Friday, July 30, 2010

Making a Strong Vision Statement for Dublin City - The Dublin City Development Plan 2011 - 2018

The Dublin City Development Plan (2011-2017), currently being finalised by the City Council, sets out strategies to protect and enhance sustainable residential communities, to foster and enhance the city’s culture and heritage, to develop Dublin as a clean, green connected City, to revive the City’s economy in order to create conditions to generate new jobs and protect existing employment and to establish Dublin City as the premier retail venue in the country.

Dublin City Council met on 26, 27 and 28 July to consider the submissions from the public and the City Manager’s recommendations. The Labour Group on Dublin City Council took on board the many public submissions and proposed progressive motions and amendments to the Draft Plan. Issues such as height, density and plot ratio, the creation of Statutory Local Area Plans, the protection of the City’s heritage, green spaces and environment, zoning, the restriction of certain uses within residential areas, and the development of a vibrant Core City Centre, were at the heart of Labour Party amendments to the City Manager’s proposals.

The amendments adopted by the City Council at the meetings in July will be on public display until the 15th of September in the Civic Offices, Dublin City Library and on the City Council website Submissions will be invited from
the public. The submissions and City Manager’s recommendations will be considered at a final meeting at the end of October before the plan comes into effect in January 2011. Vigilance will be required to ensure that there is no attempt to row back on the hard-won community gains.


Off-licenses: A very important Labour Party motion was adopted to prohibit the further expansion of off licenses or part off-licenses except in areas where a compelling case can be made. Any application for an off-license must include a map of all the off-licenses located within a 1km radius of proposed development.

Institutional Lands Zoned Z15: The Labour motion to delete residential development on institutional lands as a use which could be “open for consideration” was adopted. Moreover, any future development of institutional lands must “have regard to the prevailing height” in the neighbourhood.

Vacant Lands: Labour Party motions and the recommendations of Cllr Emer Costello’s Lord Mayor’s Commission on Employment have led to the adoption of a new policy in relation to temporary use of vacant properties/sites for creative/cultural/social entrepreneurs/ community sectors.

Homeless & Social Services: These will require detailed planning applications to avoid a proliferation / concentration of institutional services in residential areas.

Public Realm/Advertising: The City Manager has agreed to put the public realm advertising strategy out to public consultation (e.g. JC Decaux street advertising).

Labour proposals for statutory Local Area Plans for the following areas were agreed:
-Manor Street/Stoneybatter/Smithfield Area
-East Wall
-Ballybough/Croke Park Area
-Pelletstown which will also include the Navan Road area


Dominican Convent Lands, Cabra:
The Labour motion rejecting the City Manager’s proposal to rezone part of the lands bordering Riverston Abbey from Z15 (institutional) to Z1 (residential) was adopted thus reinstating the Z15 zoning in accordance with the wishes of the residents.

Luas BXD line Royal Canal/ Broombridge:
Our proposal for a new policy was adopted: “That the proposed Luas BXD line in the vicinity of the Royal Canal and Broombridge will have full regard to the heritage and amenity value of the area and this should be reflected in any Environmental Statement”

Hendron’s Site, Broadstone:
The Labour proposed a motion to reject the City Manager’s proposal to rezone to Z10A (Inner Suburban) and the Z3 (neighbourhood use) zoning was adopted in accordance with the wishes of the residents.

Prussia Street:
The City Manager’s recommendation to rezone land on Prussia Street from Z6 (enterprise and employment) to Z4 (District Centre) was rejected and Z6 zoning retained pending adoption of Local Area Plan on foot of a Labour proposal.

Mount Bernard Park:
The lands north-west of Mount Bernard Park, Phibsborough, between the park and the Royal Canal were rezoned from Z1 {residential} to Z9 {amenity}. The extension of the park and the provision of a playground in the park were included on the insistence of Labour Councillors.

