Sunday 31 October 2010

“Unauthorised” car parks in Dublin

A RECENT ruling by An Bord Pleanála shows how Dublin City Council can lose the run of itself when it comes to managing car parking in the city. Earlier this year the council moved to close a two-storey car park at the rear of O’Connell Street on the grounds that it “facilitates long term commuter car parking”. Never mind that many commuters – myself included – who drive to work in the city have no suitable alternative.

The car park in question, off Moore Lane, was built specifically to facilitate local government officials, but once the former Fingal County Council’s offices were sold to developers Chartered Land the council argued that there was no planning permission for it to be used by the general public. The council’s decision to issue an enforcement notice against what it claimed was an “unauthorised car park” was all the more surprising because as part of the proposed €900-million Dublin Central rejuvenation project already approved for the same Carlton site, Chartered Land has been given permission to replace the 100-space car park with one seven times bigger.

Not surprisingly, traders in Henry Street and Moore Street warned that the closure of the car park would affect their businesses at a time when they were struggling to pay high rents and even more excessive rates to the council.

An inspector from An Bord Pleanála refused to accept that the “unauthorised” car park was “critical” to the retail core of the city centre and recommended that planning permission should be refused on the grounds that it would set an “undesirable precedent”.

Luckily, wiser counsels prevailed and the planning appeals board ruled that the car park should remain open to “support the existing retail uses in the vicinity”.

Curiously there was no mention in the long and detailed report from An Bord Pleanála that the car park in question is in direct competition with the adjoining 1,000-space Ilac car park which just happens to be owned by . . . yes, you guessed it, Dublin City Council. Surely the council wouldn’t try and put a rival car park out of business to protect the €6.4 million income it gets from the Ilac park and two others in Dawson Street and Drury Street? Or the on-street parking which brought in revenues of €26.8 million in 2009? The city council’s officials are experts at maximising income from the 33,000 pay-and- display spaces along the city streets.

But because it has control of car parking in the city there is good reason to monitor how the council sets its charges and deals with its competitors.

This year alone it has issued seven enforcement notices against “unauthorised” car parks. Some of these are located on development sites which are unlikely to be used for many years. What is wrong with granting permission for some of them to be used as temporary parks for a period of, say, three years to facilitate commuters working in the city? Unlike city council officials, these workers do not have the luxury of a free car park such as the one at the council’s city centre offices.

There’s a lot more to this car parking issue than meets the eye.

Irish Times

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