Sandymount cycle path ruling to spur ‘vast number of cases’

Legal challenge to Dún Laoghaire and Liffey cycleways likely, says Cllr Mannix Flynn

A mock-up of the proposed Strand Road cycle path. Photograph: Dublin City Council

A mock-up of the proposed Strand Road cycle path. Photograph: Dublin City Council

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A “vast number of cases” will be lodged in the courts before the end of this year in relation to cycling facilities installed during the Covid-19 pandemic, Independent city councillor Mannix Flynn has predicted.

Last week, Mr Flynn and Sandymount resident Peter Carvill won their High Court action against Dublin City Council’s decision to install a cycle path on Strand Road in Sandymount.

Mr Flynn said the ruling will have far-reaching consequences for other cycling schemes, including the protected cycleways on the Liffey quays and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council’s “costal mobility route” from Blackrock to Sandycove, which was installed last year.

In Sandymount, the council had proposed replacing a lane of traffic on the coastal road with a cycle path for a six-month trial, which had been due to start in March. The council argued it did not need to submit the Strand Road proposal to An Board Pleanála and could undertake the work needed using its own traffic-calming powers.

Mr Flynn and Mr Carvill claimed the council was incorrect in asserting the work did not require planning permission. They argued the project should be subject to an environmental impact assessment which automatically triggers the requirement to submit a planning application.

Mr Justice Charles Meenan ruled the cycleway will have to go through the planning process if it is to proceed.

On Friday, council chief executive Owen Keegan said the ruling could have “devastating consequences” for the development of future cycling infrastructure, and the council would be appealing the decision.

However, Mr Flynn said existing cycling schemes were also now in doubt following the ruling.

“This is a historic judgment of huge significance. The courts have decided that local authorities cannot circumnavigate the law and undertake these projects without planning permission.”

Mr Flynn said he took “no pleasure” in public officials being “made a laughing stock of” but he said: “If I had put so much as a bollard in the road I would be thinking I might have a lot of trouble ahead.”

‘Held in contempt’

He said he has already been contacted by several residents’ groups who wish to take action against new cycling infrastructure which has restricted traffic movements or taken road space away from cars, including the Blackrock to Sandycove path.

“I have been approached in relation to that, by a number of residents in the Dún Laoghaire area, many are pro-cycling but they feel that have been held in contempt and not brought into the process in a proper way.”

A case in relation to the protect cycle path on the Liffey route was also likely, he said.

“You can’t turn around and destroy the quays. If you are going to reconstitute the entire way we do traffic in the city and antagonise the population there are going to be consequences.

“If we really want to put together a mobility strategy for the city we need to go about it in a proper, planned manner, and not go off on a gallop. We want a city that works and we have to take the public with us.”

Mr Flynn said he did not want to take cases to court, but felt there would inevitably be more. “I don’t want to be haemorrhaging the courts with cases. I don’t want to waste public money or judges’ time and I don’t do things recklessly, but by December we are going to see a vast number of cases coming before the courts. We have a judgment now to work from.”

Robert Burns, director of infrastructure with Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, said he had yet to have an opportunity to assess the judge’s ruling but noted it related to a “specific case, in relation to a specific project at another location” outside the council area.