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green party submission

dublin public realm strategy

r o f n o i s a vi s ’ n i l Dub m l a e r c i l b u p

The Green Party wants a radical and visionary Public Realm Strategy for Dublin City Centre The Green Party welcomes the Public Realm Strategy Document. Dublin’s public realm has too often been simply whatever is left over after buildings and roads were designed and built. This strategy is a good start point to change both the way the city treats and thinks about the public realm. Our primary concerns with the document relate to the lack of specific ideas to expand/improve the public realm, and no measurable targets for success or failure. Without a timeline for achievement, there is a danger that the recommendations will fall into obscurity, without making any impact on the city. The Green Party’s submission to the strategy is divided into four parts, which look at green spaces, transport, unused space and maintenance. We have tried to be as specific as possible and to put forward proposals we know can be achieved at relatively low cost and with minimal disruption. To assist with visualisation, we have created a map discussing our changes at We have also proposed some mechanisms by which the Councils could more effectively deal with landowners, NAMA, local businesses and stakeholder groups. Throughout this submission, we have tried to live up to the goal of creating an “8-80 city”, where all citizens from ages 8 to 80 can navigate and enjoy the city independently with confidence and safety. For Dublin to prosper as a city, we need to learn from other cities across Europe and the wider world. If we can take some of the best practice and adapt it to our city we will get a city which Dubliners deserve and which will attract visitors and investment from the rest of the World.”

In addition to consulting planners, campaigners and engineers for this submission, we have also elicited over 200 submissions to this document via Twitter, Facebook and email. We hope that the document reflects and builds on the views of Dubliners who so kindly took the time to contact us. If members of the public have any further thoughts, please contact us at


Contents 1. Greening the City Taking back the Quays The Garden City Opening up the Phoenix Park Restoring College Green’s Glory

2. Getting Around Traffic Light Timing Cities not Thoroughfares Ending One-Way Streets Expanding Dublin Bikes Removing Heavy Vehicles

3. Reclaiming Unused Space Privately Held Space Working with NAMA Spencer Dock Development Activities in the Public Realm

4. Sustaining the Public Realm Decluttering the Streets City Branding Save Our Footpaths Shopfronts respecting Dublin Stakeholders’ Streets


Greening the City

Greening the City In 1898, urban planner Ebenezer Howard described how modern cities lack the natural beauty of the countryside, and founded the garden city movement. Even today, Dublin needs to green its public realm to create a more pleasant, healthier place to work, visit and live. To beautify and improve Dublin’s public realm, the Green Party proposes several measures which would reprioritise pedestrians and place green space at

Taking back the Quays for People

The Liffey runs through the centre of the city. In many European cities, the river acts a focal point for development and for recreation. The Liffey has become more of a dividing line in Dublin, used as a dual carriageway instead of a key part of the public realm. We are glad to note the strategy’s reference to a research project to redesign and landscape the quays, along with a similar commitment in the 2011-2017 City Development Plan. We propose greening the quays by installing a simple linear park along the northern quays. This park would have grass, trees and a wide footpath running along the river. This would make the Liffey a recreational

the heart of our city. This requires planting of trees, reclamation of road space, and improving access to existing green spaces like the Phoenix Park. Most of these ideas have hugely positive effects, but are quite simple to implement. We view the upcoming Luas BXD line work as a key chance to remodel the center of our city and minimise disruption.

destination, improve natural surveillance over the boardwalks, and create a space for people to really enjoy the public realm of the city. Traffic can be accommodated comfortably. There are several possible options, but we suggest a two-way cycle track and eastbound bus-only lane on the northern quays, with two-way traffic on the southern quays. An new, high-quality on-quay cycleway would also provide a safe cycling corridor through the city, which would link up with the Sandycove to Sutton (S2S) cycle route. This would achieve the Council’s Development Plan objective of a “Docklands Route” cycle link.



