Temple Bar and the nearby area might get some more love soon.
On Monday, landscape architect Daibhi McDomhnaill presented plans to councillors at the South East Local Area Committee to improve the streets and spaces in the neighbourhood with all kinds of measures that would give more room to pedestrians, create more spaces to sit down, and allow people to move more smoothly through the streets.
Barnardo Square may get a makeover to enliven the space with tables-and-chairs and trees on one side, which would free up the centre to be used as an events space from time to time.
The park at John’s Lane and Christchurch Park would be opened up and remodelled. “There’s scope to create a very usable events space at the top of the park,” he said.
For Temple Bar Square itself, a steering group has been set up, said McDomhnaill. A design team should be appointed by early next year, and then later any plans will go out to public consultation.
“It’s a very complex space with an awful lot going on so it merits much more rigorous consideration,” he said.
Lots of the potential changes focus on making the neighbourhood easier to get around. (This fits in with the council’s efforts to make sure there are more through routes in the city centre.)
Temple Bar is an important place in itself, but also as a linking route between Grafton Street and Henry Street, said McDomhnaill. “It will be very important in time in making the city centre more unified for pedestrians.”
“Broadly (…) a lot of the pedestrian network through Temple Bar is quite tight, the footpaths are quite narrow,” said McDomhnaill. So some of the changes involve building out the footpath in places such as Eustace Street.
Not everybody is a fan of the cobblestones, or stone setts, which line the streets of the area. The gaps between them make it difficult for wheelchair users, people with buggies, and cyclists to navigate the lanes.
That’s because when they were put in during the 1980s and 1990s, the gaps were too big, said McDomhnaill. “Traditionally, setts would have been set much more closer together.”
Re-laying them with more narrow spacing, and also laying a band of smooth paving through some of the streets, would help to deal with that, he said.
At Monday’s meeting, Dublin City Councillor Mary Freehill, of Labour, said she doesn’t understand why the cobblestones are there at all. “I think our ancestors got rid of these for a darn good reason,” she said.
The Seating Question
Public seating can sometimes be controversial, as there are fears that it will attract anti-social behaviour, said McDomhnaill.
“Nonetheless, I think there’s a determined view that a quality public realm must have places for resting (…) to make the public realm comfortable and accessible for all,” he said. Hence the plan is to provide public seating where needed.
Councillors were generally supportive of that.
Labour’s Freehill said she knows it might be a challenge in terms of how it might be used at night. “But it should be a basic standard for every place in the city where we’re doing any kind of work in the public realm. Older people cannot stand for periods of time.”
Said independent Councillor Mannix Flynn: “You can put 1,000 chairs in there, or no chairs in there, you’re still going to have to face the issue that people are going to get involved in anti-social behaviour.”
Councillors voiced concerns about anti-social behaviour in the Temple Bar area, and the effect in particular on local residents in places such as Borris Court.
While council officials said they were aware of these issues, they also said there is only so much they can do to deal with them through physical design.
“There is actually a limit to what we can do in terms of the actual design of the spaces,” said landscape architect Peter Leonard.