Dublin City Council’s New Capital Programme Includes Lots of Projects that Sound Familiar

The Parnell Square Cultural Quarter, the redevelopment of Dalymount Park, a water-based activity at George’s Dock and the Poolbeg district-heating system are among the flagship capital projects that Dublin City Council plans to progress in the next three years.

At a meeting of the full council on Monday night, the council’s chief executive officer, Owen Keegan, presented plans for €2.86 billion in investment through the new Capital Programme 2023 to 2025.

The projects themselves aren’t exactly new though. Many featured on the previous Capital Programme 2019 to 2022. Even before that, some, like the Parnell Square Cultural Quarter featured on the Capital Programme 2017 to 2019 too.

“I am conscious of the fact that delivery under previous Capital Programmes over recent years has been disappointing,” said Keegan, in the report.

He pointed the finger at the usual suspects to explain the delays: Covid-19, staffing issues, the construction sector, and the “complex and prolonged approval and procurement processes”.

In the past the council was “unduly optimistic in estimating project timescales”, so the current plan has more realistic timelines, says the report.

The largest spending line is housing, followed by transport. The capital programme also includes flood defences, restoration works, public amenities, environmental projects and additions to the culture and recreation infrastructure in the city.

On Parnell Square

Dublin City Council’s major project to transform a site on the north-west corner of Parnell Square is underway, with demolition works taking place on the site, says the report.

The council intends to spend €80 million in the first phase of the project, to build a new public library by 2027 and begin restoration works on nearby Georgian buildings.

“The Parnell Square Cultural Quarter development will make an enormous contribution to the cultural life of the city and to the redevelopment of the north inner-city,” says the report.

Dublin City Council had hoped to get private philanthropic funding for the project but that didn’t come through. It has since secured a grant of €56.6 million via the government’s Urban Regeneration and Development Fund, says the report.

The council had drawings of the new library, which are still up on the website, but earlier this year it dropped the architects that it had appointed for the project.

It is currently looking for a new design team, says the report.

Several councillors at the meeting asked whether the project was being scaled down. “We seem to be downsizing that project, effectively,” said Fine Gael Councillor Naoise Ó Muirí.

The public-realm works in Parnell Square are badly needed, he said.

Those works include reconfiguring the road, widening footpaths, adding new street furniture and street art. As well as creating a new public realm area between Parnell Square West and East and the Garden of Remembrance, according to the Parnell Square website.

Keegan, the council’s chief executive, said the development approved by councillors is going ahead in full. “There is an absolute commitment to deliver that project in full as it was originally envisaged.”

It is being delivered in phases, he says, so when the building work is finished then the council will tender for the extensive public-realm works, he said.

Green Party Councillor Janet Horner said that progress in Parnell Square is too slow. “What can we do to accelerate the delivery of this?”

Light and Heat

The council plans to spend €33 million over the next three years to upgrade Dublin’s street lighting.

That money will allow the council to continue to switch over to LED bulbs, with a target of 40,000 street lights to be upgraded, starting in early 2023, the report says.

That should mean energy savings in excess of 50 percent, said the report, and “will have the environmental benefit of a reduced carbon footprint yielding positive outcomes with regards to health, and increased economic and institutional resilience”.

The council plans to replace various parts of the lighting infrastructure too and to install a system so it can manage streetlights remotely.

The report also offers an update on another big energy-related project, the council’s long-awaited district heating system, using heat generated by the Poolbeg waste-to-energy incinerator.

District heating systems distribute heat that is generated in a centralised location through a system of insulated underground pipes.

The council estimates that it will spend €70 million on that, the report says.

Homes and businesses in Poolbeg West, North Lotts and the Grand Canal Dock area will be the first to benefit from the scheme, the report says.

“This project has been beset by delays,” says the report. “We now expect to go to the market in early 2023 with construction starting in early 2024.”

The council has secured a grant of €20 million from the climate action fund for projects that help Ireland to meet its climate targets. It also plans to borrow €50 million for the project, but it hasn’t applied for the loan yet, says the report.

A Timeline for Dalymount Park

The council plans to spend around €40 million by 2026 to redevelop Dalymount Park into a four-sided enclosed stadium that would hold around 8,000 people, says the report.

The upgrade of Dalymount Park includes plans for a new public library and community centre, it says.

The council has secured some funding for the design work and preliminary designs will be ready in early 2023, it says.

“I’m glad to see that it’s back to 8,000 and that the community facilities and the library are included,” says Labour Party Councillor Joe Costello.

Around €900,000 in grants from the Large Scale Sports Infrastructure Fund (LSSIF) will partially fund the design and planning, the report says, but the major funding is not yet in place.

“The completion and construction of the project by the commencement of 2026 season is dependent on significant funding being allocated under Stream 2 of the LSSIF,” says the report.

George’s Dock

Councillors have not yet reached agreement on what to do next with George’s Dock, after abandoning previous plans for a white-water rafting facility there.

Alternative proposals for George’s Dock include the development of a swift-water rescue training facility for emergency services and a number of outdoor pools.

“However, despite numerous meetings and presentations to the Central Area Committee and the Docklands Oversight and Consultative Forum it has not been possible to get agreement on the alternative proposal,” says the report.

Still, the council has set aside €500,000 to cover design costs and minor works to George’s Dock, if it ever does get agreement on what should go there.

“I just hope – the elected members – that we do something with that,” said independent Councillor Vincent Jackson, who had supported the white-water rafting facility.

That space should be used for “something that could animate the city and bring life”, he said.

The council plans to spend €13.6 million over the next three years at a site nearby to replace its Docklands office building, which it says is no longer fit for purpose and to build a water-based activities centre

“The second building will be used by the Council’s Sports and Recreation Services Section as a Water Activities Centre to enable them to provide an expanded programme of water based activities based on the River Liffey,” says the report.

Public Toilets

Also at the meeting, several councillors raised concerns about the small amount set aside in the capital programme to fund public toilets over the next three years.

Green Party Councillor Claire Byrne queried if the €500,000 allocated for toilets in parks would be enough. “My understanding is that the ones in Grafton Street cost around €200,000 a year,” she said.

The council’s finance manager, Kathy Quinn, said that the €500,000 figure was for toilets in parks only and that there was another €1 million allocated for public loos across the city.

“I think it’s ridiculous that we are talking about public lavatories in a capital city where we don’t actually have public lavatories,” said independent Councillor Mannix Flynn.

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Author:

Laoise Neylon: Laoise Neylon is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at [email protected]

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