Mountjoy Square:
As a result of a Labour motion, the City Manager agreed to commence statutory assessment to designate Mountjoy Square an Architectural Conservation Area without delay

Lands at Alfie Byrne Road:
The Labour motion to reject the manager’s proposal to rezone these lands and the Z9 (amenity) zoning has been retained.

Castleforbes Road:
The Labour motion to commence procedure to remove Castleforbes Road from the Record of Protected Structures to allow resurfacing take place there, was agreed.

The Labour Group ensured the curtailment of the City Manager’s proposals for high rise throughout the City. Under the current City Development Plan(2005-2011) there is no restriction on the permitted height of buildings in any part of the City. The new plan (2011 – 2017) sets out maximum limits for height across the City. Moreover, there is now a strict requirement that all proposed new buildings, two storeys or more, above the prevailing height in the area must be accompanied by a detailed Design Statement to justify the new height proposed. The draft height policies for the City are now as follows:

Low Rise:
Inner City Area
6 storey residential (19m)
7 storey office (29m)

Rail Hubs
i.e. within ½ kilometre(or 500 metres)of mainline train & Dart stations (but not including Luas stops)
6 storey residential (19m)
6 storey office (25m)

Outer City
4 storey residential (13m)
4 storey office (17 m)

Mid-rise & High Rise
A number of areas have been designated for mid-rise and high rise buildings. Labour Councillors insisted that in these cases a statutory Local Area Plan (LAP) must be in place before any high buildings can be granted permission and the areas treated as low rise areas pending the adoption of a LAP.

Areas designated as mid-rise (up to 16 residential and 12 Office – 50M max) include
Phibsborough, the Local Area Plan has been adopted and high building can only be located in areas designated for such under the LAP, e.g. Mater Hospital site.

Grangegorman, which is to be the subject of a special statutory Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) for the new unified campus for the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and HSE Facility.

Pelletstown, which will be treated as a low rise area pending the adoption of a Local Area Plan.

Areas designated as High Rise – (Over 16 Storeys 50m) include
Docklands- the City Development Plan must be consistent with the Dublin Docklands. Development Authority’s Masterplan and vice versa.

Connolly Station – a new Local Area Plan will be drafted for the area.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Interview with Valery Shanley, Sunday Tribune on Year as Lord Mayor June 2010

Photo Mark Condren
It's late afternoon, but the working day is not over yet. Not by a long shot. Up for a meeting at 8am, Emer Costello has already met several groups of visitors, from the 'swop your heels for hammers' women involved in a new Habitat for Humanity project, to the descendants of Daniel O'Connell, who had never before stood in Dublin's Mansion House where their ancestor became the first Catholic mayor of the city back in 1841. Our interview with the capital's 340th lord mayor is for one hour only because she has an exhibition to attend at 6pm, then, donning her Dublin city councillor hat, there's a meeting about the city's swimming pools, before heading back to the house for 7pm to welcome the lord mayor of Lisburn, and then a 'Macushla' evening – described as "a nifty fifties dance club" – for senior citizens, which will go on well into the wee small hours.
For the moment though, calm reigns as we sit in the Victorian drawing room, dominated by huge portraits by noted English painters Joshua Reynolds and George Romney. Their subjects are former 18th-century lord lieutenants of Ireland, resplendent in ceremonial brocade and ermine robes, complete with silk stockings and ribbon garters.

Underneath, the woman in the simple black Karen Millen suit, only the seventh female in the position of lord mayor since its creation in 1665, talks of her 12 months living in the Mansion House. Her BlackBerry constantly rings throughout, while Richie, one of house staff members, brings tea but also a gentle reminder that the clock is ticking towards the next appointment. I had been warned, also with a smile by another staff member, that along with her many other talents, the lord mayor "can talk for Ireland". Those descendants of 'The Liberator', to whom she has just waved goodbye, dominate the early part of our conversation – both she and husband, Labour TD Joe Costello, are passionate about history, national and local. She speaks of building bridges between north and south over the past year, welcoming people from Northern Ireland, some of whom had never visited the Republic before.

