Noel Dempsey critical of council handling of College Green plaza

Ex-minister for transport criticises issuing of tender just after public consultation closed

 

Former minister for transport Noel Dempsey has criticised Dublin City Council’s handling of the development of the €6 million pedestrian and cycle plaza at College Green.

The council is seeking architects to design the new civic plaza, which will be closed to traffic from summer 2017 ahead of the start of operations of the Cross City Luas line in the autumn.

Mr Dempsey, who now chairs the Temple Bar Company, criticised the issuing of the tender just days after the public consultation period on the creation of the plaza closed.

Changes

The plans, which will see changes and diversions to between 30 and 40 bus routes, and a ban on cars on certain streets, as well as the ban on all traffic heading east and west through College Green, were available for public consultation until May 24th. The council received almost 2,000 submissions, but within a week issued tenders for a design team to draw up plans for the plaza.

In a letter to the council’s traffic and transportation committee, Mr Dempsey said he was surprised the tender had been issued “six days after the public consultation period on College Green ended and without any response to or consideration of the submissions made”.

“Can we take it that the submissions will form no part of the consideration for this project?”

Expertise

Mr Dempsey also noted the design team was not required to have any expertise in relation to planning or environmental impact assessments (EIA).

He wrote: “Does DCC management intend (a) providing a formal response to our written submission to the elected members and executive, and (b) carrying out sub-threshold EIA screening of the College Green plaza proposed development?”

Mr Dempsey was minister when the College Green “bus gate” was introduced in 2009.

At the time he said the area needed to be a car-free zone to facilitate the new Luas line. But when the bus gate started later that year, the council decided only to operate it from 7am-10am and 4pm-7pm on weekdays.

The submission made by Mr Dempsey on behalf of the Temple Bar Company raises particular concerns about plans to ban cars from Parliament Street and instead make it a two-way bus-only street, increasing the number of routes using the street from three to 20.

He wrote that the measures “could result in a series of adverse impacts on businesses and residents in the vicinity”.

Independent councillor Mannix Flynn said Parliament Street would be left in darkness if the plan went ahead. “It’s outrageous for Dublin City Council to talk about bettering the environment in College Green when they will be sending 1,500 buses down Parliament Street, destroying the business and residential community there.”

Leadership

A spokeswoman for the council said it would be responding directly to Temple Bar Company in due course on the matters raised. She added that the tendering process was only in its “first phase” but that there was a time constraint on the delivery of the project because of the Luas. “There is a need to progress some aspects of the project in parallel, which would be generally accepted as efficient good practice.”

The majority of submissions received related to the alternative routing of traffic rather than the plaza, she said.