Greening the City

The Garden City

Dublin streets and roadsides are home to over 60,000 trees. Each year, the council plants an average 5,000 trees. Trees can define a public space. They act as lungs for the city and add majesty to areas where planning and architecture have failed. They also act as homes for urban wildlife, improve how a street processes stormwater, and alleviate noise and pollution. We welcome the strategy’s stated aim to green the city by planting more trees. We are especially heartened by the positive mention of buildouts on narrow paths to allow new trees to be planted. We propose that the Council plant more native, varied species of trees instead of dull, homogenous saplings. While more ambitious trees present challenges in the design and management of pavements, they can grow in beautiful and unexpected ways, and become a key part of the city’s landscape. Increased civic spaces also present Wild City opportunities to plant flower beds and smaller hanging baskets, which are a Large, varied native trees in Hanoi, Vietnam, simple and cost-effective way to brighten have brought nature and freshness into a up the city. heavily polluted and sprawling city. They add Bridges with large traffic islands (such character to some otherwise unremarkable as O’Connell Bridge) can also be planted streets, such as the one pictured above. to bring some natural beauty to our river crossings.

Opening up the Phoenix Park

The Phoenix Park is one of the largest walled city parks in Europe. Without it, Dublin’s public green space would be shrink hugely. Yet despite its location and size, it is underutilised. Comparable parks such as the Englishcer Garten in Munich or Central Park in New York show the potential for a well-connected, large urban park. While the Council is not responsible for Phoenix Park, we are disappointed that the strategy makes no mention of it. It is a significant part of Dublin’s public realm, and the Council has a role to play in improving access to the park and diverting traffic from it. To improve access to (and thus use of) the park, we suggest working with the OPW to expand Dublin Bike stations into/nearer the park, remodelling the entrance to accommodate non-car users (see left), and improving its connectivity with the city by installing bike lanes and clearly marked walking routes to the entrance.


Greening the City

Restoring College Green’s Glory College Green is perhaps the best example of misused public space in the city. Going back to the Norse, it served as a meeting place and the centre of civic Dublin. Cluttered with street furniture, and strangled by traffic, it now serves more as a junction than a civic space. The Green Party agrees with the strategy document that College Green should be “reinvented” to become a civic space “of the highest quality”. Unfortunately, the strategy lacks specific proposals, and only calls for “design briefs” to be “considered”. The Green Party has several proposals for this process, and thinks that the Luas BXD construction presents a perfect time to restore College Green to its former glory.

Traffic solutions

We propose pedestrianising the College Green area from Church Lane/Foster Place, to Westmoreland Street. The only vehicular traffic through this area would be on the Luas BXD line which is already planned to skirt the gates of Trinity College. This Luas track should be shared with buses, at particular pinch points. This should be done in conjunction with major changes in bus routes diverting many cross-city bus routes away from the College Green area onto alternative routes further east and west. This would lead to an improved bus service where we need a mesh of cross-city services, rather than the current system which runs everything through College Green and O’Connell Street..

This would also allow more creative uses for Westmoreland Street, which could feature a bus lane, the proposed Luas track and a widened, greened pedestrian area linking to western Fleet Street/Temple Bar. This transformation into a plaza/public square would involve removal of street clutter (potentially including the trees) and repaving the Green, work which would mostly already occur with BXD construction. Special care would be taken to ensure safe passage for citizens with disabilities near the Luas line. This plan links two of Dublin’s largest pedestrianised areas (the Grafton Street area and Temple Bar). It would provide a central meeting point, which could occasionally be used for major public events and concerts with a minimum of disruption to the city. Public benches, good lighting and more appropriate retail units would create a marvellous social space. Crucially, it would create a part of the city which is safe for children, and accessible for all.

Houses of Parliament The old Houses of Parliament should be taken into public ownership oncemore, and used as a public library. The current central library’s lease in the Ilac Centre expires in 2016. The building could also be used as a cultural space for talks and exhibitions, and provide a pedestrian thoroughfare to Parliament Row/ Temple Bar. This would not only open up one of Dublin’s finest buildings to public use, but would put the library in a more accessible location.


