Scoping on Esker Permeability Scheme starts to move forward again
View latest presentation document from scoping workshop with Councillors here:
With the NTA indicating a willingness to fund the project once access in and out of estates is provided, scoping has recommenced for a new cycle and walking route on the historic Esker between Moy Glas and Castle Riada estates.
The original plan was scrapped in 2012 following an amendment by Councillors which removed access into Castle Riada Avenue, following concerns raised by residents.
These concerns about "permeability" remain with the new plan as residents of Castle Riada and some parts of Moy Glas living along the old Esker - once the main Lucan-Clondalkin road - have been plagued by intermittent anti-social behaviour and break-ins.
Officials believe that a new well-lit and well-used active travel route along this stretch will deter such activities, while creating proper openings will enable residents to better access public transport links and local shops, schools, parks and other amenities.
So, what's not to like about a new walking and cycling route? The devil is in the detail. Widespread consultation has yet to take place and, personally speaking, a lot of the preliminary consultations carried out by SDCC tend to be all "motherhood and apple pie" and tend to underestimate specific concerns. By the time plans get to an advanced stage, it is difficult to amend the proposals put forward by management. Not all NTA plans are votable, but where Councillors do get to vote on a "Part 8" proposal, we mainly have the power to remove elements of a plan, or reject outright, but adding things in is more difficult. This is because any proposal that the Council says will cost more than €127,000 is deemed to be a "material alteration" and can be ruled out order because it requires a brand new scheme to be advertised.
So what elements are likely to prove contentious? The first, is, again, permeability. Some residents living in cul de sacs with younger children would feel that the areas immediately outside are no longer as safe. I know that several Councillors have dismissed these concerns with some going so far as to suggest that it's more about worries over house values. But it's clearly about something in situ that is being taken away and weighing up the benefits versus other downsides because, if anything, permeability would likely increase house prices, all other things being equal.
More widespread, while SDCC says new official openings into the two estates may deter antisocial behaviour and crime, some residents will disagree and argue that it might make certain things worse. It's hard to say without more information. Perhaps the area will no longer be a preferential location for public drinking but there is an alternate argument that says better access will only facilitate criminal elements in making their escape.
The key to deterring these fears lies in the second element, CCTV. The Council says it cannot put in CCTV for GDPR reasons and that CCTV would have to be driven by An Garda Síochána, who can store and monitor the data. So, while the Council says it may facilitate CCTV through the provision of ducting and connection points, the ultimate provision of CCTV is unlikely to feature in the scheme itself, although Councillors would definitely try and push this, if at all possible. But any plan without a ring-fenced guarantee on CCTV is likely to lead to reduced support from those areas most directly affected, as well as potential users from elsewhere who may feel that their safety is at risk, even in a well-lit area, especially during quieter periods after dark.
A further concern is the limited scope of the plan. Simply having a link from the Outer Ring Road to Griffeen Road is not going to encourage a huge amount of use. Without a bridge or at least a dedicated crossing to the other part of the old Clondalkin Road, at Glendale/Foxborough, you are not going to have a workable link that encourages walkers or cyclists to avoid Castle Road or Griffeen Avenue. This will be especially useful once the swimming pool/leisure centre finally opens after multiple delays. As of now, there are no proposals to go further, although it could be part of a future link later on. How much later on is the question.
So there's plenty of food for thought here. As someone from a Green background I am of course totally supportive of active travel projects and can see the many positives of this proposal. But you also have to look at the specifics of each scheme and if something doesn't look right, it needs to be changed. I did this with the village parking scheme, tabling an amendment to reinstate parking spaces beside a busy GP surgery. I tried to do this with the canal route cycle project, tabling 35 motions and getting a lot of negative feedback from some Councillors about daring to take up meeting time tabling amendments. But still got a few improvements through. And so, with this plan I will be again be guided by the overall benefits of the project, but also by the views of people living in the area, including those living closest to the scheme, who will most have to deal with the ramifications of a botched plan on a daily basis.
If people want guarantees on the nature of particular permeability openings or on CCTV I will represent those views.
Everyone's input is vital. So please, have a look at the scoping project now and make submissions when the time comes, also making sure to let all the 10 Councillors on the Lucan Palmerstown North Clondalkin Area Committee be fully aware of your views.
I will do my best to get the information out and get feedback, but people will need to be proactive here.