"They are so surprised that we have portraits of these guys up on the wall," says Costello, referring in particular to the huge portrait of George IV dominating the hall staircase. "Then we have the portrait of Daniel O'Connell wearing the mayoral chain with the image of William of Orange on it. Ironically, the Belfast lord mayor's chain is inscribed with 'Erin Go Brath'. But it's still a big thing for many of those on the unionist side of the political divide to come down here. We had a group last week from Portadown who would generally be staunchly unionist, real hardliners, but they were keen to engage in discussion about our shared history. We had the usual tea and coffee, but I knew some of them were dying for something stronger. So I went out the bar and they were looking at me askance, seeing this picture of the lord mayor of Dublin pulling them a pint."

Welcoming north to south is part of the job, but what was it like for her and Joe, honorary northsiders, to move from their home in the north inner city to the salubrious southside on Dawson Street?

"That was a big move in many ways. I was a bit homesick. It was daunting. But Joe is in his element here," she laughs. "He's settled in, no problem. For me, it's like living over the shop, and you don't always have a sense of the prestige because you are so busy all of the time. But the house is everyone's house really. It's always open."

The 8am meetings ensure there is always plenty of activity throughout a working day, which invariably overlaps into the next. While the rest of the city is putting out the cat, Costello's last act before bed is to lock away the mayoral chain of office in the safe. But there is a temptation too to switch on the computer and check emails, she adds.

"There is a lot of writing, and conferences to prepare for. So there's been a bit of sleep deficiency this year. You might be exhausted at the end of the evening, but still want to sort out other work. Some nights it's just three or four hours' sleep as you're late going to bed and then up really early. And I've found that I haven't slept that well here. No, it's not ghosts. It's just that your mind is racing all the time. But I'm pretty refreshed when the day actually starts, and every day is something of an adventure."

Being married to the job begs the question as to how that affects her marriage to Joe. She doesn't use the word 'workaholic' but says they've always been a couple to burn the midnight oil and they "kind of complement each other". They married in 2003, in the Aughrim Street church just across the road from their period terrace house, but have been together as a couple for 21 years.

Back in l987, Emer Malone, as she then was, was at a crossroads in her life – deciding whether to emigrate or stay in recession-struck Ireland. She had moved to live in Dublin, while back in her native Blackrock, outside Dundalk, her father "was going ballistic at the thought of me moving to live in Japan on an exchange programme". But it was a Fás placement officer's advice that brought out the contrarian in her, when he told her: "you know, Birmingham is closer to Dublin than Cork is". She was definitely staying put, but "incensed".

"I was part-time teaching at the time, on only 10 hours a week, and it was terrible. But the suggestion was that my best option was to go to England for work. I said 'is this the best you can do? Is this official Fás policy?' I had moved to live on Rathlin Road in Drumcondra at the time and was sharing with my housemate Laura, who was a Labour party member. So I said, 'get me an application form'."

And from that, love blossomed with Joe Costello – in a roundabout fashion. He wasn't, apparently, a candidate for Mr Right when they first met, as she recalls with a smile.

"The very first time we met was when he called to the house in Drumcondra. And I don't know – I probably shouldn't say – but I didn't quite like the look of him. I wouldn't let him in. I said something like, 'just hold on there for a minute', closed the door over and went back in to Laura saying, 'there's a man at the door I'm not sure about'. She started laughing and said I'd better let him in as he was our local Labour representative. I still kind of slag Joe about it – that he was slightly dodgy looking and I wouldn't let him cross the doorway," she laughs.

They knew each other for a long time before getting romantically involved, she adds. Initially, it was simply a work relationship and he asked her to organise his Senate campaign. It wasn't until they went on a holiday in l989 to the Antrim coast that she says she realised they were a 'match'.

