Weaver Square Allotments

In January, Weaver Square allotment users moved out of their beloved Dublin 8 community garden to make way for social housing.

As of May, no sod has been turned on the site. Local councillors say that’s causing them embarrassment.

The council should immediately accommodate the former Weaver Square allotment users, said an emergency motion from three councillors at last Wednesday’s South Central Area Committee meeting.

The council should let them move back to Weaver Square until a new community garden is sourced too, said the motion, put forward by Councillors Tina MacVeigh of People Before Profit, Rebecca Moynihan of Labour and Críona Ní Dhálaigh of Sinn Féin.

According to Ní Dhálaigh and Moynihan, residents in Liberties were promised two spots, one at a derelict site in Basin Lane and one at the Back of the Pipes, a laneway along Lourdes Road in Maryland, Dublin 8.

Ní Dhálaigh said she had “taken some flack” for defending the council’s position on when the gardeners should leave.

Nine allotments are planned for the Back of Pipes by 2020, said a report from the South Central Area office, read at Wednesday’s meeting by the area manager, Mary Taylor. The entrance will be via Flanagan’s Fields on Reuben Street, the report says.

People Before Profit Councillor Tina MacVeigh said Maryland residents haven’t been consulted on this. That’s caused upset, she said.

The report also said no allotments would be developed at Basin Lane, which has been identified for social housing. There is no financial provision for additional allotments at Basin Street, the report said.

Councillors said they had assured the gardeners that there would be two sites.

“You’re making us look ridiculous,” said Labour’s Moynihan. “We were told Basin Lane was unsuitable for social housing.”

Weaver Square can’t be used in the meantime, said a second report, this time from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

Dublin City Council has applied for stage four of its approval process under the government’s Social Housing Project policy. This means a report on the cost and procurement of a contractor prior to award of tender will be looked at by the Housing Department.

The report from the Housing Department said: “It is expected that the Department will issue its approval determination shortly and that the contractor will be able to mobilise on site within a matter of weeks.”

A meeting will be organised between the council area office and the appropriate local community stakeholders following this approval, the report said..

Of the 26 former allotment holders, 10 have moved to either the St Thomas Abbey or Braithwaite Street allotments and eight have expressed interest in moving to the Back of the Pipes, according to the South Central Area report.

Another eight have not indicated an interest in moving to an alternative site.

Plans for Cherry Orchard

Independent Councillor Vincent Jackson says he has been through the process of pulling together a local area plan (LAP) for Cherry Orchard twice before.

Yet major parts of these plans failed to happen. “I’m hoping third time lucky and I sincerely mean that,” he said, at last week’s South Central Area committee meeting.

Derek Taylor, an executive planner at the council, shared a draft version of the latest LAP for Cherry Orchard with councillors. Once agreed, it’ll last for six years.

However, not discussed at the meeting was that the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government may end up overriding parts of the council’s plan.

Discussion around this LAP for Cherry Orchard has been ongoing since 2017. It includes at least 2,000 homes across eight strategic development sites, said Taylor.

There are also two “strategic amenity sites”, he said, at Cherry Orchard Park and an area along the Grand Canal called Gallanstown. And a primary school and sports facilities.

Plans for urban development around the Park West and Cherry Orchard railway station from 2002 were halted due to the economic crash in 2008. The same thing happened to plans to build 72 social homes – which were revived in 2015 as Cherry Orchard Meadows and are now occupied.

Fiona Cooper, a senior executive planner for Dublin City Council, said that the new draft LAP looks at “a host of issues including previous plans 2002 and 2008. They are building on those, not starting from scratch.”

Cooper said the LAP, updated following a meeting with councillors on 15 March, now includes plans for a sporting hub in Cherry Orchard Park, as well as plans to redevelop the park.

There would also be an allowance for a Horsepower project, for a group who want an equine facility that will rent stables at an affordable rate to local horse owners.

