Goatstown traffic: Locals fear plans may swamp gridlocked suburb
Housing developments, parking spaces and lack of cycle lanes threaten Dublin 14 subset
The Goat Bar and Grill: A plan for 299 apartments and a 22-bed hotel at its site at the junction of Taney Road and Goatstown Road is being assessed by An Bord Pleanála. Photograph : Laura Hutton
As with much of Co Dublin it began its transformation from farmland to suburb in the 1960s, radically changing in the 1970s, with the development of large estates of two-storey, semi-detached houses. This continued into the 1980s and to a lesser extent the 1990s.
The last boom saw a change in character with a move towards apartment schemes. However, it is with the most recent spurt of growth, prompted by the introduction of the Strategic Housing Development (SHD) system, that it seems to have really hit home with locals that they could soon be living in a very changed world.
Under the SHD process, applications for more than 100 homes, or blocks of 200 student bed spaces, are made directly to An Bord Pleanála, bypassing the local authority decision phase.
These schemes are by their nature high-density, and are generally significantly taller than the surrounding estates. The physical dominance of proposed SHD schemes has come as a shock to locals, but in terms of their daily lives, one of the biggest burdens could be the traffic generated.
In terms of its road infrastructure, Goatstown does retain its rural roots. The Goatstown Road and, to the west of the suburb, Dundrum Road, are the area’s main arteries to the city. They are narrow, neither has space for a dedicated bus lane and Dundrum Road does not even have cycle lanes.
The principal roads linking the two, Bird Avenue to the north and Taney Road to the south, are heavily congested at peak time, which local Fine Gael councillor Jim O’Leary said inevitably leads to “rat-running”, which sees motorists using residential estates to try to find shortcuts.
“Traffic in the whole area is overwhelming. Dundrum Road and Goatstown Road are very narrow. The estates in between are very permeable for cars and as a result there is enormous rat-running in between estates with people trying to beat the traffic,” he said.
Any new development would create fears of worsening the grip of gridlock, but three particularly large SHD schemes are proposed for Goatstown.
A plan for 299 apartments and a 22-bed hotel at the Goat Grill pub at the junction of Taney Road and Goatstown Road is currently being assessed by An Bord Pleanála. The board is also due to issue a decision in the coming months on plans for a 698-bed student accommodation scheme across eight blocks at Our Lady’s Grove on Goatstown Road.
Plans for a six-storey block of 239 student bed spaces at the Vector Motors site also on Goatstown Road were granted permission by the board but are being challenged in the High Court by way of judicial review.
In reality, of these three only the Goat Grill proposal is likely to have a significant impact on traffic, with plans for 475 parking spaces.
The student schemes, both about 1km from the UCD campus, have no parking apart from one or two disabled and service spaces.
However, Mr O’Leary said it’s the cumulative effect of proposed SHD developments further south that will put unsustainable pressure on the road network.
“There are four SHD developments planned on the Enniskerry Road, two of them have only been submitted in recent weeks,” he said. “There’s Ironborn with 445 build-to-rent apartments at Aikens Village in Stepaside, that application was made at the start of April. There’s Marmalade Lane nearer Dundrum, there’s a judicial review on that. There’s a SHD going ahead at Greenacres on Kilmacud Road, and there are several more.
“The justification for all these schemes is that they’re on the Luas line, but the Luas line can only take this demand if it’s upgraded to a metro, and that isn’t expected to happen for a decade or more. And in the meantime all that traffic is going to filter down into Dundrum and Goatstown.”
Mr O’Leary said he is an advocate of building more homes. “There’s no escaping the fact that we have a housing crisis, and we can’t continue the model of building out into the countryside. We need compact growth, but without the upgrade of the Luas that growth will be unsustainable.”
The Roebuck Residents’ Association, which represents a significant number of people living on roads between Goatstown and Dundrum, said great care had to be taken that new schemes did not “induce demand” for more cars.
“Broadly speaking we are pro-cycling and walking – the last thing we want is everyone having two cars in the driveway and a public realm that’s dominated by vehicles not people,” a spokesman said.
With no parking at the student schemes, there was some risk of illegal parking on Goatstown Road, or parking in neighbouring estates, but he said the Goat Grill scheme had gone too far in the other direction.
“That level of parking will just induce demand for cars at what is a very hostile junction. It’s meant to be a village centre but it’s not a place you’re going to sit outside for coffee or go for a stroll. It’s more along the lines of the M50 than Grafton Street.”
The plan for the redevelopment of the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum by the Land Development Agency (LDA) has scrapped a previous proposal to allow cars to exit east into the housing estates towards Goatstown, with vehicle access from Dundrum Road only, but the densities on the site remained too high, he said.
“The development plan had zoned the site for 600-800 homes, so it is quite disappointing they are going against that.”
The LDA plans 1,259 houses and apartments with 540 car parking spaces and 2,160 cycle spaces.
“We’re definitely on board with their proposals for cycling and walking, but of course the development of the site is going to add to the problem of traffic in Dundrum and the problem of rat-running.”
While for local car and bus users the traffic is a major inconvenience, for cyclists it’s a whole other prospect. With little protection on some roads, and none on others, the daily battle with motorists can be gruelling, particularly for younger cyclists.
Ross Kinsella is part of a group of parents in Gaelscoil na Fuinseoige in Dundrum who have recently established a “bike bus”, which sees parents and some volunteers cycle alongside children going to school. The scheme, which is operating in several other schools across Dublin, works by having a designated route with “bus stops” where parents and children can join the convoy.
“A huge proportion of the kids live within a small radius of the school. About 50-60 households are less than 2km away, and for me it seemed a bit mad that I’d hop into the car just for that distance.”
His daughter Erin “enjoys the comradery of the group” he says and at eight she is one of the older children as the school is new and currently goes up to second class.
“It’s five to eight year olds, so some of the kids are very small, but we’re going three weeks or so now and they’re all getting a great buzz out of it so far.”
The route starts near the junction of Bird Avenue and Goatstown Road and runs as much as possible through quiet housing estates.
“I suppose we’re using the rat runs, and a lot of residents in the estates have said they’re quite glad to see us because we go slowly and, in narrow stretches we can be hard to get past, so we slow the traffic down, or drivers go another way. We had the community gardaí along with us one day and they were very supportive.”
Most drivers are “quite respectful” but not all he said.
“There’s one particular stretch in Woodlawn Park, it takes us about four minutes to get through, and this one driver will always try and squeeze through between us and the parked cars. All they’re doing is racing to the next set of lights.”
Mr Kinsella said he’d like to set up more buses for families coming to the school from different directions, but it has been difficult to identify safe routes.
“We identified a demand for a possible route from the housing areas closer to Goatstown/Clonskeagh Road which would have come through Mount Carmel Road and Rosemount out on to the Dundrum Road. There was good demand but we quickly ruled it out because the Dundrum Road is just too treacherous for the kids.”