New College Green plaza application to come despite bus conflict

Previous request from council for civic space appealed by Dublin Bus as ‘socially regressive’

Under the plaza plans, public transport traffic, including trams, buses and taxis, would continue to run north and south in front of Trinity College to access Nassau Street. File photograph: The Irish Times

Under the plaza plans, public transport traffic, including trams, buses and taxis, would continue to run north and south in front of Trinity College to access Nassau Street. File photograph: The Irish Times

 

A fresh application for Dublin city’s flagship traffic-free civic plaza at College Green will be submitted early this year, Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan has confirmed.

An Bord Pleanála in November 2018 rejected the council’s plans for pedestrian and cycle plaza scheme due to concerns about the “significantly negative impacts” it would have on bus transport and traffic in the city.

Mr Keegan said he was confident the new application would be approved by the board, even though it would still require buses to be banned from crossing College Green to access Dame Street.

The council 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 two years ago.

It submitted its planning application for the plaza to the board in May 2017 and the board had initially intended to issue its decision in November of that year, 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.

Under the plaza plans, public transport traffic, including trams, buses and taxis, would continue to run north and south in front of Trinity College to access Nassau Street, but no vehicular traffic would be permitted to cross College Green in an east/west direction, meaning buses could not run from Dame Street to Westmoreland Street or from College Street to Dame Street.

In its ruling against the plaza, the board said “the principle of the proposed development is acceptable”, it would produce a “quality public realm” and would “facilitate improved appreciation of the architectural and cultural heritage of this important site”.

However it refused permission because of the traffic implications, particularly for 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”.

Confident council chief

The council last summer closed College Green to traffic on three consecutive Sundays to determine popularity of the plaza and iron out any logistical difficulties. During the trial, southbound buses were diverted along the south quays, while northbound buses were diverted through the Christchurch area and down Winetavern Street to the north quays.

The council said it would await revisions of the BusConnects plan, the redesign of the Dublin Bus network, before submitting a new application for the plaza. The National Transport Authority (NTA) published its revisions last October, and while these still include buses using College Green, Mr Keegan said it is an appropriate time to resubmit plans for the plaza.

“There are now very few routes going east-west through College Green in the BusConnects plan. And we think with some small modifications the last of them can be taken out.”

Changes made to the BusConnects plan mean a proposed bus “turning circle” on Dame Street, where buses coming from the west of the city would turn before reaching College Green, could be eliminated, said Mr Keegan, as this was proving problematic to the plaza design.

“We will submit a new application to the board in the first quarter of the year and I am confident the board will be able to approve it – even more confident than I was the first time,” said Mr Keegan.

The NTA said discussions with the council about “details of routing in the centre” can “proceed on a separate track” from those of the BusConnects plan as a whole.