College Green plaza hearing could face legal challenge

Councillor threatens action over review of plans for traffic-free area in Dublin city

A Luas tram at College Green, Dublin. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

A Luas tram at College Green, Dublin. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The An Bord Pleanála hearing into plans for a traffic-free civic plaza at Dublin’s College Green could face a legal challenge.

The oral hearing on the €10 million project is due to open on Monday.

More than 70 parties are expected to attend the hearing on Dublin City Council’s plans to create a pedestrian and cycle plaza at College Green and to ban all traffic, including buses and taxis, from accessing Dame Street through the area.

Dublin Bus and several prominent city businesses, including Brown Thomas and the Merrion, Shelbourne and Westbury hotels, have raised objections to the plans.

Independent city councillor Mannix Flynn, who is opposed to the plaza scheme, is to seek to stop the hearing from going ahead, as he said documents that are part of the planning file for the project were not made available for him to view at the Dublin City Council offices at Wood Quay.

Mr Flynn last Thursday wrote to An Bord Pleanála, stating that it was required to make the full planning file available for inspection at the civic offices for at least seven days prior to the start of the hearing.

“The board will appreciate the seriousness of this matter and it is imperative it is confirmed to me that the board will not proceed with the hearing” until the full file is made available for a seven-day period, he said.

A spokesman for the board said on Sunday that it had replied to Mr Flynn and outlined that in this particular case the seven-day notice period was not required.

Mr Flynn said he would seek a postponement of the hearing “probably for one month”, and that if he did not receive a satisfactory response from the inspector conducting the hearing, he intended to take a legal challenge to the hearing going ahead.

The spokesman said any application by Mr Flynn or his representatives would be dealt with by the inspector on Monday morning.

Mr Flynn is one of just three politicians who have made submissions to the board on the plaza project.

Green Party city councillor Ciarán Cuffe, who supports the project, said in his submission that allowing east-west traffic through College Green slows down buses, trams and pedestrians.

“For far too long the car lobby has allowed Dublin city centre to be choked with noise, fumes and traffic,” he said.

He added that Dublin Bus had been “reluctant to change their routes to meet the needs of the travelling public in the 21st-century”.

‘Unrealistic plans’

However, Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall said the plans would undermine the sustainability of the bus service, were “unrealistic”, and “would result in seriously discommoding high volumes of existing bus users”.

Dublin Bus has described the plans as “socially regressive”, because if buses were banned from crossing College Green passengers from disadvantaged areas would have farther to walk to reach the city centre from their final stop.

Meanwhile, taxi drivers plan to hold a protest outside the hearing, which will be held in the Gresham Hotel.

A ban on taxis travelling south through College Green during the morning peak hours comes into force on Monday.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has said the taxi restriction is needed to “ease congestion and relieve pressure by freeing up space for the other public transport modes”.

The NTA has already removed 27 Dublin Bus routes from College Green.