May 11, 2003

Suburbanisation will go bust

Posted in · 2 comments ·
Share 

Irish women’s boobs are getting bigger. The average bra size is now 36C as opposed to 34B in 1990.

Interesting titbit maybe, but the point is we are all getting bigger. Far from achieving the perfect hourglass form, Irish boobs are expanding because the rest of women’s bodies are too. And that goes for asses as well. J Lo or Jordan,take your pick, but either way, things are getting bigger. Bye bye Twiggy, hello Sophie. Of course, blokes’ guts are expanding in tandem.

Of the many reasons for the emergence of our fatty nation, the role of suburbanisation is one of the most interesting. We are in danger of turning into a nation of slobs strapped into our cars, like many of our American cousins.

We continue to build slob creating, low-density suburbs, such as Adamstown between Celbridge and Lucan which was passed by South Dublin County Council on Thursday.

If you want your children to die of heart failure before you, don’t bother worrying about the likes of Adamstown, or the move on Friday by Ikea ± the Swedish flat-pack furniture maker – to have the government rescind its ban on out of town megastores.

If you are concerned about the nation’s health, then you should care about both developments.

Low density suburbs and out of town megastores constitute an Anglo/American trend towards commut i ng, traffic, hollowed out dangerous city centres, heart disease, obesity, higher health bills and the increasing privatisation of community life.

Throw in the breakdown of trust in society and business, plus the related litigation and sky-high insurance bills and you get my point.

New car dashboards tell their own story. A dashboard is looking more and more like a dining table. Flat surfaces to eat from, coffee mug holders to swill from, sound systems to kickback to and you have a reasonably pleasant mobile dining room. Hardly surprising when people are spending three hours in the motor a day, hauling themselves from the ‘burbs to the city and back.

Trends in food retailing are also revealing. The strongest growth area in the food business at the moment is in pre-packaged, ready to go snacks and meals. The snacks, typically with

healthy sounding Asian names like a “lemon chicken and coriander wrap”, are wolfed down in the car. Meals are ready to be re-heated when you finally drop through the hall door at 8.30, in time to plonk in front of “I’m some gobshite, get me out of here!” on your wide-screen.

These trends are not limited to singletons; families apparently no longer eat one meal together. Mum and Dad come in way after seven and little Finn and Sorcha have already gobbled down their Goodfellas pizza. Many Irish food producers, realising early what was going on, have made the incredibly lucrative shift into this market.
Saturday afternoon and Liffey Valley is a must. Shopping for his ‘n’ hers matching Timberlands, a new cabinet from Ikea followed by monster popcorn munching at the multiplex for all the family. Dad’s wrecked by seven, a bit of kip in front of the Premiership before a good Chinese later and a couple of pints after.

The only problem is having,to drive to the pub in the “village”, which is four miles from the sought-after estate. But no worries, there are never any coppers on the back roads.

Jaysus, it’s Sunday evening already and no grass cut! Sorcha’s already voted for Mickey four times so the phone bill’s going through the roof. Finn is spending an unhealthy amount of time on the net for a 12- year-old and the missus is out practising her swing.

Tomorrow’s Monday and it’s the fear again. Dad hates being put on hold. Everyone he deals with is so pleased to have him as a valuable customer that he’s eventually put on to some eejit in Bangalore to check his electricity bill. How can you trust anyone, anymore?

You don’t know who you are talking to, let alone whether they are in the same continent. It is no wonder people are suing each other on dodgy whiplash cases. Why wouldn’t they, they’ll never see each other again, sure Dad hardly knows his neighbours.

Trends in the city are equally portentous. Apart from hastily built apartment blocks, there is no real sense of community in any newly gentrified city area. This week, residents of the one real community in Temple Bar – Crampton Buildings – are locked in battle with developer/landlords to preserve what they regard as a green space in the courtyard of the buildings. The developer wants to build a restaurant and more apartments and has offered the punters an arcadian roof garden to observe the vomitor ium that is Te mple Bar Square.

Thus, far from rebuilding communities, living in a typical apartment block in the centre of town is a bit like booking into a big Holiday Inn by the Liffey. Yet who says 20-somethings want community? No one does, and this is what dooms the new dormitory towns.

Irish family sizes are falling rapidly as more people are remaining single and others are divorcing. This means the demand for three and four bedroomed semis in Westmeath is likely to fall as family size shrinks.

Do you remember the centre of the city in 1990 with whole areas run down, roofs falling off buildings and dereliction writ large? This was because people chose not to live in the likes of Mountjoy Square, the same will happen to the dormitory towns as our demographic profile changes.

Trends in the rest of Europe suggest that the type of thinking behind

Adamstown has been abandoned years ago. Cities such as Barcelona are redefining themselves with high density housing close to the centre becoming the norm.This obviously creates huge transport cost savings, as well as making the city itself a vibrant neighbourhood.

Cities are no longer just places of commerce and great cities of the future will be places of culture and leisure.The model for this isVenice with Barcelona and Paris indicating what is possible. Barcelona attracts nine million visitors a year, just one million short of Venice and it has managed to re-invent itself without becoming a theme park.The infrastructure is fantastic and local civic pride burgeoning.

Adamstown would have been laughed out of court had it been proposed in the Catalan capital in the 1970s, let alone the 21st century. Yet here we are, our capital city overwhelmed by traffic and a new town envisaged without any infrastructure.

If we are to go ahead, why not ask the developer to build the rail link first? Or at least build the schools first or the public health centre first? If we are to go ahead, have we asked ourselves the basic question; is this the best we can do in Ireland?

Do you know that many new American suburbs are built without footpaths? Why? Because nobody walks anywhere. Is that the pinnacle of urban planning? Just fast forward to 2050, it is almost guaranteed that our grandchildren will regard it as extraordinary that millions of us trooped from one place (the suburbs) to another place (the job) each morning, only to reverse the procedure every evening.

This means that the transport system has to cope with two peak migrations a day. Roads that are empty after 8pm will be jammed from 5-7pm. How bizarre? Trains and buses likewise. Does this suggest to you that human beings are the most advanced form of life on the planet? Hardly.

Close to ten years after the wonderbra craze gripped the country (anyone remember the greenWonderbras during USA 1994?) sloth rather than laytex has replaced “Hello Boys” with “Howayez”.


  1. Ruth Casey

    I have just read this article, and am absolutely disgusted
    with its tone, the style of writing and the content.
    Particularly in the provocative use of the words ‘women’s
    boobs’, to draw in readers. As a woman, I find this highly
    insulting and degrading. Although brief mention is made of
    the male torso, it is given token reference, in a scanty
    attempt to balance the clear insult rendered to women.

    There is no attempt at any stage in the article, to
    address the issue of suburbanisation analytically. Similar
    to how David McWilliams handles most issues on his daytime
    programme and on Questions and Answers the other night, it
    is in terms of descriptive soundbites, rather than
    presenting a set of ideas through which we might
    understand or challenge social issues occurring as a
    result of suburbanisation.

    I would like a response from David McWilliams, given that
    I have taken the time to email to this article with a
    comment (as invited).

  2. Keith

    seems david mc williams didnt do his research properly back in 2003,…adamstown has begun and with only 250 residents so far the first primary school is being built and will be open in september,..the rail station is opening in april and bus corridors are in operation,…thank god I didnt read this artical before I bought my apartment in adamstown or i may have made a huge mistake and missed my oppertunity to live in a new town which really does/will have every single amenity! Suggest David Mc Williams checks out the Adamstown website,…

You must log in to post a comment.
× Hide comments