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The council aims to appoint a new design team to revise its College Green and Dame Street plaza project early next year, said Patricia Reidy, the project’s manager at last Wednesday’s meeting of the council’s transport committee.
The council’s previous proposal, dating back to 2015, was for a sweeping plaza in front of Trinity College. It was rejected by An Bord Pleanála in October 2018, citing delays and inconvenience to traffic and negative impact on pedestrians and buses.
Since then, it has decided it wants to expand the redesigned area all the way up to the junction with South Great George’s Street, said Reidy.
While it tenders for a new design team, the council wants to start easing private car traffic out of College Green, as the number of buses running through the space starts to fall under BusConnects, the network redesign.
Winding Down Traffic
“We feel there’s some scope for us to start to take some of that space,” said Brendan O’Brien, the council’s head of technical services, at the meeting.
There are no certain plans yet, he said, but one idea they have is to make the bus corridors active 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, meaning private cars can’t use them.
At the moment, the bus lanes are active 12 hours a day during the week, and not on weekends, said O’Brien. The council may add in benches and trees around College Green, he said.
“I think it’s got a huge amount of merit,” said O’Brien. “This is really just something that we’re starting to contemplate.”
The council has been holding “summer Sundays”, opening up College Green to pedestrians and cyclists, and barred cars from entering.
Ninety percent of attendees surveyed at one summer survey rated it excellent or very good, said Reidy. “A child being stung by a bee with the only negative feedback I personally received.”
“The way people communicated to us that they use the space just meant that we think there’s an opportunity there and I think the public themselves will really support us in that,” said O’Brien.
Colm Ryder, representative of Dublin Cycling Campaign, said at the meeting that he welcomes the interim measures. “To make our city more livable.”
Mannix Fynn, an independent councillor, said the interim changes are “quick wins” for the council.
“I can tell you every single quick win they try to put in down here will be challenged under law, so they need to be really careful,” he said.
“I think it should not be delivered, you know, by basically project splitting. This has to be put back into the tendering process,” he said.
The council should try to deliver the original project instead of the new one, he said. “I think this is going to be a very very controversial issue.”
Future College Green
Changes to bus routes proposed under Bus Connects, the National Transport Authority’s (NTA’s) planned bus network redesign, have made it possible for the council to return to the idea of pedestrianising College Green.
Work done on the previous proposal for College Green won’t be lost, said O’Brien at the meeting.
The rejection by An Bord Pleanála was disappointing for the council, he said. Although, “the city council, they didn’t necessarily share the view of An Board Pleanála’s inspector, that’s neither here nor there”, he said.
Since then, the council has had to wait for the NTA to finish its BusConnects designs, he said. “So we couldn’t advance on a design until we actually had some clarity on what that network was.”
And to meet EU procurement rules, said Reidy, a new design team has to be appointed, as the area of the project is increasing – reaching all the way down Dame Street to the junction with South Great George’s Street.
Reidy said she hopes to have a new design team by the beginning of 2023.
Paddy McCartan, a Fine Gael councillor, said he’s annoyed at how long the new announcement took.
“From the tone of the presentation you’d think we were getting this, this was the first time. This project was announced back in 2015,” he said.
“The main concern I have is how Dublin City Council are now trying to distance themselves from their responsibility in terms of compliance with procurement rules, when we were told two years ago that the project was to be doubled in space and scale, we all accepted that,” he said.
“I have to say that I am extremely disappointed with where this project stands at the end of 2022,” said McCartan.
Donna Cooney, a Green Party councillor, said the new plan sounds better than the old one. “Something that seems like a bad thing turns into a good thing. I think what we’ve got now is a better plan now that it’s extended up Dame Street.”
Caroline Conroy, a Green Party councillor, said pedestrianising College Green will make it a place to socialise, increase greenery and reduce air pollution in the city.
“I think our people deserve this, and I’d like to say this go-ahead will be a legacy for the city,” she said.