When a motion to establish a market on Broadstone Plaza went before Dublin City Council’s Central Area Committee towards the end of its meeting on 14 March, Ray McAdam let out a sigh.
“Oh Jesus,” he said.
Late in February, the Fine Gael councillor had put forward a near-identical motion at the arts committee, supporting the creation of a weekly market at the entrance to the public space outside TU Dublin’s Grangegorman campus.
Members of the arts committee had passed the motion, then referred it to the Central Area Committee.
Last week’s motion was yet another on the same issue, this one penned by Labour Councillor Joe Costello. It came after TU Dublin held a public meeting to address reports of anti-social and racist activity in recent months, Costello said.
“Some students are concerned and perhaps afraid of being on that particular plaza at certain times of the day and night,” he said.
A market for coffee, flowers or casual traders could potentially help discourage such problems, Costello said. “This is an area, an open area, that’s bare, that’s open to anti-social behaviour.”
But the idea has been held up by a planned review of casual trading by-laws, which has been delayed by five years, said Costello.
There is no current plan for a market on Broadstone Plaza, says a press spokesperson for Dublin City Council.
But the council is planning to review the by-laws this year, they said, with the plaza being included for consideration as a new designated casual trading location.
An Unsocial Space
On Monday at 4.30pm, dozens of students trail down an incline that leads from the TU Dublin campus in Grangegorman onto the plaza where they wait for a Luas at the DIT-Broadstone stop.
The plaza by Constitution Hill is decorated with long stone benches. But nobody stops to sit. The area isn’t treated as a meeting point, but rather a transit zone.
Occasionally, an e-scooter user or a delivery cyclist zipped by. Empty beer cans, plastic wrappers and bags were strewn across the wall beside a stepped garden at its edge.
Part of the Grangegorman Urban Quarter redevelopment, construction on Broadstone Plaza began in March 2019. The project cost €4 million.
Construction was completed in the summer 2020. But the plaza wasn’t opened to the public until September 2021.
The Grangegorman Development Agency framed it as a major link between Grangegorman and the city. However, at the Central Area Committee on 14 March, Social Democrats Councillor Cat O’Driscoll said the space could be put to much more use. “It has potential as a skateboarding facility, as a market.”
O’Driscoll pointed out that Costello’s motion was only the latest in a line of proposals for the plaza.
“I’m not convinced, with all the responses we’re getting with questions and motions, that there’s any ambition to do anything with the plaza,” she said.
Fianna Fáil Councillor Eimer McCormack said she had asked several questions about the plaza in the past.
The lack of use has left space for anti-social behaviour, she said. “Once it starts being used, and the community can use it, safety issues minimise within that.”
Green Party Councillor Janet Horner said she also had her own motion on the Broadstone Plaza in April 2022.
That one called on Dublin City Council, the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI), and the Grangegorman Development Agency to do an accessibility audit of the plaza.
On Thursday, Horner said the NCBI had raised concerns with her when the plaza was unveiled that it didn’t meet accessibility requirements for those with sight loss.
“It’s grey on grey on grey,” Horner said. “There’s very little contrast, there’s a slope, there’s benches, all things people with visual impairments would struggle to navigate without a strong contrast.”
Since her motion was agreed, Horner said, there is little evidence of any changes.
“Nothing was done as far as I can see, but in general, there is a broader frustration that this is also an underutilised space,” she said.
A Delayed Review
At present, Dublin City Council has no plans for any development on Broadstone Plaza, whether as a market or a skating facility, a council press spokesperson says.
“Under the current Casual Trading Bye Laws, Broadstone Plaza is not designated for Casual Trading,” they said.
But council officials are planning to review the casual trading by-laws this year, they said. “Broadstone Plaza will be included for consideration as a new designated Casual Trading location selling a variety of offerings.”
That review was first announced in 2018 by Dublin City Council.
At the Central Area Committee meeting, Costello said he was not happy with this reply. “I can’t for the life of me see how a review of the casual trading by-laws is going to take place this year.”
On Monday evening, McAdam said the delay in the review stems from legal challenges to by-laws in other local authorities, including in Cork.
“City council is waiting to see the outcome of that court case before we proceed with the final review,” he says.
A New Market for the Area
Broadstone Plaza would be an optimal spot for a new market, said McAdam.
“It’s a direct connection between Grangegorman, Stoneybatter and Phibsboro,” he said. “So I think the potential level of footfall there, where it’s located, I felt could provide an ideal opportunity.”
O’Driscoll says that an idea would be to create a market that is not exclusively focused on consumerism. “Maybe you could go along and get something fixed at a low cost, whether it is repairs on clothing or mechanics.”
O’Driscoll said the rethink could provide an opportunity to green the plaza. “We could make it a bit warmer, softer, rather than the sort of very severe infrastructure that is there at the moment.”
At the March meeting, O’Driscoll proposed that – given council that officials said they had no immediate plans – councillors put the plaza question back on the agenda for April, for a discussion around drawing up a strategy for the space.
“I have ideas, councillors Horner and McAdam have ideas,” she says. “There’s no way we’re the only ones.”
“So if we can have that discussion, then the manager can hear what we’re ambitious for. And then hopefully, something will start to get feet,” she said.