Council Plans to Liven up Dublin's Laneways

Few linger on the narrow, uninhabited passages in Dublin’s city centre.

Yet veins like Talbot Place, Jervis Lane Upper, and Abbey Cottages are opportunities, says architect Seán Harrington. He is drawing up a plan for the laneways in Dublin 1.

As part of the council-led Reimagining Dublin One project, Harrington’s been tasked with drawing up an action plan for the area’s down-at-the-heel passages, often hotbeds for anti-social behaviour and illegal dumping.

There’s a lack of wide-open space in Dublin 1 and, as a result, adjoining laneways tend to be “very dead”, he said.

To begin with, Harrington and his team looked at 18 of the most dangerous or problematic Dublin 1 laneways, ones that come off streets between Anglesea Row off Capel Street down to Talbot Place.

They honed in on five of them: Abbey Cottages, Byrne’s Lane, Coles Lane, Talbot Place and Jervis Lane Upper.

Pilot projects for these laneways are about to be finalised.

Possible interventions for these lanes – a mix of cul-de-sacs and throughways – include sprucing them up, and improving lighting and paving, said Harrington.

Most laneways in Dublin were originally stable lanes for keeping horses, said Harrington. While narrow streets elsewhere in Dublin have been revamped – think of Millennium Walk, Fade Street – Dublin 1’s laneways have fallen into disuse.

Jervis Lane Upper is problematic, for instance, Harrington says.

A long passageway running between Abbey Street and Parnell Street, there are few exits off it onto other streets. As a result, people tend not to linger. Or even pass through it.

At Abbey Cottages, one of Dublin 1’s most problematic laneways, said Harrington, 400 incidents were reported to the Gardaí over the past two years.

For some local councillors, it’s high time these offshoots got a makeover. “They need to be done up,” says Sinn Féin Councillor Janice Boylan.

Many Dubliners won’t enter laneways because they are essentially blind spots, says Boylan. People can’t see what’s down these lanes. “It’s a big, big issue.”

“If we do them up people will take better care of them,” says Green Party Councillor Ciarán Cuffe.

However, people need reasons to head down laneways, says Cuffe. “We can prettify them. But unless there’s a good excuse to go down and spend time there it’s hard to make these projects succeed.”

After examining cities like Melbourne, Seattle, and Glasgow – all of which have spruced up their laneways – Harrington says he believes that changes made by Dublin City Council will lead to more vibrant city-centre laneways.

There’s also potential to increase residential use of these passageways, he recently told Central Area councillors.

“This will help to strengthen the existing residential community and support local businesses,” said Harrington. “But crucially, to give 24-hour life to a place.”

Making the laneway look nicer and cleaner will only improve Dublin 1’s laneways up to a point, though. “The long-term answer is passive surveillance and footfall,” said Harrington.

Some of the first changes planned for the five laneways include removing vehicle shortcuts, improved landscaping and, where possible, bringing life back to ground-floor buildings.

The plan should be ready in a few weeks once those involved finish gathering views from locals, said a spokesperson.

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Cónal Thomas: Cónal Thomas is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

Reader responses

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at 23 July 2018 at 15:05

This is an interesting project. Lots of public space in city centre obviously needs investment but it would be great if the reporter considered the converse side of this story rather than accepting DCC and the development industry’s perspective without any attempt at critical analysis. Is it possible that this initiative will help to exclude anyone classed as ‘undesirable’, anti-social or perhaps, homeless, from the city centre by reducing the number of unsurveilled places available? The discussion of what is termed anti-social behaviour here is obviously very superficial and it is clearly implied that the only reasonable solution is to move people out of the city centre. Where to? That doesn’t matter apparently.

It seems clear that the main ‘problem’ with the laneways at present implicitly identified in the article is that they have not yet been opened up to development, whether of retail or housing. If they were this would no doubt lead to excellent ‘passive surveillance’, for example businesses making sure rough sleepers get moved on. It would be nice to consider what other uses these public spaces could be put to, for example social, non-commercial spaces of which there is a huge lack in the city centre, or we could consider there value to anyone who uses them presently.

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