February 13th, 2019
The over the past year, locals of Dublin’s Liberties district were desperately fighting for the survival of their community gardens and allotments at Weaver Square.
This urban gardening utopia for the people of Dublin 8 was threatened by plans to demolish the space in favour of rapid build social housing.
While understanding the gravity of the housing crisis in the capital, locals expressed concerns to the Council in several meetings about the future of green spaces in the concrete jungle of the Liberties.
Last week, however, the gardens were taken over by Dublin City Council. The Save Weaver Square campaign banner which hung on the gates surrounding the gardens was removed and excavators were seen in the gardens last Tuesday.
Save Weaver Square Community Gardens, the group that has been campaigning for the space, removed plants from the gardens last week and redistributed them amongst members of the community, offering vegetables and plants for free to local residents.
Permaculture teacher and designer Aaron Jewell who was involved with the movement to save the gardens gave our Kiva Durkan his take on the Council’s decision and plans for the future of urban growing in the Liberties.
First of all, I want to say what an amazing group effort it has been by the whole community and volunteers that got involved to try and save Weaver’s Square community garden and allotments. Everyone that was involved put 110 per cent into that space, trying to keep it as a community and city amenity for future generations.
Something that made us all feel a part of something so special, to enjoy, connect and love right in the middle of Dublin 8 where a connection to natural systems is almost impossible. Green spaces don’t seem to be valued or seen as viable commodities with our current panic planning and business models. It is a massive loss to the area.
We believe that Dublin City Council have missed a huge opportunity to encourage and support community green spaces. We are still baffled why after so many environmental commitments such as greening strategies for biodiversity and pollinators, that this green space is not a part of the council’s vision going forward.
None of us is against housing or the needs for social housing, but we are critically questioning the processes, planning and lack of vision that the Council are implementing within our city. We are all aware of the hotel and student accommodation boom that is currently going on in Dublin, a process to allow development without community buy-in.
We wanted to make sure that the narrative for us was never green space versus the housing crisis. We need both to be incorporated into the planning in our cities and communities. We need to be developing resilient communities.
Weavers Square was all about green spaces, community amenities, a break from the city in the city, mental health, local organisations working to connect with natural systems, and learning to grow your own food, as well as providing a habitat for so much wildlife and biodiversity.
This space was already a solution to so many issues for people living in this over-populated part of the city. It was already a home that is now lost to this new plan of rapid built housing. The community group is rebuilding at the moment, with emotions still attached and having to say goodbye to a community home only last week.
A home that brought so many different people together is going to take a bit of time to recover and rebuild some new energy. Most of us have to walk past what is now a locked up flattened empty space that is not currently in use.
The two sites that the Council have offered as a solution is beside Flanagan’s fields in Rialto and Maryland. It is a small location with about six to nine possible allotment spaces. The other site is a complete derelict site in Basin Lane that is not suitable for cultivating.
However, we are looking at the layout of this space and are going to engage with the Council to make sure this space can be the best possible green space it can be. There is a lot of work to be done on this from a design point of view, as well from a social and community perspective.
It is not as simple to relocate a community within a community without integration and a strong campaign to incorporate the Basin Lane locals into this proposed new amenity. But we are happy to lead on this and get buy-in from a collective of stakeholders to make a wonderful, functional natural space to enjoy.
I’m a concerned citizen looking to engage with anyone that wants to come together to look at policy and governance and help to design our way out of this social, economic and environmental crisis that we have been forced into.
There is a growing movement in Dublin to try and change the systems that hinder us and to ensure proper use of public land. With good holistic planning, this space could be used for the right reasons and not to try and solve a housing crisis that has been created by a lack of direction and planning in the first place.
The Liberties deserve to have amenities and to not be blamed for the crisis that is around us. The community that has been living here for generations deserves more respect than it is receiving, just like so many other parts of Dublin.