Greening the City

The Custom House Park

The Custom House is one of the most important pieces of architecture in the city. It also has a hugely underused green space in its hinterland, which is disconnected from the city by a fast, multi-lane one-way road. We propose closing off Beresford Place to traffic other than the Luas and bicycles, and grassing over a large portion of the area. This creates a mid-sized urban park space, which would be especially useful for workers in the IFSC and the local community. Traffic can be diverted in a pain-free way by

Dublin Castle Link Improving the public realm must include improving access to its most interesting and important parts. Dublin Castle is a beautiful and historic part of the city, which unfortunately plays little part in Dubliners’ lives. The Green Party proposes cleaning and opening up “Informer’s Lane”, and providing an entrance to Dublin Castle off South Great George’s Street. This work can involve either reopening brickedup entrances or simply knocking down a modern wall. This lane, just opposite Exchequer Street would also act as a calm, traffic-free pedestrian link to Dame Street and Little Ships Street. This would improve the public realm by weaving what Michael Collins called “the Devil’s Half Acre” into the fabric of the city. This idea is not new. It was most recently proposed in 2001, when the agreement of the OPW was secured. The Council should proceed with this plan as soon as possible.

Maps: 6

making Butt and Matt Talbot Bridges two-way, each leading to consistent two-way systems on Amiens and Gardiner Streets. This plan would also be assisted by moving buses from Buáras. East and northbound buses could go to the Point/Spencer Dock area, with south and westbound could go to a new facility new Heuston Station. Such a change would (along with quay improvements) surround the Custom House with park instead of road, proudly displaying one of Dublin’s finest buildings.


Getting Around

Getting Around We commend the strategy’s recognition that road space in Dublin needs reallocation, and the lower target of 20% for private car commuting. We are pleased that the document recognises that pedestrians and cyclists have priority, but recommend a more

explicit hierarchy of road users. Dublin should embrace the 8-80 framework, where everyone from age 8 to 80 can use and travel the city’s public space easily and independently.

Traffic Light Timing Dubliners break lights every day. This is a symptom of people being stuck in a road system which simply isn’t designed for them. Traffic light timings are a key part of changing that system, and improving the safety and convenience of the public realm. We propose three main ideas. Firstly, wait times between green pedestrian lights must be shortened across the city. On Dawson Street, for example, pedestrians have to wait for up to ninety seconds for a green pedestrian light. In practice, this means that most people simply run across the road. This can be stressful to both pedestrian and road user, cause accidents, and generally interrupt good traffic flow. Secondly, pedestrian crossing times should be reassessed to include those who have difficulty walking quickly, particularly over wider roads. Short crossing times effectively bar some elderly people and some people with disabilities from the city centre. Consultation with representative groups would be useful in this area. For example, although frequent, the crossing times at the Spire are too short for some road users to cross safely. Finally, countdown timers should be spread across the city, particularly at busy pedestrian junctions. Such lights are already in use to good effect on the O’Connell Street Bridge crossings (pictured above) and the Spire. These will likely improve compliance with lights and increase efficiency, as crossing times can be anticipated by pedestrians and road users alike. All of these changes can measurably improve the public realm for pedestrians, creating a safer, more relaxing and more convenient place to walk and wander.

Cities, not Thoroughfares The strategy document mentions the wide variety of journey types through the city each day. For a functioning traffic system and a quieter, cleaner and more efficient city, it should be established that Dublin city centre is a destination, not a thoroughfare. Road design should reflect that Dublin is a place to go to, not to go through. Those traversing the city should be further diverted and encouraged to use routes that do not go through the centre of the city. A part of this process could involve delisting parts of national roads (such as the N1, N2, N4, N11 and N81) which go through the city. This would also restore Council control over these routes, which would simplify public works and maintenance. Any approach which likens the city to a dual carriageway or motorway will only lead to further worsening of the public space.


