Dublin’s Col­lege Green

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - NEWS REVIEw - OLIVIA KELLY Dublin Cor­re­spon­dent

What’s go­ing on with that plan for Col­lege Green?

Not much. Plans for a ¤10 mil­lion traf­fic-free plaza at Dublin’s Col­lege Green are “dead” – in the words of Dublin City Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Owen Kee­gan – fol­low­ing the re­jec­tion of the scheme by An Bord Pleanála. Eigh­teen months ago, the coun­cil sought per­mis­sion to build a pedes­trian and cy­cle plaza and ban all traf­fic, in­clud­ing buses and taxis, from ac­cess­ing Dame Street through Col­lege Green.

On Wed­nes­day, An Bord Pleanála said it was re­fus­ing per­mis­sion due to the ad­verse im­pact on bus trans­port and traf­fic. The board said there was “un­cer­tainty” about the po­ten­tial ef­fects on the bus sys­tem, but they were likely to be “sig­nif­i­cantly neg­a­tive . . . in the light of the scale of rerout­ing of buses pro­posed, the crit­i­cal im­por­tance of bus trans­port to the city”. The de­ci­sion puts in dis­ar­ray Dublin City Coun­cil’s flag­ship pro­ject for de­vel­op­ing a land­mark civic space in the cen­tre of the city.

Whose fault is this?

Well Dublin City Coun­cil doesn’t come well out of the de­ci­sion. The plan­ning board crit­i­cised the traf­fic anal­y­sis done by the coun­cil and was not sat­is­fied it was “suf­fi­cient to ac­cu­rately quan­tify the traf­fic im­pacts of the pro­posed de­velop- ment and the mag­ni­tude of those im­pacts”.It was par­tic­u­larly con­cerned about the im­pact of rerout­ing buses to the city quays where it said there were “un­re­solved ca­pac­ity is­sues”.

In ad­di­tion, the coun­cil had failed to “demon­strate that the ex­ist­ing foot­paths on both sides of the Quays have the ca­pac­ity to ac­com­mo­date the in­creased num­bers of pedes­tri­ans that would be redi­rected onto the Quays”.

The re­fusal is a ma­jor blow to the coun­cil,which has been pre­par­ing plans for the plaza since 2015 and has said the cre­ation of the traf­fic-free space was es­sen­tial to the smooth run­ning of the Luas Green line that be­gan op­er­a­tions through the city cen­tre last De­cem­ber .

What’s the re­ac­tion?

Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar said he was “dis­ap­pointed” at the news, adding in a Twit­ter post that he hoped the coun­cil “can work up a re­vised pro­posal”. A “very, very dis­ap­pointed ” Owen Kee­gan was less pos­i­tive. He said he recog­nised the plan would have meant ad­verse im­pacts on bus ser­vices, but said the “ma­jor pos­i­tive ben­e­fits” would have out­weighed the down­sides.

Even An Bord Pleanála sounded cheesed off at its own de­ci­sion. It con­ceded that Dublin City Coun­cil’s pro­posal would have pro­duced a “qual­ity pub­lic realm”, but de­cided not to give per­mis­sion be­cause of the traf­fic im­pli­ca­tions.

Is any­one happy?

It’s a vic­tory for Dublin Bus. A long-stand­ing op­po­nent of the plaza plans, it briefly ap­peared to come on board with the de­sign in 2016, be­fore a volte face the fol­low­ing year when the plans were lodged and Dublin Bus dubbed them “so­cially re­gres­sive”. The board has fi­nally ac­cepted its ar­gu­ments.

Why now?

Good ques­tion. The row over what to do with these buses dom­i­nated last April’s three-week plan­ning hear­ing, which had ini­tially been sched­uled to run for three days. But the is­sue should have been re­solved a decade or more ago, when plans for the new Luas line, join­ing up the Green and Red lines through Col­lege Green, were be­ing made.

All this palaver might have been avoided if, in­stead of ap­ply­ing to the board for the plaza and the traf­fic ban, the coun­cil had just used its own ex­ist­ing traf­fic man­age­ment pow­ers to re­move traf­fic from Col­lege Green, and then, some time later, said “oh look at what a lovely traf­fic free space we have here, I won­der what nice thing we could put here – maybe a plaza”.

Plans for a ¤10 mil­lion traf­fic-free plaza at Dublin’s Col­lege Green are “dead”

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