Dublin City Council’s vision for an outdoor summer has really taken shape in recent weeks. The anti-social behaviour of previous weekends is almost completely gone and a very vibrant, calm and orderly outdoor summer is progressing across the City Centre. There are still things that we need to work on, to improve the overall look and feel of the City Centre, but most of these issues are in hand and being worked through. Footfall in the City Centre remains strong at approximately 70% of 2019 figures. Anecdotally we are hearing that this is mostly driven by retail in the North City Centre and hospitality in the South City Centre.
A significant amount of work has been undertaken by hundreds of Dublin City Council staff, particularly in the Traffic, Waste Management, Area Offices, Communications, Street Furniture and Events Sections to make this happen.
Toilets in public buildings – As most public buildings across the City are open, their toilet facilities are available to the public. Due to the very low previous usage numbers and the fact that these buildings are back performing their main service, we are no longer recording figures for just toilet usage.
Toilets Wolfe Tone Square and Grafton Street – Usage figures at the toilets at Wolfe Tone Square remain unchanged at approximately 5,500 per week. The usage figures at Grafton Street have dropped from a high of nearly 19,000 for the week ending 6th June to under 10,000 for the most recent week. This is a nearly 50% drop in usage figures since hospitality reopened.
Toilets incorporated in retail units tender – This tender is now complete with projects being progressed at Albert College Park and Griffith Park, which will be in place in the coming weeks. A location has been selected on Clontarf Promenade and this will be communicated to Councillors later this week. Issues regarding exact location and servicing are being worked through at Clonmel Street, Portobello/Charlemont and Sandymount. There is some local resistance to the unit in Griffith Park, but we will undertake communications with Councillors and local residents to help resolve these issues.
Toilets Portaloos – Dublin City Council installed 150 Portaloos at 14 locations across the City on 4 June. Usage figures for the first weekend of operation were extremely high but as outdoor dining reopened on 7th June, the usage figures declined dramatically. On Saturday 5th June 23,602 people used the Portaloos. We are now at the stage where we have a weekly high on a Saturday of approximately 1,000 people and a low of 244 people midweek.
We have amended and rationalised locations throughout the process to be as economical as possible, but the reality is that these units have a significant cost and are simply not being used. We are now at the stage where we have 31 units across the City at 8 locations. The cost is mostly associated with providing security, servicing, and cleaning to the units
to keep them to the standards citizens expect. It would not be acceptable to cut any of these 3 elements as this would result in a sub-par service. The financial cost of the Portaloos is no longer sustainable.
– Cross Gunns Bridge – remove due to lack of use.
– Mountjoy Square – NEIC will take over management as an anti-social behaviour remediation measure.
– Diamond Park – NEIC will take over management as an anti-social behaviour remediation measure.
– O’Connell Street – Remove as there is more than adequate provision in Wolfe Tone Square.
– Smithfield – Remove due to lack of use.
– Portobello – Remove due to lack of use. Keep situation under review and possibly
reintroduce on Fridays/Saturdays if issues arise again.
– Chatham Row – Remove as very close to Grafton Street, which has had a 50% drop in numbers using since 7th July.
– Merrion Square – Discuss with Parks Department.
Usage figures at Grafton Street and Wolfe Tone Square, public health hospitality closures and possible mass gatherings associated with other events will be kept under constant review and Portaloos can be reintroduced at short notice if required.
Toilets longer term plan – It has become apparent that there is a need for a permanent public toilet provision at certain strategic locations across the City, especially the City Centre. The Office of City Recovery will identify options and a tender will issue in the coming months for a permanent public toilet provision.
Licenses – to date there are 393 street furniture licenses assessed and issued. A significant amount of work goes into the issuing of each license, including lots of engagement with the applicant, site visits and internal consultation with Traffic, DFB and Area Offices.
Enforcement – Inspection teams are on the streets daily making sure that every premises has a licence and that the basic requirements of not blocking public footpaths,
not putting customers and staff in danger, as well as fire safety are being followed.
Significant efforts have been made in this area and we are seeing good levels of
compliance across the board. We continue to engage and issue warnings to persistent offenders. This will escalate to removal of furniture in the coming weeks for those who fail to change behaviours after receiving formal warnings. Enforcement inspections are being undertaken by mixed teams form Area Offices, City Recovery, Casual Trading and Dublin Fire Brigade.
Grants – There have been 62 completed applications, with 277 in draft format for the Failte Ireland Scheme (A) Street Furniture Grants for businesses. Businesses are entitled to up to €4,000 as 75% of cost, once their street furniture is licensed in the public realm or has planning permission on private land. These grants are being managed by the CRES Department.
Guide – Dublin City Council has launched a street furniture guide to aide businesses in making an application for a Street Furniture License. This is available in hard and soft copy in Irish and English.
Fee waiver – Dublin City Council has waived all fees for street furniture until 2023.
City Centre Audits
Audits have been completed on 63 City Centre streets to identify issues in the public realm. In total, 1,393 issues were identified. These have been forwarded to the relevant Department for prioritisation and rectification in the coming weeks and months. Works have already begun to rectify these issues.
An issue that kept being raised by citizens and businesses throughout the City Centre was the need for power washing of City Streets. A programme of additional intense City Centre
power washing has been undertaken in the past week with excellent results. This will be kept under review and if required again it can be done. Although a relatively minor job, good power washing can have a transformative effect.
Smithfield Light Boxes – Light boxes were installed in Smithfield Square on 5th June by the Events Section. These light boxes depict art from the Hugh Lane Gallery and are being used to animate public space. This have proved very successful and popular so far. Light boxes may be rolled out in other locations if they prove to be successful in the medium term.
Local Live Performance Programming Scheme – Dublin City Council’s Arts Office sought applications for its Local Live Performance Programming Scheme Summer 2021. All interested parties, including Performing Artists (ensembles/bands or individuals), Promotors, Producers, Venues etc. who wished to receive support, both individual and logistical, for outdoor performance events, were invited to apply. 108 applications were received and are currently being assessed.
Street Art – A street art call for proposals closes on the 5th July. It is an open call for street and graffiti artists to participate in a programme of art to animate the public realm funded by Dublin City Council at 5 specific locations. Applications will be assessed and implemented as soon as possible.
A Seat For You – The seat for you proposal was launched on Saturday 12th of June. It operated on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 9pm at The Mansion House, Dublin Castle, O’Connell St. and Capel St. for a period of 4 weeks. The locations at O’Connell St. and The Mansion House proved very popular. These 2 locations will now be extended for an additional 4 weeks.
Failte Ireland Grant Schemes
Dublin City Council has developed concepts and applied for outdoor winterisation grants for both Suffolk Street and Merrion Row. These applications were successful and Dublin City Council has been grant aided €536,000. A further application has now been submitted for Capel Street.
Dublin City Council also submitted a grant application for Smithfield Square to the Failte Ireland Urban Animation Grant Scheme, which closed on 15th June. This is a national
competitive process with 10 successful schemes being funded.
Dublin City Council is in the final stages of developing a marketing plan for the City Centre, highlighting all the excellent experiences Dublin City Centre has to offer. It will focus on the key USP’s of independent retail, food, hotels, attractions and nightlife. It will have an initial €300k spend and will develop visuals and radio ads, with a focus on those living in the outer suburbs and nearby commuting counties. This marketing programme will be launched next week.
Fine Gael Councillor - North Inner City
Leader, Fine Gael, Dublin City Council
Chair, Urban Form & Planning Strategic Policy Committee