"When he asked me to work on the campaign, I was kind of 'gosh, I don't think I can do this'. But he had faith in me, he trusted me. He doesn't get fazed by anything. He's someone you can bounce ideas off. He's someone who's there, whose constant. I can be quite excitable, whereas he's calm. I suppose I can get worked up over things, and he can be a very solid influence." The age difference between them – Emer is in her mid-40s, Joe is 64 – is not something that bothers her either, but has been commented on during campaigns.

"It doesn't make any difference but I suppose from that point of view, he's quite a steadying influence. But it's hilarious at times during elections with people coming up to me and saying, 'I know your father'. And I go (she pulls a sad face), 'He's not my father, he's my husband'. I laugh, and sometimes it kind of drives him mad, but he takes it with a grain of salt. Plus, I think I'm probably more youthful looking that I actually am."

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Reflections on year as Lord Mayor of Dublin 2009/10

This time last year I was deeply honoured to be elected the 340th Lord Mayor of Dublin (and just the seventh woman to hold the position). I was elected unanimously by the City Council The night I was elected I stated that my priority was to help make Dublin a cultured, vibrant and sustainable City that is safe and secure for young and old; a city that is clean and green; an accessible City with a decent public transport system; an inclusive City that cherishes the many diverse communities living within its boundaries; a City whose citizens are gainfully employed and whose businesses flourish; a City that inspires pride in its inhabitants and a positive experience for its visitors. I said that I wanted to play my part in working with the members of the City Council in making Dublin to be the jewel in the crown of European cities and to provide the civic leadership that the people had voted for in the recent local elections.

I stated all of this conscious in the knowledge that the power of Local Councillors is limited but in the hope and expectation that I could stretch the role of Lord Mayor to achieve these ambitions. I have since found the role of Lord Mayor to be both challenging and fulfilling. The Lord Mayor can exert influence in all spheres of City life that can transcend the limitations of the office. Certainly being Lord Mayor opens doors and presents opportunities to the incumbent – the challenge is how to maximise those opportunities.

Lord Mayor's Commission on Employment Plots a Course for Economic Renewal
From the outset I stated that economic renewal in the City, specifically dealing with the increasing problem of unemployment would be the focus of my term as Lord Mayor. The stark figures showed that urgent action was needed - 71,000 jobs lost to the city between June 2007 and June 2009. In June 2009 100,000 people were on the live register and 1 in 4 were considered long term unemployed. At the same time, the greater Dublin region accounts for four out of every ten jobs and half of all goods and services produced in Ireland. Dublin is the engine of the national economy and it must become the engine of national economic recovery. The City Council as the Local Authority, can and must play a major role to play in stimulating the local economy.

With this in mind, one of the first actions I took was to establish the Lord Mayor’s Commission on Employment to promote economic renewal in the City. In September 2009 the Lord Mayor’s Commission (LMCE) put out a public “Call for Ideas” in a bottom up approach to invite the public to tell us their experiences and their proposals to generate economic activity in the City. The Call for Ideas really caught the imagination of the public as in a short space of time, we received over 130 submissions, with many innovative and creative ideas for boosting the City’s economy and improving our competitiveness. The Commission set to work immediately in September and worked hard there 24 meetings of the Commission and its working groups. The Commission held two successful workshops in January – Promoting the Creative and Cultural Industries and Promoting Dublin as an International Student City. The Commission also organised a very successful major conference in Croke Park in April with the European Commissioner for Research Innovation and Science. The report of the Commission was launched on Tuesday 15th June – and there are many actionable recommendations.
Through the public consultation process the Commission on Employment has developed exciting ideas for creating employment and looking at growth areas – finding alternative and creative uses for much of the vacant retail and industrial space, promoting the creative and cultural industries, developing and implementing sustainable energy policies, developing retail and restaurant and food strategies, seeking solutions to the financial crisis to ensure that businesses have access to capital to start, grow and develop their businesses, and promoting Dublin as an International Student City. Three immediate notable outcomes from the Commission are:

Firstly, the LMCE has liaised with Ulster Bank who will partner with Dublin City Council to provide a dedicated Business Support Programme for new Start Up businesses in Dublin. The Programme includes a €10m fund to support Start Up enterprises, and will provide support in the form of business planning and mentoring aids and other aspects of start up assistance as appropriate to the individual business.

