Dublin, and Ireland in general, is experiencing a housing crisis. There are not enough houses, prices are increasing dramtically, homelessness is on the rise and many young people are finding it impossible to get on the ladder.

We all know someone who is commuting hours each day so they can get to work. There are two issues: we are not building enough houses in Dublin; and our transport options are disconnected and congested leading to long commutes and poor quality of life.

MetroLink will help to solve the housing problems in North Dublin. It will also enable huge housing growth in South Dublin too but that will be discussed in another article.

There are large tracts of land along the metro route that are zoned for high-density residential and commercial use, particularly in Ballymum, Northwoods, Swords and Lissenhall. 

These are some of the best locations for building new housing in Dublin. They can support high-density housing. The metro will connect these new developments to the city center in less than 25 minutes.

There are many good reasons to open up new land for development around the metro line. It's easy to be cynical and think this is just so developers can make a quick profit but there are tons of good reasons to open up land for housing in North Dublin for development.

The population of Dublin is growing and expected to keep growing past 2050. This growing population needs housing. We need to build more houses than we are building right now. Most of the land around Swords is undeveloped so we can build high-density housing around the metro stops. This will encourage more people to choose public transport instead of the private car, reducing traffic congestion. The Fingal County Council have also introduced a development levy for lands around the metro route. This requires all developers to contribute towards the cost of building MetroLink.

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The Metro Economic Corridor

One of the advantages of the Metro North project being delayed is that Fingal County Council have had time to change the county development plan to match the metro plans. The county development plan dictates what can be built where. Fingal County Council have zoned 390 hectares of land as the "Metro Economic Corridor". The goal of this land:

Facilitate opportunities for high density mixed use employment generating activity and commercial development, and support the provision of an appropriate quantum of residential development within the Metro Economic Corridor

This means that Fingal County Council will approve planning applications that include high-density housing, apartment blocks, offices and shops. However, there is a catch. Fingal County Council will not grant planning permission on these lands until MetroLink is under construction. This is to prevent bad planning. Developing these lands without MetroLink would be unsustainable. The growth in traffic and congestion would be unacceptable.

The council  is unlikely to approve small scale development in the meantime either. They want to keep the land clear for high-density development. (Objective ED99 of the development plan)

Here's is an extract from Fingal Development Plan 2017-2023. It shows the zoning type for land around Swords. The area marked in red is the current Swords town centre. The light blue sections with pink letters are blocks of land that are part of the Metro Economic Corridor. (The original map is Sheet 8 of the development plan if you want to zoom in for a better look)

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Area A: Barrysparks Town Center Expansion

The area marked 'A' is the Barrysparks Town Center Expansion. This land will be beside the Swords Central metro station and across the Swords bypass road from the Swords Pavilion. This land has huge potential for high-quality urban development. Fingal County Council's plan for the area is to build a public square over the Swords bypass and the metro station called Metro Plaza. This will allow people to move freely from Barrysparks to Swords Main Street crossing over the metro tracks and the busy Swords bypass road. Close to the metro station, the Barrysparks area will be high-density apartments above ground floor shops.  At the edges of the Barrysparks development, close to the existing two storey houses, lower density development is expected.

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This image shows potential building heights that would be acceptable around the metro station in the Barrysparks area. Close the metro station Fingal County Council would consider a 50m tall landmark building. For comparison, Liberty Hall in Dublin city center is a 60m tall building. This high-density development will allow thousands of people to live within walking distance of the metro station and the shopping centre at the Swords Pavilion. You can find out more about the proposed plans for Barrysparks in the Swords Masterplan.

Area B: Seatown North and Seatown South

This land is currently the Swords and Seatown Business Parks. Fingal County Council will consider redevelopment of this land. The plan for this land is somewhat similar to the Barrysparks land development plan. High-density housing close to the Seatown metro stop and the Swords bypass with lower density housing at the edges. Fingal County Council will prepare a Local Area Plan for this land before large scale redevelopment takes place.

Areas C & D: Lissenhall

The areas marked 'C' and 'D' on the map are Lissenhall. This is the largest of the Metro Economic Corridor land banks at 240 hectares. This land is mostly undeveloped agricultural land. Fingal County Council plans that this large land bank would be developed for sustainable housing, community facilities, schools and shops. Fingal County Council expects that this land would be built out over 20-25 years in accordance with a Local Area Plan. Fingal County Council expect that 6,000 - 7,000 homes could be built on this land. The Local Area Plan will lay out the general plan for the area like where will town and village centres be, where will the schools go, where will there be parks. Developers will then apply for planning permission that matches the Local Area Plan. Fingal Count Council will start developing a Local Area Plan once more detail on MetroLink station locations is determined.

Integrated Land-Use and Transportation Planning

Good urban planning requires that land-use planning (what can be built where) and transport planning are aligned. In the case of Swords, the transport infrastructure planning and the land-use planning are in sync.

There are huge opportunities to build great communities and neighbourhoods in Swords along MetroLink. However, these lands cannot be developed until the MetroLink project is under construction.

The MetroLink project must be built so that Swords can become home to 10,000s of new people, which will help bring an end to our housing crisis.