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In Diamond Park off Gardiner Street on a recent Friday morning, a small child in a red coat runs smiling into an otherwise empty playground.
There are no other children using the park but a few adults sit around on separate benches.
Alongside the playground, the park hosts a multi-purpose pitch, outdoor table tennis tables and exercise machines.
The ground is mostly concrete rather than grass. There are some trees and pretty colourful mosaics one of which represents water but few plants or flowers.
Diamond Park was opened on 22 January 1987, by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who was Lord Mayor of Dublin at the time.
The park was mostly a green area back then but in 2003 it was redesigned to incorporate the playground and the all-weather pitch, says a Dublin City Council report.
On Tuesday 14 July local area councillors heard about new plans for the total redesign of Diamond Park, which would add new amenities including a skating bowl and soccer pitch, as well as greatly increasing trees and greenery and boosting biodiversity.
Speaking after the meeting, Sinn Féin Councillor Janice Boylan said that the consultation process for this project was so comprehensive that it was a success story in itself. Dermot Foley Landscape Architects held meetings and workshops with locals at the beginning of the process and after they drew up the designs.
“The great thing about this was that public and community consultation was done before the design phase,” said Boylan. “We did this right.”
Diamond Park has not been fully used in recent years, according to local councillors. They say they hope that a redesign of the park will encourage the public to use it more and prevent antisocial behaviour.
The works on Diamond Park are part of a greening strategy in place in the north east inner-city which will result in all the main parks in the area (Mountjoy Square, Liberty Park and Sheriff Street) getting a revamp.
The north east inner-city is short on trees with just one percent canopy cover while Dublin as a whole has more than 10 percent, says the strategy document.
Eighty trees were planted last year and 200m of roadside hedgerows were also installed at Dorset Street Central and Summerhill, says a Dublin City Council press release from June, which provided an update on the progress of the strategy.
“Research has shown that roadside hedgerows are very effective at reducing pollution exposure, cutting black carbon by up to 63 per cent,” says the press release.
Increasing green space and biodiversity is a key aim of the project, says Green Party Councillor Janet Horner, and a lot of additional trees may be planted as well as existing trees to be retained where possible.
The plans also feature a new children’s play area including boulders for climbing and a watchtower. For grown-ups there would be a container cafe.
“The landscape of the proposed park is seen as one rich in biodiversity, which offers an alternative to the prevailing hard landscape character of the NEIC [north east inner-city] area,” says the report.
Putting the Park in Full View
“For a long time there was open drug dealing going on in Diamond Park,” says Boylan.
She hopes that improvements to the park will encourage local families to use the space which will, in turn, create surveillance and discourage anti-social behaviour, she says.
Diamond Park has not been used fully by the local community in recent times, says Horner.
The new plans would create a walking route through the park though (with an entrance on Sean McDermott Street and another on Gardiner Street) and that should open it up more, she says.
The railings that surround the park at the moment have a bit of a “cage vibe”, says Horner, which she says is common in inner-city recreational spaces. “You get quite a hostile feeling from it,” she says.
Boylan says that the current fence tends to hide the park from the outside and the more transparent mesh fencing proposed could help to reduce anti-social behaviour.
The council wants to create a more open space that will be attractive to families as part of the overall regeneration of the area, says independent councillor Nial Ring. That includes the renovation of the Rutland Street School and the redevelopment of the St Mary’s Mansions housing complex, he says.
“It is a great opportunity to bring it to a new level,” says Ring. “We want really fantastic parks in the north inner-city and this is a chance to make this one a showpiece.”
Consulting the Community
Dermot Foley Landscape Architects already held a number of consultation meetings and workshops with locals in 2018, according to the planning report.
According to the report, the first of these workshops were held in the park itself. Dermot Foley Landscape Architects produced cutouts of various design elements, so participants could easily select the things they liked.
Follow-up sessions were held at the community room in Summerhill Court, where participants were asked what they would like to see and do in the park.
Then they were shown a series of images and asked to select the image they liked.
More workshops were held at the Dublin Adult Learning Centre on Mountjoy Square, where a presentation informed the participants what had come out of the previous sessions.
A number design options were sketched and participants were invited to draw and write their comments on the designs.
The architects then also hosted workshops in March 2020 to get feedback on the designs they had drawn.
Horner says that locals wanted to retain certain elements of the existing park, including the mosaics, and the architect took those views on board in the final design.
That community consultation throughout the design phase is really positive, says Ring, as a result the plans for the park are “what the people wanted,” he says.
Dublin City Council will hold a formal process of community consultation as part of the planning process.
The consultation process lasts for six weeks. Once that consultation is completed within another eight weeks the plans will come before a meeting of the full council for a final decision.
Boylan says that the plans were met with the full support of the local area councillors on the Central Area Committee and as such they are likely to be approved by the full council.