PLANS TO build an underground car park under Leinster House must be indefinitely deferred and the temporary car park on Leinster Lawn removed, the Office of Public Works (OPW) has said.
Leinster Lawn, which faces Merrion Square in front of the Houses of the Oireachtas, was replaced by a car park in July 1998 as a temporary measure during the construction of new facilities for Leinster House.
The planning permission for the work at the time required the lawn be reinstated after the works on Leinster House were completed in 2000. However, this was never done. The OPW deferred the restoration of the lawn on the grounds that an underground car park was planned for the politicians and staff of the Houses.
Minister of State with responsibility for the OPW Martin Mansergh told the last meeting of the Oireachtas Commission, a 10-member group of TDs and Senators which is responsible for the facilities at Leinster House, that there was no money for the car park and it could not proceed in the medium term. However, the OPW was committed to honouring the planning requirement to restore the lawn.
Minutes of the meeting show the commission was asked to either request that the OPW restore the lawn or seek an extension of planning permission for the temporary car park. The commission, chaired by Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue, questioned the value for money of restoring the lawn and incurring the additional expense of leasing necessary car parking spaces for Oireachtas members.
Instead of making a decision the commission has asked the OPW to report back on a number of issues. The commission is seeking an assurance that if the lawn is restored members will still have parking on Leinster House grounds; that staff who would lose their parking spaces as a result would have “alternative parking solutions”; and that the OPW conduct an analysis of current usage of the Leinster Lawn parking.