Tuesday 22 October 2019

Developer rules out pedestrian access to the Florence Road

Traders make a complaint to office of the Ombudsman after Oakmount investigates proposed pedestrian access points and rules them out, writes Mary Fogarty

A crane working on the Florentine Centre in Bray, viewed from the Florence Road
A crane working on the Florentine Centre in Bray, viewed from the Florence Road

Developers have ruled out any possibility of providing pedestrian access from the Florentine Centre to Florence Road.

This emerged in a report before members at last week's meeting of Bray Municipal District. The developers had investigated a number of proposals made by the traders who hoped that a solution could be reached.

One proposed option was a route beside Hayes butchers, which impacted on a fire escape and clashed with a stair and lift core.

Developers Oakmount said that another proposed route via the car park entrance would require a lot more space than proposed and to provide pedestrian access there would not comply with building regulations. They said also that there would be a safety risk due to the close proximity of vehicles entering and leaving.

Speaking after the meeting, a spokesman for the traders said that they are 'utterly dismayed by the lack of regard the council seem to have for us as rate and tax payers' and they have lodged a formal complaint against the council with the ombudsman.

'After three months of negotiations with the council absolutely nothing has been resolved and we have been told that it is not possible for us to have an entrance the Florentine centre as the developer can not change his plans,' said the spokesman, who added that it seemed that the developer was being allowed to change other things.

'The local councillors or the people do not get a say in any of these alterations. The centre as it stands now has no resemblance to the original plans that an Bord Pleanála approved originally.

'At the last council meeting, we heard that the developer has more change that they want to make (changing stair wells and increasing the overall height of the building) and the council give him permission. Yet when we ask the developer to make a change we are told that it is impossible.

'We as a group just cannot understand what exactly is going on between the council and developer. Every awkward question that we have asked has been answer we cannot tell you as it is commercially sensitive.'

The traders lodged a complaint with the ombudsman in October, which is currently in progress.

'For us it seems to be too late, but we hope by our action that future developments in Bray will be done in a different way, ensuring that other businesses will not have to suffer the fate that we have.'

In his report before last Tuesday night's meeting, District Manager Tom Murphy told the members that developers are now planning two restaurants rather than three, although the space will be the same. While the leisure box activity is still not confirmed, it is quite likely to be golf-based. Some changes in height have been requested.

Cllr Joe Behan said that he is 'absolutely disgusted that this developer can't accede to a request for pedestrian access'.

He said that the developer has already received many concessions from officials.

'This is outrageous. It's bad news for the shop owners, and the people of the town,' said Cllr Behan.

Cllr Behan said that the cinema is losing 225 cinema seats.

'We're still getting five cinemas, but a lot smaller,' said Cllr Behan.

'We still don't know what the leisure box is going to be, the restaurants are reduced from three to two, the shops have changed, the car park, restaurants and cinema. Everything has been systematically changed. The one request we have made, the provision of a pedestrian entrance on Florence Road, we're not getting.'

Cllr Steven Matthews said that everyone had worked as hard as they could to try to achieve the pedestrian way, from the Florence Road traders to the members the the manager and the developer.

'It was in everyone's best interests, there was nothing to be gained for anyone in not putting it in. For technical and construction reasons, it can't be accommodated. We will have to accept that,' said Cllr Matthews.

He said also that the changes made are mostly positive, including larger stores and more parking.

Cllr Dermot O'Brien said that while the developer had responded to suggestions made by the traders, he didn't see the developer explore any solutions themselves.

Cathaoirleach Cllr Pat Vance said that as a Florence Road trader himself, he was as disappointed as anyone.

The original plans for pedestrian access at a certain point were abandoned as the agreement of a landowner could not be secured.

'We have to move on,' said Cllr Vance. 'Experts tell me that this will bring something like 20,000 more people into the town. That should be our focus.'

District manager Tom Murphy said that it would be 'most unusual' not to have any alterations to a major project as it proceeds.

'Nobody has fought a harder fight than the staff of this council,' he said. 'The access was always subject to the consent of a local landowner.'

He said also that the developer is in ongoing discussions with a number of anchor tenants. There is 'significant interest', members heard, although nothing is signed as of yet.

Bray People