Council Briefs: More Public Toilets, More Pedestrianised Streets and Preserving Moore Street

More Public Toilets

Dublin City Council officials have committed to providing public toilets in each of the city’s five local administrative areas – but only temporarily.

Each local area of the city will get €40,000 to provide a takeaway coffee dock and temporary public toilet facilities from a special €6.1 million fund, said a report put before councillors at Monday’s monthly meeting.

The idea is for the coffee docks, outdoor stalls that sell hot drinks, to bring in revenue so the set up would be “at or close to cost neutral”, it says.

The central government granted the money to the council to compensate for lost revenue from rates, and extra spending due to Covid-19.

The council’s Budget Consultative Group met in March to decide how to divvy up the money, says the report.

Aside from coffee docks and toilets, €400,000 has been set aside to establish a European Programme Office, to get more council staff involved in EU-funded projects and partnerships.

Much of the rest of the money has been earmarked to help fund cultural and recreational amenities in the city, including parks, artists’ studios and libraries, as well as extending the opening hours of some swimming pools.

Some of the pot is going towards works to improve the city’s streetscapes, including tree-planting and greening initiatives.

Councillors welcomed the investment in their areas. But some said that the plans for public toilets weren’t enough and asked why they would be temporary.

“I think they should be there on a permanent basis,” said Green Party Councillor Donna Cooney. “It’s an ongoing need.”

Councillors agreed an emergency motion calling on the council Chief Executive Owen Keegan to seek extra funding for permanent public toilets for the city.

The “pandemic has exposed the demand for and deficit of public sanitary facilities in the city”, says the motion.

It points to an objective in the current Dublin City Development Plan, which said the council would work together with city business associations and agencies to provide “appropriately located, independently accessible sanitary facilities”.

More Pedestrianised Streets

Councillors backed a motion that welcomed “reports” on council plans to pedestrianise Merrion Row, Mary Street and part of Capel Street on a trial basis this summer.

The Sunday Times reported on 11 April that these streets would be pedestrianised “on a trial basis this summer”.

“I’m personally not aware of any proposal to fully pedestrianise those streets,” Keegan said, at the meeting.

There are plans to “expand pedestrian facilities”, he said, but any proposals to fully pedestrianise the streets would need to go through the relevant committees.

The council said in March that it was considering the possibility of pedestrianising part of Capel Street.

Fine Gael Councillor James Geoghogen said the traders on Merrion Row as well as the general public would feel “deep, deep disappointment” at Keegan’s statement.

Some councillors said they couldn’t vote for or against the motion because it was too confusing, since it welcomed a report that doesn’t exist.

“I’ve seen no report whatsoever,” said independent Councillor Mannix Flynn.

The motion, backed by 39 of the 65 councillors, also called for “lots more streets to be considered for pedestrianisation or extended pedestrian space to support outdoor dining”.

They mentioned Parliament Street, Fade Street, South Frederick Street, Wicklow Street, Stephen Street Lower, St Andrew’s Street, Exchequer Street, Dame Court, Parnell Street, Jervis Street and Dawson Street.

Councillors want a weekly update on implementation and all the measures put in place before the first weekend in June, says the motion.

On Moore Street

The historic market area, Moore Street, should be designated as an architectural conservation area, say councillors.

It would mean any development within the zone would have to respect and help preserve the character of the streetscape.

The council previously voted to assess five of the buildings on Moore Street to see whether they should be added to the record of protected structures, said Sinn Féin Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha at Monday’s monthly meeting.

To do the assessments, the architects needed to get inside the buildings but the owners didn’t let them in. “Which has thwarted the will of the council,” said Mac Donncha.

Because of the lack of access, the report on whether to recommend the buildings was never completed, said John O’Hara, the city planning officer.

Independent Councillor Mannix Flynn asked if the councillors can get legal advice on whether they can compel the owners to grant access to the buildings so the architects can do the assessments.

“There is a heritage significance here, it is so important,” he said.

Said independent Councillor John Lyons: “There has to be some legal mechanism we can use.”

Yvonne Kelly, a law agent with the council, said there is a legal opinion on protected structures that is due to be circulated shortly and that there is an option to pursue the issue in the district court if the owner doesn’t allow access.

Numbers 14 to 17 Moore Street were already designated national monuments by the Minister, said O’Hara. (That was in 2007.)

Dublin City Council has applied to the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund for money to restore those buildings, said O’Hara.

“We are satisfied that 14 to 17 being designated a national monument by the minister is sufficient,” said O’Hara.

He assumes that when the minister’s office issued the designation for 14 to 17 Moore Street, they also looked at the others and decided they weren’t as significant, he said.

The owner of the five buildings on Moore Street that the councillors in the past said they wanted assessed has a valid planning permission, said O’Hara.

The developer is not required to comply with any listing while they have planning permission, he said.

The emergency motion proposed by 38 of the 65 councillors called for a change to the city development plan to designate Moore Street as an architectural conservation area and the motion was not opposed.

Waiting at O’Devaney Gardens

It is almost a year and a half since councillors transferred lands at the former O’Devaney Gardens complex in Stoneybatter to the developer Bartra, but still no planning application has been submitted.

In November 2019, when councillors agreed to transfer the land to the developer to build a mixture of private, social and affordable homes, council officials said that the project would progress quickly.

Independent Councillor John Lyons said at the meeting on Monday that the delay is “disappointing to see”.

“It is disappointing that it has been delayed further,” said the council housing manager Brendan Kenny, also at the meeting. The planning application is set to be submitted around the end of April or the beginning of May, he said.

The developer is very committed to the project and has already spent a lot of money on it, said Kenny, so “there is no risk of them pulling away from it”.

Some of the delays were the council’s fault too, he said. The original plans would have taken space from an existing community garden used by residents in nearby cottages so “through negotiation with Bartra that has been changed”.

That meant the designs had to be changed, and that contributed to the delays, he said.

Bartra has significantly upped the number of homes it plans to build on the site.

A spokesperson for Dublin City Council said in October 2020 that it had given Bartra extensions “as a direct result of delays incurred by the pandemic”.

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