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Councillors vote against Lucan Village plan to avoid removing 10 parking spaces

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.

IMAGE: A drawing showing the changes which are widely viewed as mild interventions with very limited impacts on motorists.

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.

IMAGE: An artist’s impression of part of the scheme voted down by councillors.

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.”

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7 comments

  1. This is pretty sad and depressing. There is a recurring message that any change must not impact the status quo. This is not new or unique to Ireland. Unfortunately, it holds back progress.

    We need councillors to be brave and embrace change. If we have any hope for the future, and halting climate change, we need to think differently about public spaces. I wonder how many younger people were canvassed in those petitions. I hope they vote out the councillors in the next election.

    Reply
  2. Hi Cian,

    I feel I need to respond to both of your articles as in my view you are simply re-iterating the ‘spin’ of South Dublin County Council.

    I am a long time environmental activist and resident in Lucan. So, I know the area very well. I have been involved on and off for the past 30 years, opposing developer-led rezonings including attempts to rezone the Liffey Valley. I played an instrumental part in opposing the Outer Ring Road in 2001, and again in 2004 when SDCC came back for round 2 after being admonished by An Bord Pleanala in 2001. I opposed the M50 upgrade and the N4 upgrade on the basis that it just continued to promote a car-oriented, non-sustainable transport system. And I have been involved, through all of these campaigns, in promoting cycling, walking, public transport and community participation. We have fought SDCC officials, and many councillors, tooth and nail throughout the past 30 years as they have turned Lucan into one of the most car-dependent suburban areas in the country. I have been a member of the West Dublin Planning Awareness Group, Esker Residents Against Rezoning (ERAZE), Lucan Community Council, All Lucan Against Rezoning Madness (ALARM), Lucan Planning Council, Lucan Together for Quality of Life (LTQL), the “Deliver It Right” campaign on Adamstown and the Liffey Valley Park Alliance. I also ran for the Green Party in the Local Elections in 2009, although I am no longer a party member.

    Down through the years, my fellow activists and I would often bemoan the lack of participation by members of the community in planning matters. I am sure you agree with me that community participation is not just important but essential. I feel then that it is most unfair to criticise people for actually participating in the Council’s consultation process simply because they would have made what are described as “pro-forma” submissions. Many people took the trouble to read about the issues, listen to views expressed and then decided that they would put their name to a pro-forma submission. Whether it is unique or not does not make it any less valid. A person who makes such a submission is expressing their view, and whether it happens to be the same as several thousand other people, that does not matter in my view. What matters is they took the trouble to put their name to it. Similarly, of the 2,000 people who apparently signed a petition, they too are expressing a view to SDCC about the issue.

    The Part 8 proposal just voted on by the Council is a much more complex issue than the way both you and the Irish Times have portrayed it. You start your latest piece with the sentence: “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 issue is not about “just 10 car parking spaces”. The principal issue is about access to healthcare and other facilities for disabled and eldery residents.

    SDCC’s consultants carried out a parking survey on 20 and 21 May of last year, within a day or two of the pandemic restrictions being lifted. It is hardly surprising then that they concluded that there is ample parking in the village, when very few residents would have been venturing out. Everyday experience prior to the pandemic and recently is one of being very difficult to find parking. However, this is not even the real issue. There are currently only five main GP/medical practices in the Lucan area. Two of these practices are about to cease, leaving just three, with one of them being in the village in the area subject to the Part 8 Proposal. Lucan village is surrounded by housing estates with quite an elderly population. I am back living in the family home with my father who will be 80 years old next month. His age profile would be typical of many residents who live near the village. I frequently walk to the village, as does he. I take about 15-20 minutes at a brisk walk. He is a healthy and fit man, but he will not walk to the village when he needs to do shopping since he is unable to carry it up the hill out of the village. And that is one of the nubs of this issue – the hills. Lucan is at the bottom of a valley. A large number of the estates are up hills out of that valley. There are many residents who are not as fortunate to be in as good health as my father. I see them everyday. They are my neighbours. They rely on the village, especially the Main Street Clinic medical practice and the Pharmacy beside it. SDCC’s Part 8 proposal involved MOVING three existing disabled parking bays from adjacent to the Main Street Clinic, Pharmacy, Centra shop and Bank of Ireland, and placing them on the far side of the road, yet without any provision at all for a pedestrian crossing. At the same time, they also proposed removing the small number of spaces in the vicinity of those facilities that are essential for mobility-constrained individuals. SDCC have stated that there are other spaces within a short walk. But, there are many residents who live in nearby estates, who would find a 50m or 100m walk extremely onerous. Had SDCC proposed to remove 10 spaces from elsewhere in the village, there would not have been half the fuss that there was about this proposal.

