Dublin City Council has spent a year “teasing out some of the issues” on the College Green and Dame Street plaza plan and expect to spend another year before lodging a planning application.
96% of around 3,900 people who responded to the public consultation last year favoured an expanded plaza to include not just College Green but also Dame Street up South Great George’s Street.
But Dublin City Council is planning to only start construction on the plaza in early 2024. Frank Lambe, a Senior Executive Officer at Dublin City Council, said that the council hopes to lodge a new planning application for the plaza by the end of 2022.
He told Dublin City Council’s transport committee that their timeline is linked to the implementation of the BusConnects routing project which is planned to be nearly finished in the area around the start of 2024. He said an option of BusConnects allows all buses to be routed away from the east side of Dame Street.
Cllr Janet Horner (Green Party) said: “To clarify for my own understanding: The consultation was a year ago, so, what has been progressed over the last year?”
Frank said: “One of the questions Cllr Horner has was in relation to what happened since the consultation. The consultation happened between November and January. We hot the submissions in January.”
“For from our point of view, it brought up a brilliant opportunity for us to develop the entire stretch (the extended plaza area). Our city architects on the design size and, on the roads side, with traffic (the section of the council), teasing out some of the issues, getting ourselves prepared for bringing it to a firm of consultants to bring it onto a planning application. That’s kind of what’s being happening,” said Lambe.
Lord Mayor Cllr Alison Gilliland (Labour) asked if getting a consultant involved means that a public procurement process needs to take place and how long will this add to the process.
Lambe said that it would take three or four months to hire consultants.
Cllr Paddy McCartan (Fine Gael) asked would Winetavern Street still be used to divert buses and how would the plan work with all the changes made to the city in the last year.
Gary Kearney, a disability advocate who is a member of the committee, claimed that if some buses were diverted to Winetavern Street, the buses cannot go both ways under the arch at the same time. He said that this issue was “noted” but gave no reference to where the claim was from. This claim was made despite Dublin Bus being able to park buses side-by-side up the street for the Papal Visit in 2018.
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He said that a disabled access consultant should be involved with the project.
Kearney said: “You’re talking about doing things that don’t work, that have been proven not to work, that the bus company were against. The only two people that actually agreed with it was the NTA and Dublin City Council, who agree on just about everything anyway. So, what has changed?”
He added: “And the consultation — an online consultation and signing a form is not a consultation. Consultation is, for instance, meeting my community and talking to us and listening to our issues. And not just ticking a box and saying ‘oh, well, we consulted’.”
Martin Hoey, a Dublin City Public Participation Network representative on the committee, said that he monitored the rollout of the C-spine for BusConnects on the quays and said Aston Quay is “now a joke” ahead of other Spines being added and he claimed that there was not enough space on the quays.
He said that the only way for College Green to work was to make Aston Quay bus-only and create an island bus stop in the middle of the roads for more bus stop space.
Richard Guiney, CEO of Dublin Town, said that the public loves the idea of having a continuous pedestrian area between College Green and St Stephen’s Green. He said: “It’s something in surveys that they are very excited about.”
But he said that he wanted to echo concerns about buses and that people are “very relucent” to walk more than 250 metres from the bus stop to their destination and that “certainly they won’t walk more than 500 metres”.
“So, places like Winetavern Street and High Street for disembarkation (from buses) is not going to work for us”, he said. However, Winetavern Street was only ever supposed to be a part of the detour route for some buses and was never suggested as a primary bus stop for shopping areas of the city.
Lambe said that he understands the issues that Dublin Bus are resolved and that routing of buses was mainly an issue for the NTA and bus companies.
Chairperson of the committee, Cllr Christy Burke (independent) said that he agreed with the issues raised by Hoey and Kearney, and that disability issues need to be taken into account more.