Council Briefs: Changing Rooms and Toilets for Training Pitches, a Public Artwork to Represent the LGBTQ+ Community, and More

Seeking Sports Club Toilets

Sports clubs around the city have been asking the council how to go about putting changing facilities and toilets alongside their training pitches, particularly since more girls have been joining teams.

At Monday’s meeting of Dublin City Council’s arts, culture, leisure and recreation committee, Les Moore, the city parks superintendent, said the council has a lot of projects already lined up, and so wouldn’t be able to build changing rooms for every club that urgently needs one.

Instead, officials have drawn up a draft policy to explain to clubs eager to build facilities how to go about getting planning permission from the council to build on the council’s land, which many training pitches are on.

“So what we wanted to do was facilitate clubs to develop changing rooms,” said Moore at the meeting.

Séamas McGrattan, a Sinn Féin councillor, says he would prefer if the council would itself apply for planning permission, fund and build changing rooms and then lease them to clubs.

Some clubs may build what they like on the land, he said. “And basically, it’s like privatising public space.”

Moore said the council won’t permit “unnecessary” rooms like gyms, and facilities won’t be bigger than they need to be. “I think we’re looking at basic enough changing room facilities, unless an argument is made for something else.”

McGrattan says the council should be careful that on shared pitches, clubs with resources to pay for the changing facilities shouldn’t get more ownership of changing rooms over smaller clubs. “I still think that if we could do it in partnership with clubs that would be the best way.”

Said Moore: “If there is an imbalance between a club which has a lot of resources and one that doesn’t mean we would always look to stand in and support the case of the club that doesn’t have the resources to use that shared facility.”

Currently, the draft policy uses the word “disposal” in a couple of places.

Deirdre Heney, a Fianna Fáil councillor, said the council should cut any reference to disposing of land, because it would be public land and shouldn’t be sold. “We own the land, you know, we don’t want to dispose of the land.”

Moore said the mention of disposal is a technical definition and he will clarify it in the future draft of the policy. “We’re not handing over, giving away the land to any clubs or any other group.”

Alison Gilliland, a Labour councillor, said it could be prohibitively expensive for a club to go through planning commission and get an architect. “When I look across my own community, I see very small, financially strapped clubs.”

The council should be sharing the responsibility with the community and co-operating with clubs, Gilliland said.

Mícheál MacDonnacha, a Sinn Féin councillor, said the council should create standardised plans for basic changing-room facilities, for clubs that can’t afford an architect.

“I think we need to do everything we can to facilitate clubs to develop them where they’re appropriate,” he said. “Obviously I accept we’re not in a position to develop them ourselves or fund them ourselves.”

Moore said the council has developed changing rooms in Finglas, Tolka Valley, Springdale and Poppintree, he says “We’re not going to stop doing that.”

But writing this policy is to make it clear how clubs can build their own facilities, quicker than the council can, he said. “Under the conditions that are suitable to Dublin City Council.”

There should be requirements for changing facilities to be accessible and to have public toilets and drinking water, said Social Democrats Councillor Cat O’Driscoll.

Said Moore: “It’s difficult to require clubs to provide public toilets because we can’t stand over the standard or the maintenance of those.”

Pushing for an LGBTQ+ Artwork

The council is engaging with LGBTQ+ groups about a potential big artwork to represent their community, Ruairí Ó Cuív, the public art officer from the city arts office said at Monday’s meeting of Dublin City Council’s arts, culture, leisure and recreation committee.

“Obviously, it’s more complex than just the arts office work, in that anything to go into the public realm involves different sections of the city council,” he said.

The idea was born out of a suggestion in 2016 by activist and DJ Tonie Walsh for an Irish Aids Memorial, but the vision has broadened since then, said a council report.

A group was assembled by Dublin Pride, and included people representing LGBT Ireland, Transgender Equality Network Ireland, GCN Magazine, Queer Culture Ireland and GAZE Film Festival.

In April, the council’s arts office held a workshop to help the group decide on a proposal to put to the council.

Said Ray Yeates, the city arts officer: “It’s very important that they have a unified approach to this.”

A permanent public art piece would make the LGBTQ+ community more visible and part of the architecture of the city, said participants, according to the workshop report. “We don’t want to be on the outskirts, we want to be in the centre of things.”

Yeates said public art of this type can cost anything up to €300,000, but the group could look for funding from Dublin City Council, the Department of Culture, or the Arts Council.

The piece could also be a space, somewhere where people can gather, and hold events or performances. It could be in Meeting House Square, Curved Street, Barnardo Square, or Temple Bar Square, it reads.

The report says the groups intend to hold a consultation with the broader LGBTQ+ community to come up with a final proposal.

Designing Public Seating

Public seating should be designed for people of different heights, for those who might struggle to sit down, and have arm rests to help stand up, says Mary Freehill, a Labour councillor.

“To make sure that in fact that the parks can facilitate older people,” she said.

Councillors at Monday’s meeting of the arts and culture committee agreed with her, backing a motion co-signed by three other councillors for the council to do just that.

Alison Gilliland, a Labour councillor, said they were concerned there had been a move away from what might be called traditional seating. “And we just want to ensure that there is a consideration for older persons, those with less mobility.”

“It is something that has come up quite a lot,” said Gilliland. “It’s the height issue where you have people who may have had hip operations.”

Anne Feeney, a Fine Gael councillor, said ensuring that seating was accessible would make a massive difference to older and more vulnerable people. “It’s a simple thing, really, to get right.”

Designs for new seating should be considered with accessibility in mind, she says. “And the retrofit of some existing seating, which shouldn’t be too difficult to also add into it.”

Green Party Councillor Donna Cooney said the council also shouldn’t place benches beside bins. “So they don’t have, you know, smell, unpleasant smells or bees or wasps or anything.”

There’s been plenty of research on age-friendly public seating, she said. “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.”

Said Freehill: “The most important thing is that the parks department can take up the decision that we’ve made and proceed with it.”

Les Moore, the city parks superintendent, said they accept the point the motion was making. “And we will take that on board.”

Author:

Claudia Dalby: Claudia Dalby is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. She's especially interested in stories about the southside, transport, and kids in the city. Get in touch at [email protected]

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