An Taisce accuses council of 'reckless neglect' of city centre


THE HISTORIC core of Dublin city is becoming a blackspot of “cheap garish signage” and “lower-order shops” because of Dublin City Council’s failure to enforce planning laws, An Taisce has said.

The national heritage trust has lodged a complaint with the council which it said was guilty of “reckless neglect” of the city centre by not taking action against unauthorised shopfronts and signage, and in some cases allowing businesses to operate for years without planning permission.

Businesses had erected without permission signs which clearly did not comply with city council regulations for shop fronts, yet the council had not ordered their removal, An Taisce said. However, in a number of cases the council had refused permission for signs but businesses had not removed them, yet they were not being pursued by the council.

Poor quality shopfronts was an increasing problem city-wide, An Taisce said, but was most pronounced in the historic core on streets of major civic and architectural importance.

“The main thoroughfares immediately south of the Liffey – Westmoreland Street, Dame Street, Parliament Street and the South Quays – are becoming a blackspot of lower-order shops and fast-food restaurants with cheap, garish shopfronts and signage,” the submission said.

The recession was creating a big increase in closure and vacancy rates, and a proliferation of discount shops. In this environment, increased vigilance was needed to uphold standards and prevent major deterioration in streets, An Taisce said. “Instead, there seems to be no planning enforcement in operation at all.”

Westmoreland Street had seen the most severe deterioration of any city-centre street in recent years, in the wake of the closure of Bewley’s in 2004, it said. The west side of the street had “descended into an appalling collection of low-order shops competing with each other for signage clutter, while there were significant stretches of dead frontage on the east side”.

It highlighted a number of premises on Westmoreland Street breaking shopfront regulations including Supermac’s, which had been refused permission for certain signage and alterations made to the shopfront in October 2009 and Charlie’s 3 Chinese takeaway, which had been refused permission for its shopfront and to operate as a fast-food restaurant in 2005, yet remained open.

Managing director of Supermac’s, Pat McDonagh, said the signs referred to by An Taisce were temporary and Supermac’s was in the process of applying to the council for permanent projecting signs needed to attract customers. “An Taisce musn’t know there’s a recession – without these signs, which are less garish and more delicate than the flat signs, people could walk by and not even know we’re there.”

The owner of Charlie’s 3 was not available yesterday.

Among the premises An Taisce highlighted on Dame Street was a Spar shop which had in September 2009 been refused permission to retain certain aspects of its front window design but which remained in place. In a statement the company said it took its responsibilities in relation to planning very seriously and worked closely with the authorities in relation to its stores.

Parliament Street had started to “go downhill” in the last 18 months, An Taisce said. One fastfood restaurant, Mezza, had been ordered by the council to remove its illuminated signs by August 2010 but had not done so. Owner Eileen Monaghan yesterday said she had received no such notification from the council and was unaware of any complaints.

The council said the submission from An Taisce would be investigated and “where appropriate enforcement action will be taken”.