New setback to plans for €10m College Green plaza

Public hearing postponed due to errors in November newspaper notice

Plans for an €10 million pedestrian and cycle plaza for Dublin’s College Green will be submitted to An Bord Pleanála by Dublin City Council later this month. Olivia Kelly reports

 

The development of a €10 million civic plaza at Dublin’s College Green could be significantly delayed following the cancellation of a public hearing scheduled to take place next week.

An Bord Pleanála had been due to hold the hearing next Tuesday 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 board notified parties on Thursday morning that the hearing would not proceed and that it does not yet know when it will be rescheduled.

A spokesman for the board said the hearing had to be postponed because of errors in a newspaper notice published by the council last November, , on the board’s instruction, detailing additional information in relation to the impact of the ban on traffic in College Green on the wider city.

Under EU rules, which came into force last May, the public should have had 30 days to make submissions on the new information, instead of the 21 days stipulated in the notice. The notice should also have made reference to an Environment Impact Assessment.

‘Very keen’

The council will now have to reissue the notice, and give another 30 days for the public to assess the material, before any hearing can take place. The board said it was “very keen” to rescheduled the hearing “as soon as possible” but was not yet in a position to say when the hearing would be held until the council had published its new notice.

It said it only became aware of the issues with the November notice on Wednesday evening, as staff were preparing documentation for the hearing.

The council applied to An Bord Pleanála last May for permission to build the plaza. The board had initially intended to make a decision on the application last November.

If it had granted permission, the council would have been able to ban traffic ahead of the start of operations of the new Luas Cross City, which began services in December, even though the plaza itself would take 18 months to build.

However, last August, following objections from a number of organisations to the traffic ban, the board ordered the council to undertake a “comprehensive assessment” of proposed traffic changes for the plaza. It had hoped to make a decision on the plaza by next April, but it is not now known if this deadline can be met.

Council chief executive Owen Keegan has criticised Dublin Bus and the Dublin Chamber of Commerce for reversing their previous support for the project.

Mr Keegan told The Irish Times he was “personally” disappointed they were no longer supporting the council’s plans, which he said were vital to ensure the smooth running of the Luas.

‘Very, very disappointing’

“I am quite disappointed that while there was an initial very positive reaction to the proposal for a plaza at College Green, a significant number of submissions from people who were initially in favour are now against it. Some of them, I mean Dublin Bus, the chamber of commerce, very, very surprising. It is very, very disappointing,” he said.

“The suggestion that we can run buses east and west and sustain a reliable high-quality Luas cross city and a high level of pedestrian priority at city centre signals? It just can’t be done – and I think the evidence of the first week of the Luas supports that.”