There will be car parking facilities for less than a fifth of the 5,000 staff in the St James’s Hospital campus upon completion of the proposed new national children’s hospital on the St James’s site, according to planners.
St James’s Hospital currently has parking capacity for over a third of the 3,000 core staff who work within the site. Despite the addition of 2,000 extra staff who would be employed by the new children’s hospital, proposals are in place to reduce the number of designated parking spaces from 1,100 to 880.
Residents have complained that such a policy will lead to a drastic reduction in on-street parking space in the surrounding area as staff seek alternative options. However, those in charge of the project say an expansion of the €1-an-hour pay parking zone in the locality will discourage car commuters while prompting more employees to walk, cycle or take public transport to work.
Speaking during the second day of the An Bord Pleanála hearing into the proposed construction of a national children's hospital at St James's Hospital campus, civil engineer for the applicant Donal McDaid said a total of 675 visitor parking spaces would be enough to cater for all of the 120,000 urgent care cases expected to be dealt with annually, along with 65 per cent of 235,000 outpatient appointments.
Amid audible objections from audience members at the hearing, planning inspector Tom Rabbitte questioned whether the projections for reduced car travel by staff were ambitious considering the "very low" 2 per cent current level of usage of the adjacent Luas Red Line.
Mr McDaid responded that there must be a “transformative change” in relation to commuter travel by private car at St James’s, and said a “carrot and stick” approach will be needed to encourage greater use of alternative forms of transport among staff.
If given permission, construction of the new €650 million national paediatric hospital will be one of the largest infrastructural projects in the history of the State, with the 12-acre site expected to be completed by 2020.
Earlier at the hearing, it was confirmed that while 80 additional parking spaces split between staff and visitors would be provided at a proposed satellite centre at Blanchardstown's Connolly Hospital, no additional parking will be provided for another satellite facility at Tallaght Hospital.
When asked whether there will be a "twilight zone" whereby both the existing National Children's Hospital in Tallaght will still be open while the new satellite centre is operational on the same site from 2017, architect for the applicant Neil Orpwood said this would briefly be the case.
The new children’s hospital development is intended to provide a replacement for the existing children’s hospitals in Tallaght, Crumlin and Temple Street which will all eventually close should the plans gain approval.
Responding to a submission by the Jack and Jill Foundation which stated that the proposed children's hospital entrance on Mount Brown Road would be liable to regular flooding, project director Paul Healy admitted that flooding is possible but said the elevation of the nearby hospital buildings meant they would not be affected.
Flood waters from the River Camac could curtail access via the Mount Brown Road entrance for cars and service vehicles, according to designers, but the effects of such an event would be offset by the availability of alternative entry routes on the South Circular Road and St James’s Hospital according to Mr Healy.
Alluding to contentions set forth in a “large number of submissions” that the selected site for the new children’s hospital is the “wrong site”, Paul O’Neill of property agency Billfinger GVA said the St James’s campus in particular is the “best possible site” which “goes to the heart of what is meant by an integrated approach to planning and development”.