for the Government, together with the various Local Authorities in the Greater Dublin Area, to establish with immediate effect a separate body with complete and autonomous control over planning and development in the Dublin region.

The study entitled ‘Urban Sprawl and Market Fragmentation in the Greater Dublin Area’ was prepared over the course of 18-months by Dr Brendan Williams, UCD School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Policy; Brian Hughes, Urban Economics at DIT Bolton Street; and Patrick Shiels an urban research analyst. It is the third in a series of independent studies on urban development trends in the Greater Dublin Area published by the Society.

Copies of the report can be downloaded at

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