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  • Northside West

Residents reject park review

Tuesday, 14th May, 2019 9:00am
Residents reject park review

Phoenix Park

Residents reject park review

Phoenix Park

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Jack Gleeson


NORTHSIDE residents have rejected the Office of Public Works’ strategic review of Phoenix Park, claiming it lacks content and detail.

The Navan Road Community Council, which acts as an umbrella organisation for local residents’ associations, clubs and other groups, fear the comprehensive review will result in expensive retail units and an abundance of car parking spaces in Europe’s largest enclosed public park.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) has extended the deadline for a public consultation on the Phoenix Park Visitor Strategic Review until May 29.

It wants to review future tourism potential for the park and prepare development plans for the Visitor Centre and Magazine Fort.

In the review document, the park has been divided up into four ‘character’ areas: a welcome quarter; an activity quarter; a biodiversity quarter and a commemorative quarter, each offering different visitor experiences.

Chesterfield Avenue will act as a central dividing line made up of pedestrian, cycling, horse carriage and shuttle bus lanes with stops at intervals.

It’s envisioned that commuters driving through the park may be persuaded to leave their cars near the gates and take public transport to reach nearby Heuston Station with bus, train, Luas and bicycle travel opportunities.

The review suggests ‘welcome pavilions’ at the main gates on Conyngham Road and a major visitor centre on Ashtown Demesne, with some of the space currently used for temporary parking during festivals like Bloom made into a permanent car park.

A ‘great interior hall’ in the visitor centre is also conceived to shelter various proposed activities that would animate the various surrounding garden spaces.

The review recommends turning the current exhibition and café space into a children’s education centre with its own landscaped spaces.

The Magazine Fort would be the main attraction of the commemorative quarter and a bridge linking the park to its former hinterland south of the Liffey could connect it to the Memorial Gardens.

Last November, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) and the Office of Public Works (OPW) launched an architectural design competition to build the commemorative bridge.

The Navan Road Community Council (NRCC) has rejected the Strategic Review document in its extensive submission to the public consultation.

It describes the review document as a ‘very expensive, slick, 199 page coffee table book’ that’s low on content and detail.

“It obviously has one aim only which is to put large, expensive, soulless retail units into the Phoenix Park at the Ashtown Visitor’s Centre, The Magazine Fort and Knockmaroon/Furry Glen requiring an abundance of car parking spaces,” the submission states.

“Knowing what we do of corporate greed this will only be the beginning of the total destruction of the Phoenix Park. Once areas of the park vanish under concrete they can never be returned.”

The OPW say the review’s 29 recommendations could increase Phoenix Park’s contribution to Ireland’s tourism economy while ensuring its unique character is conserved and protected for the enjoyment of generations to come.

Labour Candidate for Cabra/Glasnevin, Declan Meenagh, said many locals weren’t aware of the review as the public consultation process hadn't been properly advertised.

“I grew up in the Phoenix Park,” he said. “It’s a very important green space in Dublin City.

“To prevent climate change, promote biodiversity and provide the children of Dublin with a healthy and safe space to play, we need to get the future of the park right.

“The proposed plan is very poorly advertised and it is difficult to get copies of it. It is on display in the park but it should be taken on a tour around libraries and OPW staff should be made available to answer questions.

“I do not think the park needs more retail units, as is currently proposed. The park is a UNESCO world heritage site and that needs to be preserved”

“There needs to be a big focus on maintaining the current level of trees and looking after and replacing them as needed. Such focus is missing from the plan.

“I am worried that some of these building works may reduce the number of trees or take away healthy trees.”

Fianna Fáil local election candidate, Mary Fitzpatrick, said that the decision to extend the period of public consultation would only be meaningful if the OPW encourage those interested from elsewhere in the country to participate.

“The Phoenix Park is not just an immensely popular park for Dubliners but a distinct part of Irish heritage and culture that welcomes some 10 million visitors each year,” she said.

“I appreciate that the project has been on display in the Visitor Centre, but this will have only really been known to those living in or around Dublin. I have been working with local residents’ groups to ensure that there was more time given to the whole process.

“I believe the decision to extend the deadline is positive but its real worth will be in how the OPW campaigns for the whole public to consider its proposals.”

Phoenix Park is a haven of biodiversity in the heart of the city. Photo: Frank Malone

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