Civic plaza may stop Capel Street pedestrianisation

Liffey Street plaza plans likely to prevent full pedestrianisation of northside street

A widened footpath on Capel Street last summer ahead of pedestrianisation trials at weekends. Photograph: Alan Betson

A widened footpath on Capel Street last summer ahead of pedestrianisation trials at weekends. Photograph: Alan Betson

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The creation of a new civic plaza for Dublin beside the Ha’penny Bridge on Liffey Street appears set to scupper plans for the pedestrianisation of Capel Street.

Dublin City Council three years ago proposed a traffic ban on Liffey Street Lower, between Strand Street and the quays, to create a pedestrian plaza opposite the Ha’penny Bridge.

Traffic on Abbey Street, including cars exiting Arnotts car park, would no longer be able to access the quays via Liffey Street Lower, but would instead have to turn right on to Strand Street and continue to Capel Street to reach the quayside at Grattan Bridge.

The remainder of Liffey Street Lower and all of Liffey Street Upper, which runs from Abbey Street to Henry Street, would be upgraded to create a more “pedestrian-friendly” environment, with benches, bicycle stands and trees.

The council began devising plans for a new northside plaza following the 2018 refusal by An Bord Pleanála of the College Green plaza. The Liffey Street scheme was presented to council in February 2019, and approved by councillors later that year.

However, construction of the plaza had not yet begun when the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

Following the introduction of pandemic-related restrictions in 2020, the council began a programme of car restrictions on city streets to give more space to pedestrians and to facilitate outdoor dining. These schemes were largely focused on the southside on the streets surrounding Grafton Street, and Liffey Street was not included in the programme.

Repeated appeals

Last summer, following repeated appeals by councillors and some businesses, the council pedestrianised Capel Street from 6.30pm to 11.30pm at weekends.

A subsequent public consultation process found almost 80 per cent were in favour of pedestrianising the street on a permanent basis.

The consultation process sought views on a number of options, including retaining through traffic but using car parking spaces and loading bays for outdoor dining; a full return to the pre-pandemic arrangements with the reinstatement of parking and traffic lanes; or the full or part pedestrianisation of the street, at weekend nights, every weeknight, or on a full-time basis.

Almost 7,000 people responded with 79 per cent seeking full pedestrianisation.

Last October the council said further consideration of the implications of car restrictions was required, with councillors to be briefed on potential options in the first three months of this year.

Councillors will this week be briefed on the Liffey Street plans, which are due to go to tender at the end of this month, with construction to start in mid-April. These plans require traffic to use Capel Street, from Strand Street, at Panti Bar and Jack Nealon’s pub, to the quays.

A spokeswoman for the council said the Liffey Street scheme already had planning approval from city councillors “and as such the works are due to proceed here over the next number of months. The requirements of this scheme will be factored into the new proposed traffic management regime in Capel Street.”

These proposals for Capel Street will be presented to local councillors before the end of March.

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