Dublin’s College Green
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.
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”