South East Area councillors are setting up a task force for Sandymount to deal with traffic and other issues as it is claimed that “Sandymount is under siege” and there are divisions mounting over issues, mainly traffic.
The move comes ahead of the Court of Appeal judgement on the Strand Road cycle route case — the judgment likely to be issued anytime between now and when the Courts take their summer recess.
Dublin City Council officials told the Court of Appeal that it wants to proceed with the Strand Road Cycle Route trail if the court allows it.
As reported recently by this website, during the Irish Water works which made Strand Road one-way, the number of motorists on the parallel Merrion Road did not increased anything close to the 113% level which was predicted before the planned Sandymount cycle route trial (which would have also made Strand Road one-way).
Traffic on the Merrion Road was even recorded as having decreased on one of the two traffic count dates.
The main two camps locally are a group of residents from the Serpentine Avenue, Tritonville and Claremont Roads (STC) group, which took the court case against the cycle route and are still mainly firm in the position, and another group of residents from Strand Road last year, who started to air their views publicly, demanding that the old status quo is not returned to.
Local sources say that there’s a widening of views since the cycle route was first suggest with more residents questioning the claims made by STC, including some locals who openly supported them originally. Sources claim that has been promoted because the sky did not fall in when the Irish Water works were on-going.
There are other claims that the traffic chaos did actually materialise but these claims aren’t back by much with traffic counts showing a mixed picture and few mentions of the area on traffic reports while the works were on-going.
Councillors discussed the idea of a task force at last week’s South East Area Committee meeting, with councillors saying Sandymount was a special case which required such focused attention.
Cllr Claire O’Connor (Fianna Fáil) said: “I’ve said before that Sandymount is under siege and I decided to put down a motion whereby debate might be fostered and the motion that I had was ‘What are we going to do about Sandymount?'”
She said that there are traffic issues, changes to the Port, and “any number of issues coming together”. She said the motion was originally delayed for being too vague.
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Cllr O’Connor said she was asked by council officials to give context and she said: “But I suspect what would happen by giving context I actually wasn’t doing justice to the issues at hand.”
“The reply I got from council management, I read it and get the sense of ‘do you not get it?’… we’re not looking at the problem in a holistic way.”
She complained that she was asked to call the Gardai for policing HGVs illegally using the area and asked to call Irish Water for an issue under their remit. Cllr O’Connor added that she supports Cllr James Geoghegan’s idea of a task force for the area.
Cllr Geoghegan (FG) said that he wanted to see progress on the task force and he said that Irish Water, the Gardai and community groups all want to see the task force up and running.
Cllr Hazel Chu (Green) said: “Every other area has its issues too but for Sandymount, it feels like there’s a couple coming at the same time, especially if you look at flood defences, the flooding, and the 3FM [Dublin Port plan] … the community feel like they are being left behind.”
Cllr Dermot Lacey (Labour) said: “There’s a lot of issues, but, in a way, traffic is the overriding one in different ways, the impact on the area.”
“If I lived on Strand Road I’d probably want it to stay the way it is, because it’s a lot more pleasant than it was. But the trouble is, there’s a lot of conflicting different views and what we need to do is find some way to give people the opportunity to come together on this, because there’s no point in benefiting one road at the expense of another road,” he said.
Cllr Paddy McCartan (FG) said he was also in favour of the idea of a task force because the divisions are coming to the fore on Strand Road, the way it is, the way it was and issues caused on other roads.
He said: “When we find out what the final judgement from the Court judgment things may be clarified to a certain extent but for the moment I don’t want to see deeply ingrained mistrust rise up in the community between different groups who find themselves pitted against each other.”
Cllr Mannix Flynn (independent) referred back to a presentation on the College Green interim measures and said that was a “very disappointing view of what’s not going to take place” — Cllr Flynn objected to the College Green Plaza.
He then incorrectly claimed that in other parts of the city where traffic issues were addressed that “all of those cars” are just going into other areas — in the mid-to-long term at least, this is verifiable untrue given that, besides a rebound after Covid, long-term traffic counts show a steady year-on-year decrease in the number of cars entering the city centre.
Cllr Flynn continued to spread misinformation or disinformation and said: “The same applies here, whichever way you look at the situation, it’s going to have a major problem. The problem is very simple, we’re not getting rid of any cars. We’re just simply moving them off one road onto another road to facilitate a rather peculiar situation that’s taking place throughout the city.”
He said: “Certainly I suggest that everybody wait until the Courts make their decision which should be very soon indeed.”
Without any evidence, he claimed: “The vast amount of people in Sandymount support the reinstatement of the Sandymount Road.”
Moments after calling for people to wait for the Courts to decide, Cllr Flynn then went on to refer to an idea of a cycle route “on the beach side of Strand Road”, an option which would take years to implement and have larger environmental impacts. He however pointed to the incinerator as the main source of environmental harm in the area.
The area manager said that officals were working on draft terms of reference for the task force.
Cllr O’Connor added: “Lots of people say to me ‘what’s so different to Sandymount, that’s happening all over the city’ — it’s not, there’s a particular boundary line with the Dart in Sandymount, it’s the main arterial route to the Port Tunnel… there’s one overriding issue, the absence of a traffic management plan.”
She said that the division of opinion in the area is being played out in the letters page of The Irish Times.