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Dublin City Council installed covered, secure bike storage in the front garden of its Central Area Office on Seán MacDermott Street.
It was put in sometime between September 2022 and March 2023, according to Google Street View.
Meanwhile, the council has brought enforcement actions against the owners of two houses in Clontarf who put storage spaces in theirs.
It took enforcement action against Vanessa Pearse for installing bike storage in the front garden of her home, a protected structure in Clontarf.
“That is one lovely looking period building with a not-so-period bike storage unit sitting proud and conspicuous in the front garden!” Pearse said of the council’s bike storage in front of its Central Area Office.
“However, I’m all for bike storage units, especially for terraced houses. What else are cyclists supposed to do?” she said.
The council has also taken enforcement action against Siobhan Kelly for installing bike storage in the front garden of her home in Clontarf, not far from Pearse’s home.
“Is it one rule for them and another for us?” Kelly asked, when she heard about the bike storage in front of the council office.
Dublin City Council has not yet responded to queries including whether they needed and applied for planning permission to install the bike storage in front of their office on Seán MacDermott Street.
However, it appears from the Planning and Development Act 2000 and regulations, and the book Simons on Planning Law by David Browne, that the installation was exempt from the need for planning permission, as it was a small project done by the council on council land.
The council also did not reply to a query on whether it’s fair to require residents to apply for planning permission for bike storage in their front gardens while it does not need such permission itself.
However, the council says that unless the government changes the law, people will continue to need to apply for either an exemption or planning permission to put secure bike storage in their front gardens.
On foot of a motion from Green Party Councillor Donna Cooney, Dublin City Council’s planning committee agreed last month to write to the Minister of Housing to suggest the government change the law to make front-garden bike storage that meets specific design guidelines exempted development. In other words, as long as it looked a certain way it wouldn’t need planning permission.
But “whilst planning legislation is kept under constant review, there are currently no proposals to amend the legislation as suggested”, a spokesperson for the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage said by email Tuesday.
Meanwhile, while national and local governments are promoting cycling, Dublin City Council’s planned public scheme to install 350 bike bunkers on streets across the city, where people could store their bikes securely, hasn’t been rolled out.
Planning law allows people to put “sheds and stores” on the grounds of their house, except not in front of the house, a council spokesperson said Tuesday by email.
“A case could be made that a bike storage box to the front of a property is exempt development under Section 4(1)(h) of the Planning and Development Act,” they said.
That relates to “works which affect only the interior of the structure or which do not materially affect the external appearance of the structure so as to render the appearance inconsistent with the character of the structure or of neighbouring structures”, he said.
“A section 5 declaration would be warranted in each case and there is a risk that the outcome of the process will be that a proposal is not exempt development and requires planning permission,” he said.
If a person wants to instead just skip that step and go straight to applying for planning permission, then “the storage box should be of an appropriate design to integrate with the house, garden and wider streetscape”, he said.
“The Planning Department will seek to raise the matter with the Department of Housing,” he said.
But the Department of Housing spokesperson said on Tuesday that there were no plans to amend the legislation to make putting in front-garden bike boxes easier.
Requiring people to apply for planning permission, “allows for the making of submissions or observations and this enables occupiers of adjacent properties to make submissions on development which may directly impact them”, he said.
“There is a balance between providing planning exemptions where appropriate and for enabling participation for those who may be affected by a development,” he said.
The Department of Transport, headed by Minister Eamon Ryan of the Green Party, has not replied to a query on whether he would support changing the law.
Vanessa Pearse’s Story
Vanessa Pearse installed bike storage in the front garden of her Victorian terraced house on St Lawrence Road in Clontarf and soon she was hit with enforcement action by Dublin City Council. The house is on the council’s record of protected structures.
Pearse lives in the house with her family, and four people in the house are cyclists, according to an architect’s letter to An Bord Pleanála on her behalf.
“There are four bicycles coming and going during the day,” the letter says. “They use bicycles in preference to car.”
They used to store their bikes in a shed at the bottom of the back garden, but the laneway back there is unlit – and besides, they had bikes stolen from the shed, the letter says. So they were bringing the bikes inside and keeping them in one of the living rooms.
On a trip abroad, they saw front-garden bike storage and thought that’d be a great solution, the letter says. So they installed their own, planning to hide it with landscaping, the letter says.
