LONG READ: Councillors on South Dublin County Council have voted against plans to change the layout of part of Main Street in Lucan Village because it would have resulted in the loss of just 10 car parking spaces.
The vote by councillors was 20 to 15 in favour of the amendments, which effectively blocks the on-street section of the council’s plan. Councillors voted for motions to amend the Part 8 plans so that the work would only include the Village Green changes and crossings to it, and not include changes to the streets around it.
There was a large amount of misinformation about the project which was viewed widely as being mild changes for motorists.
A group formed to oppose the project, the Lucan Village Business and Services Group, hired consultants who made fanatical claims, including that the loss of just 10 car parking spaces would result in the loss of 312 or 52% of jobs in the village. South Dublin Council Council used evidence from other parts of Dublin and internationally to highlight that these kind of interventions are good for business.
As this website reported yesterday, the misinformation included an Irish Times article that uncritically published a claim from the new group that the 7,000 submissions to the project were “unique written submissions” when the reality is that it included two petitions and written submissions which council officials said that the vast majority of which were “Pro-forma” submissions.
At the council’s monthly meeting yesterday, there was nearly two hours of discussion on the project (see video below).
Mayor of SDCC, Cllr Peter Kavanagh (independent), said: “I was phoned for comment this morning by 98FM and I tried to keep myself on an even keel, and I tried to keep myself as neutral as I could until the phrase that has been bandied about for a number of weeks was thrown at me — a ‘pedestrian wasteland’. I was asked: ‘Are you not worried that this will turn into a pedestrian wasteland if this goes ahead?'”
He said that he had never seen a pedestrian wasteland, that Blackrock, Grafton Street and Henry Street seem to be doing ok and in terms of pedestrianisation the scheme doesn’t go far enough.
Cllr Kavanagh is not a local area councillor but he said he’d love a similar plan for Clondalkin Village centre.
He added: “The question is: ‘Do I think 10 parking spaces is the price to pay for a safer, better Lucan?’ and the answer is that I do.”
Two local area councillors Cllr Vicki Casserly (Fine Gael) and Cllr Paul Gogarty (independent) proposed the amendment to stop the removal of 10 parking spaces.
Cllr Casserly said: “Lucan has never said it’s not open for tourism, Lucan wants investment but we want it done in a way that that will work for everyone present, from community to the Gardai, to religious services down the village to GPs, health centres, banks, and especially our businesses.”
“I’m from Lucan, I’ve lived in Lucan all my life, I do my shopping… like Paul, we’re from the area, we really want to see our area enhanced, I’m asking yous to listen,” she said, and she claimed: “Over 7,000 submissions came in, of that only 1% were in favour of the removal of parking,” she said.
Cllr Casserly added: “While the debate over 10 parking spaces does not seem quite like a huge number, but it would severally impact the use of the village on a daily basis.”
The council parking surveys suggest that there is parking available at every hour of the day in the village, even if it’s not always available right outside every shop.
In a report to councillors, the council’s Chief Executive, Daniel McLoughlin said: “The broad conclusion that can be drawn from this evidence is that, whilst there will be a minor inconvenience for some drivers who may not be able to immediately find a parking space on Main Street, these drivers will be able to find access to on-street parking within a very short walk from the Main Street.”
The council officials proposed disabled spaces and as well as a trial of ‘age-friendly’ parking spaces that could be used to accommodate those who cannot walk slightly further.
Cllr Joanna Tuffy (Labour), another local area councillor, said that St Patrick’s Day Festival was held recently and the village centre was at its “most diverse” that day with parents, grandparents, and children when people were not able to drive into the village.
She said that more than just motorists used the village and the way it is currently designed is not accessible or disabled-friendly.
Cllr Tuffy added: “It’s about restoring the Main Street to a street and not just a car park, [and making] it accessible to all. This is a contentious issue and that makes it difficult for local councillors, but, as councillors, we have to look at the common good, we have to think about our other responsibilities including active travel and carbon emissions.”
Cllr Paul Gogarty (independent) said that the plan would not reduce car use and would not deal with the through traffic — a large part of which is generally viewed as toll-dodging rat-running over the Liffey at one of the few crossings for a long distance in any direction.
He said that out of the 6,000 people he referenced as living between the village and Woodies, 3,000 of them live more than 1km away and he claimed “So, with respect, they have to drive… and, some of them, if they cannot get a parking space within 500 metres to carry 2 litres of milk, a tin of beans, a banana, a sliced pan, they are just going to keep driving further and park elsewhere.”
Most of the the alternative parking spaces suggested by the council were within 200-300 metres and all the spaces being counted were well within 500 metres. The council officials also said that they were not counting public accessible off-street parking which was also available.
Cllr Gogarty, however, said: “The key point is the GP surgery — why would Doctor Lombard and colleagues oppose this plan so vehemently? They are oversubscribed, it’s not in their interest to tout for more business, they are purely concerned about the people who attend their services. And I put it to you with this plan Mayor, that this plan is giving an insult to people who have heart conditions, to people who have disabilities, to people who have young children who are sick, it’s not taking into consideration them.”
He said: “Cllr Tuffy mentioned St Patrick’s Day Festival, great two days, but the rest of the time Lucan is not a circus — Lucan is a living breathing village.” And he said that those who objected are “not clowns”.
Cllr Gogarty pleaded with his fellow councillors to “ignore the misinformation” spread by objectors to the project and take account of the 7,000 “submissions”, despite the fact that the majority of these were Pro-forma and petitions which were influenced by misinformation.
Mick Mulhern, director of Planning and Transport at South Dublin County Council, said that officials would love to be able to deal with the through traffic in the village which comes across the Liffey bridge but he said that there isn’t a “magic solution”. He added that the council were separately looking at possible trials of traffic management arrangements but these were “longer-term”.
Mulhern said: “But what it comes down to, even if were are able to reduce or amend the way that traffic moves through the area, the issue of the loss of parking isn’t going to go away. That issue of through traffic does not solve the parking issue… it effectively means all future public realm schemes in Lucan will be dependent on ‘don’t touch the parking’ and I think if we’re in that space of trying to implement improved space for people and we have to keep the level of parking that’s there at the moment, you’re ultimately not able to do it.”
He added: “If the direction here today is don’t touch car parking, we’ll take that away and that will have to dictate what happens to the future of Lucan Village and it will significantly undermine our ability to create great public spaces in Lucan Village.”