Plans for a €10 million plaza at Dublin's College Green have been refused by An Bord Pleanála due to concerns about the "significantly negative impacts" it would have on bus transport and traffic in the city.
The decision puts in disarray Dublin City Council's flagship project for developing a "landmark" civic space in the centre of the city – and improving the running of the cross-city Luas line.
However, it will be seen as a victory for Dublin Bus, which had branded the council's plans to restrict bus movements as "socially regressive".
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was “disappointed” by the news and that he hoped the council could “ work up a revised proposal”.
Eighteen months ago the council sought permission from the board to build the pedestrian and cycle plaza and ban all traffic, including buses and taxis, from accessing Dame Street through College Green.
However, in a ruling issued on Wednesday, the board said it would not approve the scheme because of “significant adverse impacts on pedestrians and on bus transport within the city centre”.
The board said there was “uncertainty” about the potential effects on the bus system, but they were likely to be “significantly negative”, it said, “in the light of the scale of rerouting of buses proposed, the critical importance of bus transport to the city, and its future role in facilitating modal shift from public car usage, in line with national policy”.
The board criticised the traffic analysis done by the council and was not satisfied it was “sufficient to accurately quantify the traffic impacts of the proposed development and the magnitude of those impacts”.
It was particularly concerned about the impact of rerouting buses to the city quays where it said there were “unresolved capacity issues”.
In addition, the council had failed to “demonstrate that the existing footpaths on both sides of the Quays have the capacity to accommodate the increased numbers of pedestrians that would be redirected onto the Quays as a result of bus re-routing”.
For these reasons the plaza plan would “be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area”, the board said.
The refusal is a major blow to the council,which has been preparing plans for the plaza since 2015 and has said the creation of the traffic-free space was essential to the smooth running of the Luas Green line that began operations through the city centre last December .
Business group Dublin Chamber said it was “unsurprised” by the board’s decision.
“Dublin Chamber has always been supportive of the concept of a pedestrianised plaza at College Green, but we were never convinced by the plans that were put forward,” said a spokesperson.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said he was “dismayed” by the decision.
“Cyclists and pedestrians are being ignored as Dublin is slowly but surely strangled by traffic,” he said.
The National Transport Authority said the refusal was disappointing.
"We will go through the report in detail to assess its full implications and will discuss it with Dublin City Council in due course," it said.
Dublin Bus said it noted the board’s decision.