Irish Times view on Dublin’s College Green ‘plaza’

Dublin City Council must go back to the drawing board to see if some positives can be salvaged

An Bord Pleanála's decision to reject plans for the transformation of Dublin's College Green into a European-style pedestrian plaza should not have come as a complete surprise. It was evident at the lengthy oral hearing conducted by the board last March that there were unresolved issues about the knock-on impacts of this €10 million scheme, notably on city bus services, with many bus routes diverted onto the Liffey quays – much to the dismay of Dublin Bus itself.

Although the appeals board considered that the proposed plaza would “produce a quality public realm” to enhance the “amenity and attractiveness” of College Green, it concluded that the “likely significant negative impacts for bus transport, in the light of the scale of re-routing of buses proposed” would compromise the “critical importance of bus transport” to the city. The magnitude of other traffic impacts in and around the city centre had also not been accurately quantified.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was not alone in expressing his disappointment at the long-delayed ruling, saying he hoped that Dublin City Council "can work up a revised proposal". But council chief executive Owen Keegan appeared to dash any such hope by saying "this scheme is dead" and it was "too early to decide" what to do about it. It is incumbent on him, however, to direct the designers and everyone else involved in the project to go back to their drawing boards and computer models to see if there is any way of salvaging it.

The plan to transform College Green, Dublin’s premier civic space, from a noisy, chaotic traffic circus into a pleasant pedestrian plaza has been poorly handled. It should have been planned in tandem with the Luas Cross City route, as soon as it was approved six years ago, but the council didn’t start its own planning for the plaza until 2015, three years later. And then, inevitably, it ran into serious opposition when the downside consequences became known.


Might it be possible to improve the amenity of College Green for pedestrians and cyclists while allowing at least some cross-city bus routes to go through the area? It’s an idea worth examining.