Pearse hadn’t realised they were required to apply for planning permission, or a declaration that the structure was exempt from the need for planning permission, according to a January 2022 letter from an architect to the council on her behalf.
So, after a warning letter from the council, in January 2022 she applied for “retention”, which is kind of retroactive planning permission for something already built. But the council turned her down.
The planning inspector’s report said that what she’d built was “incompatible with the existing character of the front gardens of houses in the vicinity”.
The inspector recommended against allowing her to keep “the bin store, the bike storage unit and the structural base for the bike store, and the proposal to construct a new gravel access path to the bike storage unit”.
Together they “introduced significant visual clutter to the front garden of the Protected Structure, causing serious injury to its setting and amenity as well as that of the immediately adjoining Protected Structures”.
Also, they’d “set an unacceptable and undesirable precedent for similar development in the vicinity”, the inspector wrote.
Pearse appealed the council’s decision to An Bord Pleanála in April 2022. In a letter to the board on her behalf, an architect says gardens on the street are all different, and notes that 53 have wheelie bins in them.
Their bike storage “is no different to a bin and one could argue that it is less obtrusive than many wheelie bin collections placed outside similar houses,” the letter says.
Calling what Pearse was putting in her front garden “significant visual clutter”, “seemingly singling out our Clients is unfair and disproportionate”, the letter says.
An Bord Pleanála has not yet decided her appeal.
“It seems the real planning rule is that anyone can do whatever they like, provided nobody reports it,” says Siobhan Kelly, who – like Pearse – lives in Clontarf, and is also facing enforcement over bike storage.
Public Bike Storage
While the council is bringing enforcement actions against people building front-garden bike storage in Clontarf, they are also building a major cycle route from the area to the city centre.
“Why build an expensive cycle track and then give most people nowhere to store their bikes?” Pearse asked.
The council has for years talked about installing secure, covered bike storage on city streets for residents to use. It had a plan to install 350 bike bunkers across the city, but last month a council official said that plan was under review.
It is not correct to say that this means the council is no longer sure it is going to move forward with rolling out the bike bunker programme, a council spokesperson said by email on Monday.
“A number of impediments obstructed the progression of this project; a global pandemic and movement of resource [sic],” the spokesperson said.
“The [council’s] Micromobility Unit acquired the project during 2022. It was deemed that a full review of the project was necessary in order to progress the project to best fit the requirements of the City,” he said.
The review will look at: “value for money, variable costs, alternative bike parking solutions, management of a scheme, and more technically, criteria for siting of bunkers, and installation”, he said.
“An external consultant was engaged to prepare a Bike Bunker Scheme Review and Recommendations Report,” he said. “The council will present a review of the bike bunker scheme to the [councillors on the] Transport SPC [strategic policy committee], the review will guide the council in planning a strategic proposal.”
The council first piloted a bike bunker in the city in 2014, later installed a dozen, and has been talking since at least 2021 about installing another 350.
The council should have a compassionate think, these people are doing something to support greener living. In an overcrowded, dangerous city for cycling
Maybe look into people building, huge walls and illegal extensions looking into other people’s living rooms instead. On advice from many, contact all departments of the council and the Oireachtas. #enoughisenough
Utterly ridiculous. On the one hand people are being told not to use cars and cycle but then have to jump through hoops just to have somewhere safe to keep their bikes. A bike store is not a permanent structure and poses no threat to the integrity of any building. This is just yet another example of Dublin councils illogical and senseless planning rules.
Ah. The priorities that DCC is fighting against… Bike storage in the front of the house…
I’m absolutely stunned at the mixed messaging and ineptitude of DCC on this matter. Who honestly has a problem with these in front gardens? If anything it’s a sign of social progress.
How can they say it takes from the look of the building because it’s not a period structure.
I’ve yet to see a period style Range Rover, BMW or period style wheelybin for that matter
Why not show a picture of the said structures to give context to the story?
There’s a photo of the council’s bike storage in this article, a photo of Vanessa Pearse’s bike storage in this article, and a link in this article to my previous article with a previously published photo of Siobhan Kelly’s bike storage.
Would you need planning permission for a motion sensor light directed at the back lane? How is the bike storage more secure than a shed?
Put wheels on the bike storage unit then it’s not fixed and movable so no planning needed.
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