— Panels installed for years at nearly 50 locations in Dublin
— Lack of agreement could push DublinBikes subscription above €30
— Final decision will be made at full council meeting
— Councillors differ on alternative funding sources.
Local councillors have said that there locations in Dublin 4 and and one in Dublin 2 proposed for freestanding mini-billboards advertisements are “unsuitable” and “unsafe” but have denied their objections are just nimbyism.
The locations proposed are at Pembroke Road, Shelbourne Road, Charlemont Street, and Donnybrook Road.
As part of a contract with advertising firm JCDecaux nearly 50 panels were installed around Dublin City and, in return, the company is providing a network of signs for tourists and the running costs of the original part of the DublinBikes system for 15 years.
The location of the existing Metropole panels include the Crumlin Road (pictured above), Sheriff Street, Navan Road, Malahide Road, Fingal Road, Dorset Street, Church Street, Swords Road and the Ballymun Road.
Local Labour, Green Party, Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein and independent councillors rejected the locations, although some stressed that they would be open to looking at other sites in their area.
The four planned locations are for an unfulfilled contractual arrangement to fund DublinBikes, and not part of any planned expansion. But the rejection by local councillors may also add doubt to the idea of new on-street advertising as a means of funding for expansion.
The local councillors’ rejection of the locations will now form a suggestion when the issue is presented at a full sitting of Dublin City Council. Local councillors alone cannot stop or block a Part 8 planning process, which is used when councils are constructing public amenities. If councillors from across the Dublin City Council area reject the locations, it will mean there will be a larger funding shortfall which will have to be funded by other means, possibly an increase in costs to users or a service cut to the bicycle rental scheme.
On Monday evening, a meeting of councillors from the South East area of Dublin City Council rejected the location of the advert panels.
Responding to councillors, Jim Keogan, assistant chief executive with the responsibility for planning and property, said: “There is no intention on behalf of the council to shut down the bike scheme, it is hugely successful and we will maintain it… However, there is a challenge to us as a city council to look for avenues which will allow for revenue streams that will fulfil the huge pressure on us to expand the scheme.”
He said the plan for a ten-fold expansion was presented back in 2010 to councillors, subject to funding, but that to date it has been difficult to find any revenue streams.
“We went and looked for the last three years through the city… and looked at in excess of 50 sites to find the sites that you see before you today, that will fulfil our contractual obligations. There’s no easy way out of this, every site has to be considered to see its technical feasible — Are there services on the ground? Can it be accessed for maintenance? Is it affected by development proposals?,” he said.
He said when you eliminate sites which do not fill the requirements the sites capable of taking a Metropole are “few and far in between”.
Keogan said that even if the Metropole sites were approved, the council are looking at increasing the subscription cost for users from €20 to “around €30” per year to “deal with the current deficits”. But he said if the Metropole sites were not approved it would “push subscription costs up further” beyond €30. He said “this is not a threat, this is just reality”.
He said that the sites are compliant with the development plan zoning.
Cllr Dermot Lacey (Labour), said: “This issue is quite simple as far as I’m concerned. The four locations are in my view highly unsuitable for a whole load of reasons, primarily three of them are located in Z1 [planning zoning] areas which prohibit the placing of advertising of this sort and the fourth one in Donnybrook is simply unsafe.”
He added: “It’s unsafe beside the fire brigade and it’s also unfair to the small number of businesses which will operate beside it.” He added that he would walk the area with the council officials until other locations are found.
Cllr Mannix Flynn (independent) said he supports DublinBikes but does not support the advertising that funds the system. He said he rejected them in the entire city, including the Coombe and the Naas Road
Cllr Frank Kennedy (FF) said: “I recognise it’s difficult to find locations for these structures and I appreciate also that there are contractual commitments, but difficulties does not simply mean we put them in unsuitable locations.”
He added: “There are two in particular that I have a difficulty with, the Donnybrook and Pembroke Road locations, the other two I’m not so opposed to them. The basis of my opposition is that there are safety and conservation concerns.”
Cllr Patrick Costello (Green Party) called the panels “gargantuan” and said that the original contract for DublinBikes only included smaller on-street advertising — this, however, is not the case. The original DublinBikes and tourist wayfinding signs deal resulted in 46 Metropole panels being installed around the city.
Cllr Mary Freehill (Labour) said: “The bikes are now part of our public transportation system… the bikes are actually supplementing our public transportation system and quite frankly I think the Department of Transport should be funding all of this.
Cllr Claire Byrne (Green Party) said: “My understanding is that these would be in contravention of the current development plan. She said they did not want to see any impacts on the scheme and wanted it expanded, but added: “This should not be dependent on advertisements. We don’t build roads and motorways based on revenue from billboards. So, I don’t see why we should be doing the same for the DublinBikes scheme.”
She said that the council should write to the minister for transport demanding funding.
Cllr Kieran Binchy (FG) said that it should be viewed as a planning decision. He said: “If you came to me and said you want to put four new billboards up in these locations for whatever reason I’d be against them, so, although I’m fully in favour of DublinBikes, I’m not doing it [recommending approval] for DublinBikes.”
He, however, added that he fundamentally disagrees with other councillor’s view that it should be funded by central Government. He said: “We make difficult decisions, so, let’s put it into our budget [the council’s budget].”
Addressing other councillors, Cllr Binchy said: “You control our budget… I will support Labour, Sinn Fein, the Greens and independents on the budget if they include [the DublinBikes shortfall].” Adding: “I’m not saying it has to be an increase in property tax. I’m saying find a way of supporting this and I will support you.”
You can watch the full council meeting for a limited amount of time here.