Oslo on Lee? Five Irish cities where 15-minute living could happen now

“Fifteen-minute cities” have access to education, amenities and green spaces just minutes away by walking or cycling. The need of a car is greatly reduced in these urban areas which are a growing reality across Europe.

Despite a legacy of poor planning and stagnation, Irish cities have an opportunity to return to their “15-minute” roots. Is it outlandish to think Dublin could soon become more like Copenhagen, and Cork might assume the qualities of Oslo? in spite of of decades of poor planning, such possibilities in the form of lived-in vibrant cities with ease of movement and ready access to amenities are realisable, a recent report has found.

The Close to Home report by Hassell, the international architecture, design and urban planning practice, details how the concept could be rolled out in Ireland but, considerably, also captures current public attitudes embracing a contrasting mix of strong sustain for reimagining urbanscapes and tangible concern about anything suggesting increasing density.

The State’s priority now is towards a more sustainable compact urban form, placing cities as drivers of Ireland’s future. The chief action complementing this is creating more compact, walkable neighbourhoods of more than 5,000 people/sq km.

With an urban population of more than 50,000, Waterford could be a small and thriving compact city with both the city and character in close reach

Galway is least thick with 5 per cent of people in places with more than 5,000 persons/sq km; Dublin is at 39 per cent, ie the proportion living in areas meeting minimum density requirements to sustain facilities richness and walkability – considerably lower than trailblazing cities.

All five Irish cities are strategically located close to meaningful natural amenities such as rivers and coasts, though their possible as “blue and green infrastructure” is largely untapped.

Contrary to what might be expected, Prof Niamh Moore Cherry, a specialist in geographical inequalities, indicates it might be easier to develop the 15-minute concept initially in one of our smaller cities, such as Waterford, because of “its built form at the moment”, including its quays and sites appropriate for development. This would then become “the template form where people see the benefits”.

The Hassell report provides detailed assessments of each city. In summary:

Dublin. Photograph: iStock

The capital’s extensive footprint is a product of 20th-century suburbanisation, developed hand-in-hand with the car-dependence of residents. For decades, new neighbourhoods have been built from scratch on the city’s regularly expanding fringes, making poor use of greenfield land and often lacking sets and infrastructure.

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