Phoenix Park at risk of ‘over development’ if new plans put in place

by Sylvia Pownall

Green Party Cllr Roderic O’Gorman has warned that the Phoenix Park is at risk of “over development” if all elements of an OPW visitor review are implemented.

A funicular train, driverless shuttle buses, extra car parks and an expanded visitor centre are among the proposals in a draft strategy review by the Office of Public Works.

More than 3,000 submissions were lodged ahead of last week’s deadline amid futile calls for the OPW to extend the deadline. Labour TD Joan Burton asked that the public be given extra time to consider the sweeping changes.

The OPW wants to add several new tourist attractions including the redevelopment of the Ashtown visitor centre and the Magazine Fort, as well as extra parking and new retail facilities.

Cllr O’Gorman, who topped the polls in the Castleknock electoral area, has raised concerns about the scale of retail and parking proposed claiming it is at the expense of wildlife and biodiversity.

In his submission he outlined: “The purpose of the Phoenix Park is to act as a natural leisure space for the people of Dublin.

“I have no problem with the OPW seeking to enhance its attractiveness to tourists, but this must not be done at the expense of the existing environmental and leisure benefits that the park confers.

“It is vital that the strategic review does not lead to over development within the park.”

Cllr O’Gorman said he was concerned about the “significant emphasis” placed on increased car parking, adding: “Surely, providing high quality public transport is a far preferable approach.”

He continued: “The size of the Phoenix Park means is acts as a ‘green lung’ for Dublin City. If offers a large, tranquil and comparatively unpolluted place where people can walk, exercise or participate in sports.

“In an urban landscape like Dublin, it provides a key environmental space, both for humans and wildlife. It is essential that this central role the park already plays is kept to the fore.

“There isn’t enough in the strategic review on this element of the park’s current role. This concerns me…”

Dublin West TD Joan Burton objected to the “extraordinarily brief” time allocated for public consultation on the plan and said it afforded communities a limited opportunity to “fully view a document of such length and importance”.

She added: “I have some serious misgivings at the repeated emphasis on retail facilities in the document… Large scale retail and catering facilities would seriously change the character of the park.”

The OPW has defended its proposals for the 1750-acre green space which it says are based on visitor feedback and aim to modernise the park.

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