Motorists sitting in traffic on Dundrum Road on Wednesday morning were greeted by dire warnings that their daily commute, already a slog, was only going to get worse.
Posters warned that congestion would increase once almost 1,300 homes in blocks of up to 11 storeys, along with 540 parking spaces, were built on the lands that have been home to the Central Mental Hospital since the 1850s.
The campaign is spearheaded by the Annaville and Dundrum Road Residents Association, which believes the Land Development Agency (LDA) is not listening to their concerns.
So far, consultation has been “a box-ticking exercise”, they say. Under an earlier version of the plan for the site, traffic was to emerge from southern and eastern entrances, as well as on to the narrow, busy Dundrum Road.
However, last month’s masterplan laid down two car entrances and two pedestrian and cycle routes towards Dundrum Road. To the south, there would be one pedestrian and cycle route and no vehicular access.
“We are very disappointed four access routes are all coming out on to the Dundrum Road. It is madness.” said the residents’ spokeswoman, who did not wish to be named.
Currently, there is one main entrance on to Dundrum Road, but residents believe a second entrance for traffic is designed to prevent queues of vehicles building up in the new development and does not have regard for congestion on the Dundrum Road.
Annaville residents also oppose pedestrian and cycle routes through their estate, which is to get a new community and sports centre as part of the development.
“I know everyone would like to think people will walk or cycle, but you will have people driving their kids for sports and waiting in cars to collect them,” the spokeswoman said. “It might be a matter of life or death if there’s an ambulance trying to get through.”
Even if that does not happen, Annaville cannot take more cyclists or pedestrians, she said. “It’s very narrow. It’s terrifying to watch the bin lorry reversing down the street.”
Residents have long accepted that the mental hospital lands would be redeveloped, especially since it is zoned for up to 800 homes in the county development plan, but they see the LDA’s plans as excessive.
“We accept the skyline is going to be affected, but it’s just the extremes they are going to. They are trying to solve every housing problem in the whole city on this one site,” she said.
Dearbhla Lawson, head of strategic planning with the LDA, said it was "absolutely listening and engaging with the community".
“We recognise that this is a brownfield site in an established residential area, and we want to hear their issues.”
Extensive local engagement started last September and would continue, she said. “We are listening to all the residents’ groups and that is feeding into our design and there may be further changes.”
The development has advantages for existing locals, says scheme architect Rob Keane, given "this wonderful parkland" will for the "first time since the 1850s be accessible to people other than the criminally insane and their carers".
However, access is key, he says. Entry from the north is difficult because back gardens abut the wall, while Rosemount and Larchfield Road would require a road though green space owned by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.
The opening at Annaville would be “relatively modest”, he said.
“Like what you have in parks where cyclists have to dismount to wheel their bikes through. It will be a gate with opening times so you can discount taxis coming up late at night or antisocial behaviour.”
It was unlikely motorists would drive to this gate rather than directly into the complex, he said. “Dundrum Road will have the existing entrance and a secondary entrance. A driver is unlikely to ignore those two to drive up Annaville.”
The LDA is aware of the traffic levels on the Dundrum Road, said Ms Lawson, adding that the design seeks to encourage most residents to cycle or use public transport such as the nearby Luas, on which the National Transport Authority "is rolling out new capacity all the time".
However, local Fine Gael councillor Jim O’Leary said far more public transport was needed.
“I am calling on the Minister for Transport to upgrade the Luas to a Metro now. We have to provide people with sustainable transport,” he said, adding that Annaville residents would be most affected by the development.
“The cycle and pedestrian entrance isn’t positive for them and, given the level of disruption and change they will have to experience, I think it is justifiable they would ask for it to be removed.”
The deadline for submissions on the masterplan has been extended until May 26th.*
*Article amended on May 26th, 2021.