People's Garden, Phoenix Park, Dublin Photo: P L Chadwick
People's Garden, Phoenix Park, Dublin Photo: P L Chadwick

Consultation on Phoenix Park tourism plans ‘flawed’

May 30th, 2019

A public consultation on proposed major changes to Phoenix Park has been criticised as rushed, badly advertised and out of line with EU laws on public participation.

A draft Visitor Experience Strategic Review of the park – Europe’s largest urban walled city with 1,750 acres of greenery – is currently open to observation from the public.

The proposed remodelling from the Office of Public Works (OPW) and Fáilte Ireland entails a refocus on tourism and the building of a visitor centre, a welcome lodge, and a large new car park space.

The full plan was released at the beginning of March and the public was originally given three weeks to make suggestions.

While an extension was issued for public comment until 5pm tomorrow, the OPW has come under criticism for the fact that only an executive summary of the plans can be found online.

The full 198-page document is only available for viewing at the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre during opening hours, leading to criticism from environmentalists, the Green Party, and local groups.

A ‘hidden process’

The Navan Road Community Council (NRCC), a local community group from Dublin 7, has objected to the review on several grounds.

The group is concerned that the time frame for public consultation is too short and not in compliance with EU laws on public participation in environmental decision making.

A sum of €400,000 is to be invested in this tourism focused project which the NRCC has described as “unadvertised, rushed and limited to one single viewing point in Ireland”.

Pat Allison, chairperson of the group, said that the emergence of the plan has been “almost a hidden process, not advertised on any newspapers or media”.

The document outlines almost twenty pages of retail opportunities within the park area. NRCC argue that, as the park is “owned by the people of Dublin and Ireland”, the OPW is not entitled to make money from the park without the consent of the public.

NRCC has also objected to plans for the new car park, warning that once areas of the park “vanish under concrete”, they cannot be returned.

The NRCC has also called for the full plan to be put out for proper public notice and to be made accessible for people to view online.

The Green Party is also calling on the OPW to review the proposed plans and to focus on rewilding the park as a space for nature in the capital.

Newly elected councillor for Cabra-Glasnevin Neasa Hourigan said that the Government should be “looking to support Irish flora and fauna’’ following its recent declaration of a climate and biodiversity emergency.

“This government has a history of looking at our natural resources as profit generators,’’ said Cllr Hourigan.

She said that many people are “horrified’’ at the proposals for the park and were unaware until recently that the park would be “corporatised”.

She described the manner in which the plan was publicised as “not fair, not transparent and not in good faith” as the consultation phase went under the radar for some time.

Cllr Hourigan has started an online petition that members of the public can sign which includes a template submission that she created.

‘Not a public consultation’

According to RTE, the park’s superintendent Paul McDonnell said that the call for public observations is an information process rather than a public consultation. Any changes, he told RTE, would have to go through the normal planning process.

In a statement, the OPW said: “The completed strategic review reflecting public feedback will be published next month and once formally adopted by the OPW Board, the relevant planning applications will be submitted during the course of this year”.

To have your say on the issue, you can contact visitorpark@opw.ie before Friday evening at 5pm.

By Marianne Foody

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