Plans for a €10 million traffic-free plaza in Dublin's College Green will not be altered when the council seeks permission for the project from An Bord Pleanála again in the coming months, it has emerged.
The board last November rejected the pedestrian and cycle plaza scheme due to concerns about the “significantly negative impacts” it would have on bus transport and traffic in the city.
The council has said it intends to lodge a fresh application to the board by the middle of this year. However, its head of traffic management Brendan O’Brien said it was unlikely the plaza proposals would change.
“An Bord Pleanála themselves in their judgment, and in the inspectors report, found the plaza was a good idea. Architecturally there were no real issues with it,” he said. “The issues were the knock-on consequences of the plaza rather than anything to do with the plaza itself.”
In its ruling last November the board said “the principle of the proposed development is acceptable” and that it would produce a “quality public realm” and would “facilitate improved appreciation of the architectural and cultural heritage of this important site”.
However, it would not give permission because of the traffic implications for the city, particularly on buses.
The board said there was “uncertainty” about the potential effects on the bus system, but they were likely to be “significantly negative 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”.
It 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”.
Mr O’Brien said he was surprised the board refused the plaza on the grounds of excessive numbers of buses being moved onto the quays.
“The disappointing thing was that the reasons given for the refusal, around the bus fleet and so on, was not actually something we would have anticipated was the particular issue.”
Buses are the easiest vehicle movements to predict, he said.
“Basically in the modelling work that was done, the most accurate thing you model is the bus fleet because a bus fleet goes where a bus fleet is told to go,” he said. “So, in our view anyway, there was absolute clarity about what was happening to the buses, where they were going, and in what numbers, so that was a little surprising.”
The council is gathering more information, including data on where passengers alight buses, to improve its new application he said, and will also have better information on the Bus Connects project - the on-going redesign of the Dublin Bus network, than it had when making the last application.
The council plans to close College Green to traffic between 7am and 7pm on Sundays during the summer months to hold events and test out the popularity of the plaza.