    Currently, Lucan is choked with traffic. Cars rarely abide by the 30 kph and 50 kph speed limits, even in the 30 kph school zones. I regularly cycle through the village, but you really need your wits about you. SDCC’s consultants carried out a traffic survey in preparation for the Part 8 proposals. This was done at a time when traffic levels were depressed due to the pandemic. The consultants, CSEA, in their report state that they chose not to conduct any kind of analysis of the traffic patterns through the village. In my submission to SDCC, I stated that in my view it is absolutely essential to do this in order to determine the factors affecting both congestion in the village and the demand for parking. I also went on to say that if the design intent as expressed by the Consultants is “to make this end of Main Street a better place for all of its users”, one needs to know what are the issues that currently make it not such a good place for all of its users, so that one can then address those issues. Instead, the Council and its Consultants have seized on the notion that reduced parking is the solution to the problem, without having conducted any proper analysis of what the problem is in the first place! So, I conducted the Traffic Analysis myself, using their data. I can provide you with a copy if you wish. What it shows is that Lucan Bridge on the eastern end of the village is being used as an alternative to the M50 toll bridge for north/south traffic in both the AM and PM peaks. Traffic from the southern side of Lucan passes through the village — through the south-western end of the village, along the Part 8 proposal area, to travel to the eastern end to access the bridge. Similarly, traffic coming from north of Lucan crosses the bridge and passes through the village to access locations to the south and west. We are choked with traffic. But SDCC do not propose to do anything about it. They say in their Engineering Report: “As the proposed scheme does not intents to alter the existing traffic patterns, CSEA concluded that no further analysis of the traffic was necessary”. In my own submission, I proposed turning Lucan Bridge into a one-way only system, similar to Confey Bridge in Leixlip to discourage through-traffic and also to provide cycle lanes on the bridge – SDCC’s current proposal is to hang a cycling “boardwalk” off the western side of the bridge. I proposed that SDCC impose measures to compel motorists to abide by the 30 kph speed limit through the village. I also proposed that they provide parking spaces for medical facilities access similar to the “Parent and Child” spaces one sees in supermarkets.

    Put simply, the real issue for Lucan Village is not that the local community don’t want to change or don’t want to embrace a more liveable, pedestrian-friendly village. The real issue is that SDCC’s proposals would not have solved the problem of massive levels of through-traffic but instead would have had a seriously adverse impact on a cohort of local residents who are particularly vulnerable and who need parking near their health facilities so that they can access healthcare.

    On a further note, Lucan Village is the only “business/facilities-centre” in the whole of the Greater Lucan Area that does not have any safe cycling access. All other parts of Lucan have an extensive, if not particularly well-maintained, network of mainly off-road cycle tracks. What SDCC need to do is to take a much more holistic approach to planning solving the problem of unsustainable traffic habits in the entirety of Lucan, not just focus on one pocket of the Village in complete ignorance of all of the adverse knock-on effects for vulnerable residents.

    Kind regards,

    Kevin

    Reply
  3. Hi Kevin,

    Re “pro-forma” and “Whether it is unique or not does not make it any less valid” — that’s debatable, but the main point is that Lucan Village Business and Services Group said that the submissions were unique when such was not the case and the way The Irish Times packaged that info makes it at least them spreading misinformation.

    Furthermore, if the “pro-forma” and petition submissions repeated misinformation, yes, that is important. It shows that people were influenced by misinformation.

    You’re saying that “The issue is not about ‘just 10 car parking spaces'” and that “The principal issue is about access to healthcare and other facilities for disabled and eldery residents” — that might be the case for a few people, including you, but it’s not believable overall… first it was not the main issue mentioned and, secondly, councillors were worried about disabled and elderly residents that could have been solved by more disabled and age friendly parking spaces.

    The excuse of and fearmongering around “what about disabled and elderly residents” is a common one across the world when any restrictions on cars are proposed. It’s one of the oldest excuses against street and road changes in the book. But most people who use it as a reason not to support projects are rarely happy with workable solutions such as providing more disabled spaces.

    In fact, the councillors involved could have put an amendment down that the more spaces should be changed to disabled and/or age friendly spaces. They could have also suggested any extra pedestrian crossings etc which are needed. The Part 8 system allows councillors to put conditions like those on their permission.

    Why did the objecting councillors not do this? The answer seems to be clear: For them it was not mainly about people who are disabled or elderly.

    Mick Mulhern covers the issue of through traffic being looked at separately, and how it won’t change the reality that if public space is to be improved a reduction of parking is needed. And I think most people know it’s a toll-avoiding route, which is covered in the latest article.

    If you think many of your fellow objectors to the Part 8 proposals will go along with the idea of giving space over to cycling and sustainable transport, good luck with that one.

    Reply
    • I wonder was a little mini car park running under the footpath/park area explored?

      Dublin should be doing far more with its underground space rather that letting it clog up with idle cars everywhere.

      If the local elderly are an issue, 1 or 2 mini electric town buses that run in the area? Very common in US and Europe now.

      Reply
  4. For the record, I am a business owner in Lucan Village but i do not speak on behalf of the LVBSG. My views are my own.

    I think the major take-away from the Council’s perspective should be that if they want to carry out a major re-engineering of a highly populated suburban village, they need to bring local stakeholders along with them and not just present plans as a fait accompli (or in this case not present the plans at all to most stakeholders),. Hopefully the next CEO of SDCC has a different attitude towards local democracy than Mr. McLaughlin, whose grand vision for Lucan as a tourist hub didn’t leave much room for existing businesses or service providers and the local people who rely on them day-in day-out.