Getting Around

Ending One-Way Streets One-way streets were installed as a simple way to increase capacity and reduce congestion in a city. In effect, they make for faster, noisier roads, which are hostile for cyclists and pedestrians, and thus shut down commercial business on otherwise attractive and viable streets. They also create confusion for drivers who are forced into an endlessly looping system which allows them little choice, prevents access to where they want to go, and leads to longer journeys. The Green Party proposes removing the destructive one-way multi-lane system in Dublin, on streets such as Pearse Street, Dawson Street, Nassau Street, the Quays, Stephen’s Green, Parnell Square, Blessington Street and others.


Mean streets... Streets such as Pearse St (above) have become wider than many dual-carriageways, shutting down businesses on the streets, and discouraging pedestrians and cyclists.

Expanding Dublin Bikes Dublin Bikes has been a huge success story and has shown the potential for Dublin to become a cycling city. As the foreword to the strategy says, they “have made a significant and positive impact on how people experience –and enjoy – the city.” Existing coverage of stations is excellent in the central area between the canals. The Green Party proposes expanding the coverage area of Dublin Bikes stations to the east and west of the city, particularly to Spencer Dock in the east and to the Phoenix Park and Rialto in the west.

Removing Heavy Vehicles

A working river From 1873 to 1961, Guinness used steam-powered barges (pictured) to move barrels from James’ Gate to the Port. This could still be done to reduce HGVs in the city and bring back an old Dublin tradition.


The Council has succeeded in removing 5+ axle heavy goods vehicles from the centre of the city by 80%-90%. This has resulted in a cleaner and safer public realm for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. To build on that great progress, the Green Party recommends extending the current HGV ban to four-axle HGVs. Guinness, as the main remaining manufacturer, already has an exemption to move their trucks along the quays to Dublin Port. The Council should work with Guinness prior to the construction of their new riverside facility, to use barges to move Guinness to the Port, as they did previously. This would present a good branding opportunity to Guinness and allow the Liffey to become a light working river again.

Reclaiming Unused Space

Reclaiming Unused Space The Green Party agrees with the strategy that “buildings and their uses frame public spaces”. Derelict, vacant or underdeveloped sites prevent the creation of a pleasant, safe and highquality public realm. Some of this unused land is in public hands, some in private. The Green Party proposes a variety of ways to use both of these lands for better purposes.

We also discuss potential ways to encourage or force improvements in privately-held derelict/ underdeveloped land. The city needs to concentrate new development in central, brownsite areas, such as the Spencer Dock area, and the public realm can be used to assist and target this work.

Privately Held Space We welcome the Council’s reference to “proactively” working with private landlords on a “collaborative” basis to resolving issues relating derelict and vacant sites. However, such a strategy is likely to be ineffective without specific methods of doing so. Voluntary and collaborative methods should be used as a matter of course, but the Council should have the power to increase rates on specific sites which harm the public realm. As a last resort, they could use compulsory purchase orders to take over vacant, derelict or underused sites which have a significantly negative impact. Even the existence of such powers would incentivise landlords to find temporary uses for vacant sites, such as pop up restaurants and cultural spaces. If not possible under existing legislation, the Council should seek extra powers to change rates and initiate compulsory purchase orders. Similar powers were used in the Temple Bar Renewal and Development Act 1991, or the Dublin Docklands Development Authority Act 1997.

'Pob ail nío s dlúi the á

dtógái l'

'Poba il níos dlúit he á dtógáil'

ith e á dtógáil'

Yes We Ken! Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone recognised that people’s needs come first, and threatened owners of derelict property with compulsory purchase orders. Similarly, in 18th/19th century Dublin the Wide Streets Commissioners used extra powers to create whole streets (such as O’Connell, Dame and North Frederick Streets).


Reclaiming Unused Space

Concentrating Development The greatest threat to our public realm comes from unfinished development following our property crash and economic crisis. We need to concentrate new growth and building in mixed use developments on brown field and partially developed sites close to the city centre. Doing this will improve the public realm and also restore real value to the property market.

