91% of all Capel Street submissions support plan for motor traffic-free street

— Just 6 businesses on Capel Street object to plan.

91% of all 1,766 submissions to the latest Capel Street public consultation are supportive of Dublin City Council’s plan for a motor traffic-free street.

Dublin City Council said that there are three times as many pedestrians and people on bicycles using the Capel Street than cars every day, and during lunchtime, 1-2pm, there are six times as many pedestrians on the street as cars.

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The latest public consultation was supposed to be about the details of implementing the already well-established desire for cars to be removed from the street, but car parks, large retailers and some other businesses used the consultation to re-open the debate about if the street should be made motor traffic-free.

In a previous consultation, 85% of nearly 4,000 submissions received from members of the public, were in favour of having a traffic-free street. Despite a campaign from a small number of powerful businesses, the percentage of members of the public supporting the plan has increased to 97% of 1,311 submissions.

The overwhelming majority and vast majority respectively of residents on the street and nearby areas who made submissions also were supportive. A report to councillors said: “There were 201 submissions from residents, 42 on Capel Street itself and 159 from the area. On Capel Street itself, 79% of respondents support the proposal and in the local area 86% support the proposal.”

While the plan is widely referred to as pedestrianisation in the media and in debate online, the council has used the term ‘traffic-free’ as cycling will still be allowed on the street.

Cllr Ray McAdam (FG), the chairperson of the local area committee of councillors, said if the “Dublin Central Area Committee agrees to advance the #nothroughtraffic proposals then I’d expect [its implmntaion] within days.”

He added: “We’ll confirm that on Wednesday,” when a special meeting of area councillors is to be held to discuss the Capel Street plan.

Cllr Janet Horner (Green Party) said: “New proposal removal of traffic from Capel Street! Improved pedestrian space, retaining cycling permeability, and paving the way for Capel Street to become a vibrant, thriving inner city street.”

Cllr Horner also posted a link to the consultation report.

The council said that only having the planned traffic-free arrangement in the evenings, as suggested as an alternative by some businesses, would mean that it would not cover most of the busiest time for pedestrians. It said between 11am and 7pm is when “almost two-thirds of the daily pedestrian totals occur during these hours” — on weekdays lunchtime is the peak hour, while on weekends its 4pm.

In a report presented to councillors, Brendan O’Brien, head of the transport section of the council, and Claire French, a senior executive engineer, said: “The overwhelming response has been to implement the proposal as presented for consultation which is for a Traffic Free Capel Street with deliveries between 6am and 11am. Concerns have been raised against the loss of the street as a through route for vehicles from businesses on the street and in particular on Henry Street, but it is felt that the correct route at this stage is to implement the proposal as set out.”

“The interventions are by way of temporary bollards and so can easily be removed or modified as required and no permanent works are required. To ensure smooth operation and to assist in people
becoming familiar with the changed arrangements, traffic management personnel will be on site for
the first two weeks of operation,” the report said.

Officials said that, with the support of local councillors, it indents to implement the proposal as set out with deliveries between 6am and 11am.

The report added: “The impact of the proposed new operation of Capel Street will be constantly monitored and a report brought to Councillors in September to assess how the changes have worked and if any alterations in its operation would be needed.”

Business submissions

The council officials said that “Just six objections on the proposal from businesses on Capel street itself were received (Louis Copeland, Goodwins, McQuillian Tools, 37 Capel St, Mitchell’s car accessories, Dynolocks.)”

There were 53 identical submissions received from businesses — the report said these were “mainly from businesses in the Jervis Centre, fourteen from Louis Copeland staff and 24 from unknown businesses who didn’t include their business name or location”

The identical submissions said: “We object to the 24/7 pedestrianisation proposal for Capel street as it will have a detrimental effect on our business. We seek a compromised solution that doesn’t threaten our future employment.”

The council said that there is no “24/7 pedestrianisation” planned as deliveries will be allowed between 6.00am and 11.00am. There would also be loading bays on side streets accessible at other times.

Submissions from Jervis Shopping Centre, Ilac Shopping Centre, Ilac and Parnell Carpark and Arnotts — ie mainly car park owners or operators — objected to the proposals and called for the street only to be traffic-free after 7.30pm, which would exclude when almost two-thirds of people were counted as walking on the street.

The two main business groups in the city are split — Dublin Chamber is supportive of the proposals, while the Dublin Town is looking for a “compromise” which follows what the car parks and car-[ark owning shopping centres want.

The report also quoted thinly veiled legal threats from both Dublin Town and the car parking owning businesses that some unstated persons, businesses or group would take legal action

The Dublin Town quote is as follows: That there is a “fear that the current process could have a polarising effect, resulting in objections and the pursuance of legal actions, that can be avoided, but which would make future collegiate efforts more difficult. They may also only serve to delay the positive interventions which would enhance the city experience for all.”

And the submissions from mainly car park owners or operators said: “the current process also increases the likelihood of legal based responses which could lead to court challenges, injunctions and appeals”.

In the report to councillors, council officials said: “Understandably, businesses can be nervous about changes to the streets. However the measures proposed are flexible and can be amended if required and will be reviewed in September. An email received a number of months after similar measures were put in in May 2020 from a retailer (non food/beverage) on Drury St shows how once a business experiences a new arrangement it can be seen as a benefit.”

The report quotes the unnamed Drury St retailer as follows: “I just wanted to let it be known that we now love the pedestrianisation. At the time and during Covid lockdowns as shop owners we felt it was pushed on us. However cars are still able to get into the car parks easily and the delivery vans deliver up until 11am.Its worked out so well for us. The street vibe is really good and the place feels much busier and safer. Its so nice to have our beautiful window visible. Other years there were vans always illegally parked on front of our shop all day causing engine noise, fumes and blocking our lovely window.”

In response to the legal threats, council officials said: “Significant consultation has been held on this proposal with substantial numbers responding each time and with over 7,000 leaflets being distributed in Capel Street and surrounding areas to ensure maximum input from residents and other stakeholders. There has been great engagement and support from the public and their elected representatives and there is we believe sufficient consensus to make this a great opportunity to change this street for the benefit of the majority and it is certainly hoped that legal challenges will not arise and delay this proposal. It will be reviewed at the end of the summer with a report being presented to councillors in order to assess what worked and what had not.”

Editing notes: Minor additions were added to the article above, including the quote from Cllr Horner from Twitter.

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