Nonsense continues with Irish Times coverage of a liveable Dublin

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Dublin’s College Green, according to an Irish Times editorial the other day is where the “proverbial chickens have come home to roost”. But the article — billed as “The Irish Time’s View — is clearly written by someone with a poor grasp of the details of the plaza project.

The newspaper wrote that the plaza “seemed like such a good idea until the scheme ran into sustained opposition from sectional interests – taxi drivers, department stores, hotels, multi-storey car park operators and even Dublin Bus.”

The problem is that most of these groups — especially the usual suspects of taxi drivers, car parks and department stores — have objected to the College Green bus gate before it and a host of sustainable transport measures. Their objection to the plaza was expected.

They don’t want the city changed away from its car focus but they can’t win at a policy level, so, they continue to battle project-by-project. Muddying the waters in much the same way a Russian troll does on Twitter. But why does The Irish Times still lap it up?

The daft comments from the opponents of the project include that the plaza would be like the Berlin Wall were not reported by The Irish Times, possibly making the opponents seem a little less desperate than they are.

Following extensive non-statutory consultation (on-street, online, meetings with businesses, and a town-hall type of event), there was three separate advertised rounds of public consultation where the public or others could make submissions to An Bord Pleanala, the national planning body.

The paper of record continued by claiming that “an unprecedented 70” noticed parties to the public hearings for the plaza “speaks for itself”.

This is the point when I’d be pulling my hair out.

An Bord Pleanala has received submissions from individuals, businesses, groups of different types, governmental bodies, transport agencies and a number of trade organisations.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to index the submissions, but I can safely say that these includes a notable number of duplications.

There’s duplications in terms of different people or companies making nearly the exactly the same submission. For example, there’s several other submissions with the same address of the address of Brown Thomas Car Park (not owned by department store).

Then there’s separate submissions from Brown Thomas, Arnotts, Fitzwilliam Real Estate, and the Brown Thomas Car Park — but those companies also are included in a submission under the name of the recently formed Dublin City Centre Traders Alliance Ltd (which also includes the Jervis Shopping Centre and Westfield Investments, aka the Roches family of Roches Stores).

There’s nothing legally wrong with such duplication and I’m not commenting on the duplication itself, but the duplication means the number of parties on notice of the hearing is inflated.

The Irish Times also claimed the number of submissions and the fact that there’s divided opinion means “It is a measure of how fractious Dubliners can become when faced with decisions about the allocation of road space in the city centre.”

However, The Irish Times is confused between Dubliners generally and old-school business people — a large number of then owned by a handful of families, many with car parking interests. A clear majority of the public supported the plaza:

Consultants for the council said that environmental impact assessment was not required. On this point it’s hard to disagree with The Irish Times when they said the assessment was inevitable. But the main reason was for political reasons and not wanting to get caught up in the courts for a year or more.

The Irish Times thinks Parliament Street being turned two-way for buses “is no longer being proposed, for the simple reason that the pollution emitted by diesel-powered buses would likely exceed EU air quality standards.”

This is contradicted by the National Transport Authority (NTA) and Dublin Bus who have both outlined that having buses going both ways on Parliament Street is needed to allow bus priority.

The NTA have also outlined in detail how bus operators can only use newer, far cleaner buses on the street and that would mean the pollution on the street would fall significantly below the limits.

Dublin City Council who are proposing the plaza don’t have the power to direct that only newer buses can use the street and they have said that in the short-term, they’ll only use the street for buses going southbound (the current flow of the street with the general traffic cut out).

But here’s the thing —- An Bord Pleanala can (and should) follow the request from the NTA and Dublin Bus to make the street two-way for buses. An Bord Pleanala can put down a condition that this must be done if the plaza is built and that only low-emission buses are used.

The Irish Times continued by stating that the council’s case is not helped by the “chaos that attended the introduction of Luas” which is “competing with buses, taxis and cyclists.”

It’s like they didn’t bother to read even the overview from the council about the plaza — the plan isn’t flawless but it is part of the plan to address these issues.

And we get this gem: “If this ambitious scheme is to proceed, the council will have to convince An Bord Pleanála that it is capable of being implemented, without such downsides as a doubling of bus journey times in the city centre.”

The line about “doubling of bus journey times” is strange as officials have already said this has happened for short trips within the city centre. The officials added that the plaza and planned bus priority measures around it will be better than the current ad-hoc fixes — better even for bus passengers .

And they add: “The worthy prize of reclaiming College Green as a great civic space demands more than simply repeating assurances that everything will work out just fine when the plan is implemented.”

This is a kick in the face not just to officials who have to put up with a ten fold increase in amateur transport planners but to the whole process — The Irish Times are acting like the spoilt businesses who demand an environmental impact assessment and then don’t even bother to read it or not to bother to read key submissions like that from the NTA.

The Irish Times advertised about a year or two ago that it covers the “story of why”. My question is why does The Irish Times keep getting it so wrong on making urban areas liveable and promoting sustainable transport?

Previously:

  • ‪Was it all for this? Irish Times cycling deaths coverage ends with ranting, victim-blaming editorial ‬http://irishcycle.com/2015/08/07/was-it-all-for-this-irish-times-cycling-deaths-coverage-ends-with-ranting-victim-blaming-editorial/
  • Want a better cycling experience in Dublin? Here’s how a newspaper can hinder progress‬ http://irishcycle.com/2014/06/19/want-a-better-cycling-experience-in-dublin-heres-how-a-newspaper-can-hinder-progress/‬
  • Increase in cycling deaths bad news, but focusing on behaviour alone is a disservice‬ http://irishcycle.com/2014/07/13/increase-in-cycling-deaths-clearly-bad-news-but-focusing-on-behaviour-alone-is-a-disservice
  • Irish Times gets it wrong on cycling road safety stats two days in a row ‬http://irishcycle.com/2015/08/06/irish-times-gets-it-wrong-on-cycling-road-safety-stats-two-days-in-a-row/ ‬

I am editor of IrishCycle.com and have reported on and commented on cycling in Ireland for over a decade. My background is in journalism -- I have a BA in Journalism from DCU and HDip in Print Journalism from BCFE. I wrote about cycling for national newspapers, and then started CyclingInDublin.com for overflow stories. Later the website was re-branded to reflect a more national focus.

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