Working with NAMA The Council document refers to private ownership of land in the city, but fails to note the role of NAMA. The agency has a primarily commercial objective, but it also has a function in its legislation to “contribute to the economic and social recovery of the State”. The Council needs to work with NAMA to ensure that new developments in areas such as Poolbeg and Spencer Dock are developed quickly and to the highest possible design and planning principles. This may involve the use of sites for the provision of public parks and other non commercial activities. The increase in overall property values that should arise from a proper planning approach will raise the overall financial return that the taxpayer will get from the NAMA portfolio of loan and land assets.

South William Street McNamara Construction previously owned large parts of South William Street, which are now presumably managed by NAMA. Semi-public ownership of a large area presents a great opportunity to develop the public realm there.

Spencer Dock Development It is unclear whether the Dublin Docklands Authority or Dublin City Council now have responsibility for the planning of the docklands area. This impasse needs to be resolved quickly so that the re-development of the Spencer Dock area can resume. As the Quays are greened, this part of the city will be better linked with the centre centre. We propose “pocket parks” throughout the area, which will serve existing communities and the growing workerforce in the area. We also envision Spencer Dock as a transport hub for the city. There is to the Port Tunnel, the Port itself, a Luas terminus and in the future, the East West rail inter-connector. With new passenger ships due at the docks near the East Link bridge we need to make this arrival point to the city especially attractive. The relocation of Busáras to the land near the O2 could bring other development to the area and improve what is now a relatively barren landscape.


Reclaiming Unused Space

Activities in the Public Realm The Green Party is glad to see that the Council wants all public spaces to be fully accessible and welcoming to all in society. However, we are concerned that an attempt to make “space for everyone” will lead to bland, catch-all public spaces which fail to cater for more specific needs. As it stands, much of the public realm discourages use by young people, and fails to provide facilities for urban communities. Football pitches, basketball courts, skate parks and multiuse game areas (MUGAs) are needed in the inner cities. This need is particularly strong in Smithfield and the Liberties, where there are few (if any) green spaces to even kick a ball around. Good facilities in the public realm not only provide something to do for young people, but bring examples of healthy sports and activities to the heart of the city. Casual use of public space for exercise and sports is not something to be feared, but to be encouraged. For example, the green space around the Council’s Civic Offices could be used for football and other sports activities. This would allow the Council to lead the way in good community uses of grassland. Vacant or unused pieces of land could be used as allotments, run at no cost to the Council by allotment groups. Should security be an issue, simple keyholder systems can be put in place, where a local resident opens and closes a park or facility at certain times.

Westport MUGA The development of a MUGA in Westport, Mayo (pictured left) has given young people an active and suitable place to enjoy their public realm.

Oscar Square Keyholder Scheme Oscar Square Park (pictured above) sits in the middle of a group of houses in Dublin 8. Locked for years, with no access for residents, it was increasingly used for drinking and fell into disrepair. Now, the community have taken back control and one resident has a key to open and close the park gates at night. Locals have planted flowers, trees and even set up a Facebook community page for the park. Simple keyholder schemes like this can help amenities throughout the city run safely and practically.

Public Exercise Facilities Public exercise facilities are a simple way to encourage public health in the city. Used in Istanbul (above), Santiago, Phnom Penh, Beijing and recently Blackrock Park, they help create a “playground for grownups” in the public realm.


Sustaining the Public Realm

Sustaining the Public Realm The council’s strategy document is strongest on areas relating to maintenance of the existing public realm. It provides some simple and effective ideas. We are particularly pleased by the emphasis the document gives to design and materials quality, and welcome the proposal to create a design manual for

the city. We also welcome the promise to consult with external stakeholders (such as disability groups, the cycling campaign, the business association etc.) and think that such consultation can help the initial design process include a variety of needs and interests.

