While the council’s Chief Executive Owen Keegan stated that the plans are now dead, this may act as a call to arms for those who wish to see a more vibrant, greener, living city.
College Green has played an important role in the civic life of Dublin since the 1300s. The founding of Trinity College in 1592, and the construction of a hump-backed bridge where O’Connell Bridge now stands by James Gandon in 1791 brought the city eastwards from Dublin Castle.
Yet the 20th and early 21st century have taken their toll; rising traffic levels, ugly signage and inappropriately placed trees disfigure what was once Dublin’s premier civic space.
It is a disturbing precedent if fear of traffic congestion prevents public realm improvements in central Dublin.
The attractive design for a reimagined civic plaza from Paul Keogh and Dixon Jones Architects proposed removing motorised vehicles from Foster Place and the area south of Edward Lovett Pearce’s 1729 old Parliament House. The design included granite setts and a fountain similar to that recently installed in Somerset House in London. A new line of London Plane trees and a cycle lane would flank the southern edge, and new seating would be provided.
Although the design was praised by Breda Gannon, Bord Pleanála’s senior planning inspector, the Board ultimately refused permission stating that the loss of road space for traffic would have significant negative impact on the wider street network, including the M50 motorway (!), and the Quays might not handle the increase in buses diverted from College Green.
It is a disturbing precedent if fear of traffic congestion prevents public realm improvements in central Dublin. As cities grow they must change, and the city council should now be more ambitious. Why not propose reducing traffic – rather than diverting it?