Further delays for €10m College Green Plaza plan

Planning board defers decision on city centre pedestrian and cycle area to end of October

The construction of a €10 million civic plaza at Dublin’s College Green is facing further delays . It had originally been due for completion ahead of the start of operations of the Luas Cross City last year.

Following several hold-ups in the planning process An Bord Pleanála had been due to issue a decision on Friday on Dublin City Council's plans to build the pedestrian and cycle plaza and ban all traffic, including buses and taxis, from accessing Dame Street through College Green.

However the planning board has said it will not make the decision deadline and has set a new date of October 31st to issue its ruling.

The council submitted its planning application for the plaza to to the board in May 2017. The board had initially intended to issue its decision last November, the month before the cross-city Luas began running.

However, following a large number of appeals against the plaza plans, including one from Dublin Bus which said taking buses out of the plaza space would be "socially regressive", the board decided to hold a public hearing.

This was scheduled to run in January, but days before it was due to begin the hearing had to be postponed because of errors in a newspaper notice published by the council, on the board’s instruction, the previous November.

The hearing was rescheduled for March, and did go ahead, but took three weeks instead of the scheduled three days. A decision was due in April, but was postponed for six to eight weeks. That period was then extended until August 6th.

‘Unique case’

Last August a spokesman for the board said a decision would not be issued until October 5th because of the “extreme complexity” of the case. However, he said on Thursday the board now required further time to make its decision because of the plaza was “such a unique case” and “almost a unique test” for the board.

The council’s plans clash with the National Transport Authority’s BusConnects proposed redesign of Dublin Bus network. The redesign proposes two-way bus services on Parliament Street. However, under the council’s plans this would remain a one way street because of air pollution risks.

It is not know whether the BusConnects plan has formed part of the board’s deliberations.

While the new decision date is just three weeks away, if it is delivered by the end of the month it will be almost a year since the board was first scheduled to rule on the council’s plans.

In September 2015, three years after the Luas got planning permission, then executive manager of the council's traffic department, Declan Wallace, said College Green traffic changes needed to be agreed "urgently" to be in place ahead of the start of Luas operations in December 2017. In December 2015, council chief executive Owen Keegan told The Irish Times bus usage of College Green would have to be restricted.