Spare a thought for Dublin councillors, who had to spend much of the fair weather of early last week sat in the shadows at City Hall, debating amendments to the city’s draft development plan.
In total, councillors discussed and voted on 392 motions, which will determine, in part, the blueprint for the city for five years, starting next January.
You’ve probably heard about the debate around changing heights for low-rise residential buildings; the limit was raised to 24 metres. But here are some other choice items that were up for discussion.
There should be a new bridge over the Liffey, said a motion from the Green Party. It would be for pedestrians, bikes, and public transport, and it would cross from Fishamble Street on the Southside to Arran Street East on the Northside.
Head of planning Jim Keogan recommended that other councillors vote against the proposal. There are already two Liffey bridges within 220 metres of the proposed bridge, it wasn’t included in the City Transport Study, and it could cost a lot, he pointed out. (The Rosie Hackett Bridge cost €13.5m.)
But Green Party councillor Ciarán Cuffe told the meeting it would help with permeability — in other words, create more routes through the city — and help deal with extra traffic likely to be caused by changes to College Green.
Independent Mannix Flynn and the United Left’s Pat Dunne spoke against the proposed bridge: Flynn because he thought another bridge was inappropriate and Dunne because he thought putting it in the plan was overcommitting.
But most councillors saw no reason not to include the proposal in the next round of public consultation. The motion passed. That means the proposal will be sent out for public consultation.
Later, Cuffe said that whether or not the bridge happens will depend on what the National Transport Authority make of it, and what Dubliners say.
The Bridgefoot Street Park
People Before Profit councillors put forward a motion to rezone as parkland a site on the corner of Bridgefoot Street and Island Street in the Liberties. It was passed. That means it can be developed as a park without housing around the edge.
During the Celtic Tiger years, some of the site had been earmarked for a 13-storey housing block under a public-private partnership. The park was suggested in a Dublin City Council plan to improve the Liberties — called the Liberties Greening Strategy — to start to address the shortage of green space in that part of the city.
Head of planning Keogan said that council managers believed the site would be better with a perimeter of housing to allow for “passive surveillance”. Councillors disregarded that, though.
People Before Profit’s Tina McVeigh said that the population density of the area is high already and so parks were needed in the area more than housing.
The intervention of the council’s chief executive, Owen Keegan, who said he was “personally committed” to delivering a park, but with a skin of houses, was to no avail.
Bikes and One-Way Streets
It often takes way longer for cyclists to get around the city than it needs to, argued Labour councillor Andrew Montague. And he put forward a motion that he hopes would fix that.
At the moment, cycle lanes in the city flow in the same direction as the traffic in most one-way areas. His motion would allow contraflow cycle lanes on all single-lane one-way streets, and reduce the speed limit to 30 kph on the same streets.
A city-wide 30 kph limit is already being considered by the Department of Tourism and Transport, said head of planning Keogan. So, he said he couldn’t accept the motion as it had been presented. Best to wait until the department has brought out its report. Some one-way streets would be unsuitable too, he said.
Éilis Ryan of the Workers Party put forward a tweaked version of the motion with the proviso that contraflow lanes would be added “unless the engineer’s report deemed the risks too high” in specific instances. That passed.
Later, Labour’s Montague said that he had been trying, with his motion, to get away from the case-by-case approach to this. It is a recipe for nothing getting done, he said. In these cases, the “burden of proof” should be on the engineers doing the report, he said.
St Anne’s Site
More than 300 objections have been filed against a plan to build 381 housing units on lands next to St Anne’s Park in Clontarf. Some local politicians have fallen in line behind those who are against the development.
Councillor Michael O’Brien of the Anti-Austerity Alliance put forward a motion to rezone the land as Z9, an open space or amenity, so that developers couldn’t build housing on it if they hadn’t got planning permission before 1 January. O’Brien said the proposed housing would destroy the park as a “visual amenity”.
Fianna Fail’s Frank Kennedy advised against what he called a “cavalier attitude”, reminding councillors of a similar case a couple of years ago, which ended up in the courts where the council lost €700,000 on legal fees. The 15-acre site, owned by New Generation Homes, would depreciate in value if it was rezoned as parkland.
Planning head Keogan, and other officials, argued that councillors didn’t have a good enough reason to rezone the land at this stage and they could easily end up back in court and lose.
Worse: council management suggested that councillors who voted for the motion against legal advice could be held personally liable. In the end, the motion was defeated.
Dancing in the Docklands
There aren’t enough places in the city to put on proper dance shows, said independent councillor Mannix Flynn. One of his motions sought a “best practice dance theatre with state of the art facilities” for the docklands. It passed.
The recent Dublin Dance Festival lacked the space to accommodate the crowds, Flynn said, while international shows at the Bórd Gais, the Gaiety, and the Abbey have to be cut down to size. It is time, says Flynn, to provide world-class facilities for both domestic and international dance.
If it makes it into the final version of the development plan, Flynn says that it is “absolutely” possible for the theatre to be delivered within five years.
Like all of the other amendments that passed in the course of the recent meetings, this one will now go out to public consultation before the final votes on the plan this coming November.