OPW mulling over potential changes at the Phoenix Park

by Sylvia Pownall

A funicular will not be installed in the Phoenix Park – but driverless shuttles, a train station and new visitor facilities are still planned for Dublin’s green lung.

However, the Office of Public Works (OPW) has said it has “no intention” of developing major retail or commercial facilities, following public consultation on the park’s future.

More than 1,500 people made written submissions on the review, with 4,511 more signing a petition drafted by the Green Party.

Cllr Roderic O’Gorman (GP) lodged a detailed submission warning against the “over development” of the park to the detriment of its wildlife and their natural habitat.

The vast majority of submissions were of the same view, urging that the park should be left largely untouched and no retail facilities built on its environs.

In March, the OPW published a review proposing new visitor attractions including a funicular, the redevelopment of the Ashtown visitor centre and the Magazine Fort, and new parking and retail facilities.

A report on the public consultation concluded: “A high proportion of the submissions expressed a desire for the park to be left largely untouched.”

Almost 20% of submissions felt the proposals would result in “commercialisation” of the park, with some “strong objections to retail opportunities in the park”.

However, the OPW said existing users found the facilities “unsatisfactory” and it was “not an option for OPW to do nothing in relation to the provision of adequate facilities such as toilets, water stations, cafe facilities…”

OPW commissioner John McMahon said plans for developments in the park would be subject to the rigours of the planning process.

He added: “There are approximately 10 toilets in the park for 10 million visitors a year. There are clear deficiencies in facilities.

“The Ashtown Demesne gets 1.9 million visitors a year, but the visitor centre was built 30 years ago when it got 25,000-30,000 people a year, and there are regularly queues out the door of the cafe.”

The OPW will press ahead with developing plans for the Ashtown centre, and the Magazine Fort, and will undertake a mobility study in 2020, according to the OPW commissioner.

This may include restricting car usage on certain routes to encourage more cyclists and pedestrians to use the park.

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