Decluttering the Streets Dublin has a serious problem with street furniture. Redundant poles, bollards with no purpose, and anti-pedestrian gates mean the city’s already squashed pavements are taken over by unnecessary lumps of metal. We are delighted to see council recognition of this in the document, but are concerned that no actual policy or deadline is included in the report. Indeed, the recent installation of real time passenger information displays was tainted by their use of a separate pole, rather than integration with existing stops. The Green Party proposes a full audit of all street furniture by mid-2012. This would include an inventory of all street fixtures and could be used for removal, relocation and consolidation. Other immediate suggestions include a reduction of phone booths in the city, removal of most pedestrian railings, relocating utility boxes underground or into buildings, and consolidation of old tourist information signs into the excellent new “wayfinder” signs.

Purposeless Poles One of Dublin’s many purposeless poles, complete with an outdated utility box cluttering up College Green.

City Branding Good city branding Amsterdam, like other cities, has develop a strong, recognisable city brand for citizens and tourists alike. 12

Any new street furniture to be installed should feature strong, consistent Dublin City branding. This can help improve the city, raise awareness of the council’s role, and can build some civic pride. It can also be used to market the city for investment and tourism.

Sustaining the Public Realm

Save our Footpaths A wonderful part of Dublin’s history is what we walk on every day. The old granite flagstones have shown their resilience and strength by remaining for so long. The proliferation of Chinese and Portuguese white granite (which is uglier and less stain resistant) threatens to damage this heritage. The Green Party welcomes the repeated recognition of this problem in the council’s strategy. We believe that the Conservation Office should prepare a list of historic pavements. When a utility or council body wishes to alter or move them, the office must be consulted and a “lift and replace” policy instituted where possible. In cases where a street has been primarily replaced with new granite, we propose recycling the old, historic granite into service on other, more suitable streets.

Shopfronts respecting Dublin The current shopfronts policy is not working. Some businesses abuse the “temporary sign” system to give themselves a unfair promotional advantage over more scrupulous businesses. “Temporary” signs must have an enforced time limit, and rewards built into the rates system for shopfronts which are noted to be particularly appealing and suitable to the area. If “pop up shops” can be respectful to the area on a limited budget, so can multinational chains.

Stakeholders’ Streets In some cases the council will not be able to maintain or clean a street to the extent that businesses would like. Strictly on a supplemental basis, businesses should be able to work with the council to either further subsidise or directly provide additional street maintenance to their area. Such a system is already in place in a more limited way via the BIDS scheme. We propose expanding it so that individual businesses, should they wish, can work with the council to provide extra pavement maintenance, street cleaning, graffiti removal etc.


Image Credits 1. Greening the City a. Quays with Grass - Kevin Duffy, “Dublinspirations”, An Taisce, 2004 b. Hanoi tree - Alan, Flickr username: merrionsq c. Deer and Cyclist - Colin Whittaker, Flickr username: colinwhittaker d. Phoenix Park entrance sketch - Kevin Duffy, “Dublinspirations”, An Taisce, 2004 e. Old College Green - source unknown f. College Green - concept design bird’s eye - user “Morlan” g. College Green - concept design - Celtcia h. Custom House hinterland - Kieran Lynam, Flickr username: kieranlynam i. Dublin Castle walkway proposal - source unknown j. DubhLinn Gardens - Flickr username: jarhue2 / huggs2

2. Getting Around a. Traffic Lights - Google Street View b. Pearse Street - Google Street View c. Guinness Barge - Guinness Archives

3. Reclaiming Unused Space a. Ken Livingstone portrait - Flickr username: amplifieduk / Amplified 2010 b. South William Street - Flickr username: KTdesigner c. Spencer Dock - Cian Ginty, Flicrk username: cianginty d. Oscar Square - Oscar Square Facebook Group e. MUGA Westport - Mayo Sports Partnership f. Public Exercise, Istanbul - Flickr username: cristic

4. Sustaining the Public Realm a. Pole - Michael Pidgeon (author) b. Amsterdam sign - Flickr username: mattrubens c. Pavement - user “Devin” d. Old shopfront - Dublin Civic Trust Facebook Page

Dublin Public Realm Strategy 2012  

The Green Party's submission to Dublin City Council's Draft Public Realm Strategy

Dublin Public Realm Strategy 2012  

The Green Party's submission to Dublin City Council's Draft Public Realm Strategy