Lessons for to­day

The Irish Times - Business - - BUSINESS INNOVATION -

The Shan­non project was not just about cre­at­ing jobs; it was also about pro­vid­ing homes for the work­ers who flocked there.

By the late 1950s the hous­ing is­sue, which had plagued the de­vel­op­ment of the hub since the early days, was be­com­ing a cri­sis. So, in 1960, a pro­posal was tabled for the creation of a new town; an in­no­va­tion with­out prece­dent in post-war Ire­land. In­spired by the Bri­tish new towns that arose af­ter the war Bren­dan O’Re­gan and his team sought to build a hub for work­ers of the air­port and the in­dus­trial zone.

The creation of the first new town in the his­tory of the State was not with­out chal­lenges; there were po­lit­i­cal ruc­tions as to who would over­see the project – the gov­ern­ment or SFADCO – while res­i­dents of Lim­er­ick city rued the fact that the de­vel­op­ment did not hap­pen in Lim­er­ick in­stead.

None­the­less, by 1962 the first res­i­dents were mov­ing in, all of whom were ten­ants of SFADCO and who had to work ei­ther in the air­port or

in­dus­trial area to qual­ify for af­ford­able hous­ing.

As SFADCO es­tates man­ager Cian O’Car­roll re­calls, build­ing the houses so close to a place of huge em­ploy­ment was key, as was the fact that units were small – but larger fam­i­lies were catered for. “We of­ten let them two houses and knocked them to­gether,” he says.

Also key to its suc­cess was the fact that hous­ing was af­ford­able, and graded and re­lated to peo­ple’s in­comes. Af­ter some time a tenant pur­chase scheme was in­tro­duced, al­low­ing peo­ple to buy their homes out­right.

To­day the town is home to some 10,000 res­i­dents, and re­mains one of the few ex­am­ples of a new planned town in Ire­land.

“It hasn’t grown as much as peo­ple might have ex­pected, but it has its own so­cial and eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity,” says O’Car­roll.

As to why sub­se­quent govern­ments haven’t looked to emu­late the suc­cess of Shan­non – par­tic­u­larly given our hous­ing short­ages – O’Car­roll sug­gests it’s due to an ide­o­log­i­cal shift away from the State do­ing things di­rectly, in­stead en­cour­ag­ing the pri­vate sec­tor to do the same through tax in­cen­tives and other meth­ods.

“It’s a shame,” he says.

■ Shan­non town was built in the 1960s on re­claimed marsh­land along­side the air­port

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