Secondlty he LMCE has successfully joined forces with Tipperary Institute to secure 20 places for Dublin in an exciting project CESBEM (Competence Enhancement in Sustainable Building Through European Mobility) II, which is a european funded project under the Lifelong Learning, Leonardo Da Vinci (People in the Labour Market) Programme. The CESBEM II Project is aimed at those in the construction Sector and provides upskilling in the field of energy efficiency in buildings.

Thirdly, following work by the LMCE a study is now being carried out to identify the location of vacant commercial properties in the entire City Centre area initially along the Quays and Thomas Street. It is intended to database that information and match vacant units with persons or groups in the cultural and artistic arena seeking temporary premises. This would have the dual effect of uplifting areas with high vacancy levels while giving emerging cultural groups access to high visibility shop fronts.

These are just three tangible outcomes of the Lord Mayor's Commission. I will continue to work towards the implementation of all of the recommendations in the Commission Report.

Developing an Inclusive City
Since last June I have travelled the length and breadth of the City, I have met with a huge range of groups and organisations including residents associations, community groups, youth groups, senior citizens’ day-care centres; women’s organisations, men’s support groups. I have visited schools, colleges, universities and also education and training organisations who work with young people whom our educational system has failed and who have found the courage to start again through alternative pathways. I have also had the privilege to visit and meet with a range of organisations working with and supporting those at most at risk in our society including drug addicts, homeless people, prisoners and ex-prisoners. I have supported equality campaigners from disability groups, ethnic minorities, lesbian and gay rights organisations. As someone who is passionate about the heritage and culture of our City, I have worked with a range of statutory voluntary and commercial creative and cultural organisations to promote and develop cultural activity in the City. I have supported the work of City business associations such as the Chamber of Commerce, the DCBA and BIDS along with some of the locally based business groups throughout the City . As Dublin has been designated Capital of Sport, I have had the great pleasure to collaborate with numerous sporting organisation such as the GAA, the FAI and the IRFU and Athletics and with their grass roots local clubs. I have also worked supported other sporting bodies and events including the Liffey Swim, the Dublin City Marathon and the Table Tennis Championships. Each of these experiences has informed my work as a civic leader and policy maker for the City.

Global City - International Co-operation
My own professional background is in international co-operation in education. As I aimed to make Dublin the jewel in the crown of European Cities, I also sought to create and develop transnational links between Dublin and other cities. My role as Lord Mayor involves meeting with Ambassadors to Ireland and helping to promote and develop links between our countries. I have engaged with our twin cities of Barcelona and San Jose. Last year Dublin signed a friendship agreement with Moscow and later this year we will sign a agreement with St Petersberg. The City Council has invested heavily in the promotion of international cultural festivals in Dublin such as the Chinese New Year Festival, the Festival of Russian Culture and Experience Japan. . I have been happy to play my part in fully supporting these events. I have worked with embassies on a range of events and believe that co-operation between the City and the Diplomatic Corps to be crucial for the City Indeed, the Lord Mayor’s Commission on Employment has identified the promotion of Dublin as an International Student City as a key priority for economic renewal in the City and I have championed this idea.

City Council Providing Civic Leadership
As Chairperson of the City Council, I have steered the Council through many challenges over the past year. Following intense debate over four meetings of the City Council, the Draft Dublin City Development Plan (2011 – 2018) has been put on public display. The challenge for the Development Plan is to ensure that Dublin can pitch itself as a dynamic competitive city, open for business and capable of attracting inward investment while at the same time ensuring that we protect the quality of life our culture, heritage and identity. The document on display is a proposal and we need the input of the citizens of the City to ensure we get it right.

