Sunday 9 December 2018

Plans for College Green pedestrianised plaza should proceed despite refusal - Dublin City Councillors

An artist's impression of the final design for the planned College Green plaza in the heart of Dublin, looking towards the Bank of Ireland (Dublin City Council/PA)
An artist's impression of the final design for the planned College Green plaza in the heart of Dublin, looking towards the Bank of Ireland (Dublin City Council/PA)
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

Plans for a pedestrianised civic plaza at College Green should still proceed - with some tweaking - Dublin city councillors agreed this evening.

Despite some opposition to the controversial plan by some councillors - including Dublin Lord Mayor Nial Ring - many councillors attending tonight's monthly council meeting expressed their support for the plan.

This is despite a decision by An Bord Pleanála last month to refuse planning permission for the project, which means the proposed civic plaza at College Green is on hold for the time being.

The €10m plaza would have seen all cars banned from the heart of the city centre. It would also have placed major restrictions on the movement of buses and taxis in the area.

The planning board said the proposed civic plaza would "produce a quality public realm that would significantly enhance the amenity and attractiveness of this city centre location."

But it said the analysis of traffic by Dublin City Council didn't take into account the impact on general traffic as well as bus transportation, pedestrians, cyclists and taxi drivers.

It also noted the "unresolved capacity issues on the quays in their capacity to accommodate the scale of bus re-routing" as well as the increased number of pedestrians that would be re-directed to the quays as a result of bus re-routing."

Dublin City Council's assistant chief executive Dick Brady said that while the decision by the planning board was "regrettable", the council is still considering what course of action to take.

"We're still studying the report," he told councillors.

Possible options include seeking a judicial review of the decision, lodging a new application to An Bord Pleanála or abandoning the plaza concept and going back to the drawing board over traffic issues.

Meanwhile, Green Party Councillor Ciaran Cuffe said he would support a judicial review of the decision, which must be lodged by December.

"Most progressive voices in this chamber would like to see a car-free College Green," he said. "A car-free College Green would be a real game-changer."

Fine Gael councillor Paddy McCartan went a step further.

"I think it would be a dereliction of duty not to pursue it," he said.

However, he said the plan needs to be tweaked and that Dublin Bus, which is opposed to the plan, needs to come on board before they proceed further.

"Just because the traffic analysis was a failure doesn't mean we have to abandon the plan," he said.

Yet some councillors remain bitterly opposed to the plan.

Independent councillor Mannix Flynn went as far as demanding that Dublin City Council Chief Executive Owen Keegan "fire himself" for what he called "a catastrophe".

"This was a disaster from the start," he said, noting the process has already cost the council €2m.

"This will never see the light of day. They spent €2m on a grandiose scheme. You should fire yourself Keegan," he said.

Dublin Lord Mayor Nial Ring said he was 'delighted' when the planning board rejected the application.

"I think the soul of the city has been saved," he said.

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