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Carrigaline needs careful sprawl repair.

We know that where you live can strongly determine your level of well-being. In 1971, Carrigaline had a population of 971 people. In the last census of 2016, it recorded a population of 15,770. In 1978, Cork county council and corporation published the Cork land use and transportation study (LUTS) and it has had a defining impact on shaping Cork. The commissioning of the study was to deal with the traffic problems in the city. People had faced congestion when navigating through the city, whether going East, West, North or South. The answers to the problem were car-driven and divided into a dichotomy of either build elevated roads on the quays and flyover motorways at key landmark points in the city or spread city growth to the county with circling roads connecting suburb to suburb living. Instead of tackling Cork’s congestion in its core, they decided to continue with a greenbelt policy and spread development to county towns.

Cork’s satellite town suburbia model was born. And, leapfrog development, the cars, and congestion followed. The city’s core population growth stagnated. Forty years after LUTS, Cork is now designated a sprawled city, one of the most congested small cities in Europe and has 70 per cent car dependency. This has implications for our pockets, as evidence from America indicates that sprawled cities can cost residents more than 10,000 dollars extra per capita, each year, in development and congestion costs, relative to, smart compact cities.

When I was studying in college, an educator described Carrigaline, (as memory serves me) as containing no admirable and attractive urban quality, whatsoever. A bit of a strong description, I thought. But nonetheless, the description stuck. More, recently, at a gathering of urbanists, one of the contributors described Carrigaline as ‘a sprawling estate’. How fair are these characterisations? In the podcast ‘99% invisible’ (worth a listen to), the authors identify the defining feature of suburbia to be the concentration of ‘cul de sacs’. How many cul de sacs are in Carrigaline? Waterpark? Forest Hill? The interesting aspect of cul de sacs is that they are highly sought after. Houses within close proximity of them often fetch a higher sum of money from prospective buyers. In many ways, they typify what is attractive about suburban life. They are often quiet. They are a good space for kids to play, are normally accompanied by a green space, experience less disruption from the dangers of the private car and they often provide more privacy. For families with young children, the cul de sac makes sense.

Many architects and urbanists would have design complaints about many housing estates. And, many of these complaints are probably valid, but the significant problems I identify with ‘planning design’ in Carrigaline is not within the estates themselves, but are experienced, more in the public realm. How far are the cul de sacs in new developments from the business centre, the nearest shop, the nearest bus stop, and general public amenities? Since we haven’