Other challenges which faced the City Council this year included the controversial introduction of the Bus Corridor at College Green and the extension of the 30K speed limit in the City Centre. The debates on these matters both in the Council Chamber and in the media shows that the City Council has the maturity to discuss these issues and act in the best interest of the citizens.

Weather events also dominated. The year started with floods in July, the snow and ice in January to be followed by severe water shortages and outages which caused huge distress to citizens of the City. Members of the City Council played a major role in communicating the problems with the public and have made constructive recommendations on how the City Council communicates with the public during a time of crisis.

Personal Moments

There have also been many highlights this year, for the City and for me personally. Our City skyline has been changed forever by the arrival of the Samuel Beckett Bridge which I have no doubt will become an icon for Dublin in future years. The Luas to the Docklands area has greatly enhanced our transport infrastructure and will bring much needed footfall to the area. Dublin was designated European Capital of Sport for 2010. The Dublinbikes scheme has proven to be an unprecedented success. The Innovation Dublin Festival, in November, held almost 500 events showcasing innovation in the City, proving Dublin to be a creative, smart outward and forward looking 21st Century City.

My year as Lord Mayor has flown by. It is an honour and privilege to be the First Citizen of Dublin. When the dust settles I hope I will have made some small contribution to the wellbeing of the City and its citizens.


D7 Educate Together's New School Opening on Bloomsday

‘I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today. I am today what I established yesterday or some previous day.’

James Joyce

This year, while the traditional Blooms day (16th June) celebrations take place in Dublin, tucked away behind an historic stone arch, hundreds of children will be taking part in the official opening of their new inner city school. James Joyce would surely have approved this brand new Educate Together School building with its well stocked library and city centre location.

Joining the children to celebrate the occasion and to cut the ribbon will be Lord Mayor of Dublin, Cllr. Emer Costello. Emer actually took office on this day in 2009 and so Bloomsday is a significant anniversary for her as well.

Lord Mayor Cllr Emer Costello said “I am delighted to help celebrate this wonderful day with Dublin 7 Educate Together National School. I am a member of the school board and know all the hard work and effort that has gone into making this day come to pass. I am especially pleased that I am celebrating one year as Lord Mayor with all the children, parents and staff of Dublin 7 Education Together. The opening of the school is also a significant milestone for the Grangegorman Development Agency (of which I am also a member). The site at Grangegorman has been earmarked for the unified DIT Campus at Grangegorman, new health care facilities for the HSE, a new public libarary, new arts, cultural and recreational and public spaces to serve the community and the City and a new Educate Together Primary School.”

In common with all other Educate Together schools Dublin 7 Educate Together is a multi denominational, co-educational, child centred and democratically run school. It was founded by a group of parents in 1999.

Initially located in a rented Georgian house in Henrietta Street, the school started out with 47 pupils and 3 teachers. Due to its expanding numbers it quickly outgrew this accommodation and moved in 2002 to temporary accommodation in St. Joseph's School for the Deaf on the Navan Road.

On September 24th 2009 the school moved to its current premises, a 16 classroom purpose built school on Fitzwilliam Place North.The school has now grown to almost 250 pupils and a staff of 23 and conyinues to grow. The proposed location of D7ET’s permanent building remains a site on the new DIT campus as part of the Grangegorman redevelopment plan.

Today, not a million miles from the home of Molly and Leopold Bloom on the northside of the city, preparations under the arch are in full swing. The children are learning songs for the occasion, the parents and children have planted out the grounds so the school looks its best. The opening promises a glimpse at a new kind of school community located in the heart of Joyce’s city on what is a very significant day.

The official opening will take place at noon.

For further information/interview please contact :

Acting School Principal, Louise Coffey

Chairman of the Board, John McDaid 087 6597358