Thursday 29 March 2007

Councillors being taken for a ride

already agreed by officials with advertising firm, JCDecaux, in what has been described as a "free bike" scheme for Dublin: that is "free" in exchange for 120 billboard sites. So controversial is the scheme that denizens like Bertie Ahern – as a Drumcondra resident – has objected to it.
While media reports have concentrated on the bicycles, the real story is that councillors are outraged at the deal being already agreed by officials, with councillor Tom Stafford's criticisms of the plan as a "terrible, terrible application" typifying representatives' views.
Councillors were simply not aware of the scheme's details – that is until 70 simultaneous applications to erect billboards was made by JCDecaux during December, with another 50 in January. These roadside units are to display adverts on one side, with "civic information" on the other – and all to be located on public footpaths.
Strangely there has been no Environmental Impact Assessment, nor a council motion selling public land – while councillors are also puzzled as to why, if the council is to be a beneficiary, that the applications were not addressed to Bórd Pleanála.
More interesting is that by virtue of the project being applied for as more than 120 individual applications, it would cost over €25 grand for total adjudication by the Bórd.
However, Executive Planning Manager Ciaran MacNamara has been busy at council meetings defending the "public realm enhancements". Describing the proposed billboards as a "new departure for the industry", MacNamara claims
that along with the 500 rental bikes, the city will get 4 public toilets, "a family of way-finding signage", and JCDecaux would reduce their current billboards by 25%.
Yet despite the contract having been already signed, MacNamara is refusing to release it to councillors on the basis it as "commercially sensitive" – with councillors now resorting to FOI requests.
Mr MacNamara also claims that "very few" objections had been received; maybe he didn't see the one from Bertie Ahern, or from Tony Gregory, or the one from Councillor Larry O' Toole. Councillor Tom Brabazon has been very busy getting in a dozen objections – while dozens of other interests have also objected, such as Dublin City Business Association whose members – Arnotts, Clerys, and Eason's – have all filed objections.
Then there's the Dublin Transportation Office's submission regarding the 70 15-feet high "metropole" applications, which states "the DTO is totally opposed" as illuminated signage "is considered to be a safety hazard".
Now councillors have begun to do their own sums regarding the advertising revenue potential; Tom Stafford estimated €13 million per annum – which over the 15 year terms is over €200 Million; i.e. enough to buy 2 million bikes...
Anybody feel as if they have been taken for a ride?
© Phoenix Magazine

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