The council has to keep its promises around sports and recreation facilities, said Councillor Daithí Doolan of Sinn Féin.

The plan has huge potential, he said. “It’s a game changer. I think we need to make sure that the service, sports and recreation facilities are delivered as a priority.”

For housing in the neighbourhood, both Sinn Féin Councillor Greg Kelly and independent Councillor Paul Hand called for a percentage of the housing to follow the “Vienna model” of cost-rental homes.

Cooper said: “The city council own half the lands in Cherry Orchard so we’re in a very good position to determine how we want to deliver housing and what models we’re going to use.”

One site, close to the grounds of Cherry Orchard FC, will have 100 percent affordable housing or possibly 10 percent of those as social housing, she said.

Other developments are less within the council’s control. People Before Profit’s Hazel De Nortúin asked whether the Department of Education and Skills had committed to the proposed school primary school, which is planned for Park West.

“There is a commitment from the Department of Education in place,” said Cooper.

The council aims to put the draft plan to the public by 10 June and give them six weeks to have their say, city planner John O’Hara said at the meeting.

Calming Traffic in Rathmines

Dublin City Council spent about six months testing measures to calm traffic along Mountpleasant Avenue Upper, a narrow street in Rathmines that drivers used as a rat run. Last week, they were made permanent.

The council trial made Mountpleasant Avenue one-way for car traffic.

The aim was to address health and safety issues, including excessive traffic and vehicles mounting the narrow footpath to get past each other, said Senior Engineer Neil O’Donoghue at a recent meeting of Dublin City Council’s South East Area Committee.

Drivers can no longer continue straight ahead onto Mountpleasant Avenue Upper from Mountpleasant Avenue Lower, and vehicles can’t enter Mountpleasant Avenue Upper from Richmond Hill. The road is still open to cyclists, though.

Photo by Erin McGuire

O’Donoghue said the traffic department carried out surveys and speed counts before and after the trial.

“Since the scheme has gone in, there were no vehicles observed to be mounting the footpath on Mountpleasant Avenue Upper,” he said.

O’Donoghue also reported a 51 percent drop in volume of vehicles turning from Canal Road onto Mountpleasant Avenue Lower, which joins into Mountpleasant Avenue Upper.

These improvements have been a long time coming for residents of Mountpleasant Upper and offshoots Gulistan Terrace and Richmond Place. They first submitted their concerns to the council in a November 2017 report.

Results of an attitudinal survey in the area showed it’s safer for school children crossing the road, and the road is much calmer.

The improvements have had a knock-on effect, though. Some of the traffic has dispersed onto other roads in the area, particularly Richmond Hill, which connects Mountpleasant Avenue Lower to Rathmines Road.

“We met with councillors on these issues, and we met with the public. I think the public consultation process was very good. We found there were issues on Richmond Hill, and we’re going to resolve them,” O’Donoghue said.

“As some traffic was diverted onto Richmond Hill, most notably in the evening peak, the implementation of new traffic measures will be recommended on Richmond Hill,” he said.

Planned measures include a yield sign with line markings at the junction with Mountpleasant Avenue Lower, and flexible bollards on the footpath in front of Saint Mary’s Community Centre to stop cars driving onto it.

The council also plans to get rid of two car-parking spaces on Richmond Hill, near the Rathmines Road junction, replacing them with double yellow lines.

O’Donoghue said the traffic department hopes to implement the changes in the next two months.

Councillors broadly welcomed the changes on Mountpleasant Avenue Upper and the proposals for Richmond Hill.

Some councillors were concerned that a similar public consultation process isn’t planned for the Richmond Hill changes.

Said Fine Gael Councillor Anne Feeney: “You’ve listened and put forward good suggestions for the people on Richmond Hill. I’d urge you to review that in six months time.”

Aura McMenamin is a city reporter.

Erin McGuire is a city reporter. Her stories often offer an intimate window into the lives of those we share the city with. You can reach her at erin@dublininquirer.com.

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