    Anyone who thinks this plan was about the removal of just 10 spaces is simply wrong. Not to mention the baseline figure of 40 existing spaces being incorrect, If you take a carpark (the only carpark in the village), reduce it in size by 25% and split it into 5 pieces across 5 different roads with rivers and busy junctions and cul de sacs thrown into the mix, it ceases to be a carpark. Sure, some motorists will persevere and explore every nook and cranny of the village until they find a space, and on nice days some would walk/cycle instead of driving (which is great) but a huge number would simply avoid the village and take their business elsewhere. (Perhaps to Liffey Valley SC where I believe an extra 1000 rate-free parking spaces were signed-off on by SDCC as recently as late 2021)

    If the council had acquired a site within 200m of the village green where a like-for-like bank of parking spaces could be constructed, traders probably would have gotten on board with the plans. Several suggestions were made and they were all dismissed instantly by council officials.

    The bit that’s usually left unsaid but many cycling activists clearly believe, is that if existing local businesses go to the wall, so be it, others will replace them (that’s progress baby!). This may be, but a village full of coffee-shops, devoid of practical services (such as grocery shops, pharmacies, banks and medical services), is not what local people need Mon-Fri all year round. If both can be accommodated, fantastic, but for that to work it needs to be done in honest collaboration with local stakeholders and a like-for-like replacement for the only carpark in the village would need to be found (and perhaps at great expense).

    And don’t even start with the case studies of towns and cities that flourish when parking is removed. Not a single example wheeled out by the council bore the slightest resemblance to Lucan. Every single one had existing frequent bus and rail links, as well as several public and private carparks in the near vicinity. Lucan is very unique in this regard in that it has zero off-street public carparks, zero rail links and what many regard as only substandard bus links. This is something that’s completely lost on most commentators. And we’re not talking about removing a couple of parallel spaces. We’re talking about taking our only carpark, reducing it in size by 25% and spreading the remaining 75% around 5 different locations.

    One final noteworthy element of the this whole saga was that many of the voices in support of the Council’s plan did not have an intimate knowledge of Lucan Village, did not have an intimate knowledge of the plans in question and were not going to be affected by the outcome one way or the other. This was no more evident than in the chamber itself where councilor after councilor (one of whom had never even been to Lucan) came out strongly in favour of the plan and simply parroted info that had been supplied by Council officials. One identified lack of parking as a reason why she never comes to Lucan and followed on by giving her full support to the plan. Jesus wept.

    Ultimately, local traders will have no regrets about our campaign. We sought professional advice which backed up all our figures (which we still stand over and will argue to the hilt) and did absolutely everything above board in terms of encouraging local people to make submissions. Ultimately we knew the facts better than anyone else and for this reason had the full support and trust of local people. People can think and say whatever they like, but if they knew what we knew they’d probably think differently. And if not, more power to them, everyone’s entitled to their opinion.

    Reply
  5. That’s some tail John, but there’s holes in lots of it…

    First, you cannot help posting a comment without trying to slag anybody who disagrees with you — the CEO, cycle campaigners and councillor who does not visit the village often because it’s so car-centric.

    Secondly, where do all the retailers park? The parking surveys indicated some cars were being parking in prime locations for hours on end.

    And re “We sought professional advice which backed up all our figures (which we still stand over and will argue to the hilt)” — when you stand over a bonkers claim that 52% of jobs would be lost from the removal of 10 parking spaces, it colours the rest of your comments. Even if 30 parking spaces were being removed over 50% jobs being lost is unrealistic.

    Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but you are going to be challenged when you come out with such a distortion of reality.

    It’s factually correct that the council was only reducing the number of spaces by 10 — and it’s a street not a car park. Main Street is a street, not a car parking. Even if there’s a lot of parking on part of it, it’s still on-street parking and not a car park.

    Claiming McLaughlin “grand vision for Lucan as a tourist hub” is a bit over the top to start with because it was part of a strategy agreed to and claiming that it “didn’t leave much room for existing businesses or service providers and the local people who rely on them day-in day-out” is further exaggeration given that most of the car parking in the village was remaining untouched.

    Yes, I agree with you that the free parking at Liffey Valley SC is more than unfair to others areas around it.

    Re other case studies, few locals go to Blackrock Village using the Dart or train. And the increased level of buses serving Lucan are the envy of most other places in Dublin and is eyewatering for people outside of Dublin.This is the current frequency of C3 and C4 buses combined serving the village — 11:38 AM, 11:49 AM, 12:06 PM, 12:18 PM, 12:39 PM, 12:48 PM, 1:09 PM, 1:17 PM — ie a bus nearly every 10 minutes, and that’s without mentioning the local buses. If you think that’s infrequent level of bus service, I don’t know what to say.

    The point case studies isn’t that they are just like Lucan — no one place is the same — it’s that retailers and other businesses often fear change and are usually proven wrong after the change is implemented.

    This project was about making the village space a bit more attractive place to shop, visit and stay, but dismissing the option of walking and cycling as the preserve of “on nice days some would walk/cycle instead of driving” is again another of your over the top comments.

    The plan was mild and it’s impact on motorists was mild.

    Reply

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