Update 4 and Medium Term Action Plan
Dublin City is settling into a more normal pattern in recent weeks and months. The return of workers to offices, as well as students and visitors to the City, has brought back a familiar rhythm to City life.
At the same time, several aspects of City life have changed since pre-covid and will remain this way for the near future. Issues that came to light immediately post re-opening, including anti-social behaviour and waste management, have reduced significantly but still rear their head from time to time.
The Office of City Recovery was established in April 2021. This report contains information and analysis on actions taken by the Office of City Recovery, either directly or in partnership with other Dublin City Council Departments, over the last 6 months. It also contains some medium-term actions to be undertaken by core Departments to further embed City Recovery over the next 2 years.
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 enable actions under the banner of the Office of City Recovery.
Toilets in public buildings – An initial action of the Office of City Recovery was to organise to open public buildings on a “toilets only” basis. This began from the 26 April with 28 public buildings across the City open on a “toilets only” basis. Analysis of the usage figures, including at City Centre locations, demonstrated that there was little demand for this service, especially in outlying suburbs.
Toilets Wolfe Tone Sq. and Grafton St. – Temporary public toilets were introduced at Wolfe Tone Sq. and Grafton St. in June 2020 as we reopened from the first lockdown. These toilets and their locations have proved hugely popular with citizens throughout the pandemic. While usage fell off dramatically when retail and hospitality reopened, it remains strong with approximately 5,000 and 9,000 people using the facilities at Wolfe Tone Sq. and Grafton St. respectively, on a weekly basis.
The facilities at Wolfe Tone Sq. will need to be removed in the short term to facilitate the completion of the park project. An alternative appropriate nearby location is being sought.
Toilets incorporated in retail units tender – This tender is complete with the unit at Albert College Park in place. The remaining locations are Clontarf, Griffith Park, Clonmel Street, Wilton Terrace and Sean Moore Park. Utility connections are causing implementation delays at these 5 locations. There are also local objections to the location of the units at Clontarf and Griffith Park, which we are currently working through.
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 7 June, the usage figures declined dramatically. On Saturday 5 June 23,602 people used the Portaloos.
However this dropped dramatically in the following weeks to a Saturday high figure of 1,069 on the 26 June. It is apparent that when there are viable alternatives available people prefer to use them rather than Portaloos. Portaloos remained in place on a Friday and Saturday evening on Capel St. and Portabello as large crowds continued to gather at these locations. The provision of Portaloos at Portabello ceased on the 25 September and on Capel St. on the 2 October, as temporary pedestrianisation ended at this location. One of the key learnings from the last 6 months is that there is a demand from members of the public for a public toilet provision in the City Centre, but it must be high quality, at the right location, well
maintained and secure. It must be noted that the cost of staffing and servicing toilets to an acceptable standard is very high and a multiple on an annual basis to the capital cost of provision.
Guide – Dublin City Council launched a Street Furniture Guide in May to better assist hospitality businesses in navigating and understanding the street furniture application process. This was well received and an asset to hospitality businesses.
Licenses – to date there are 477 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. 184 of these licences were in place before March 2020 with 293 issued since then.
Grants – There have been 157 completed applications, with 216 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.
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 Departments for prioritisation and rectification. Works have begun to rectify these issues in many cases, and this will continue.
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 by City Recovery and
Waste Management in the past months with excellent results.
Early issues regarding the volume of public waste being presented on City Streets has also subsided with Waste Management deploying additional resources. The level of general cleanliness in the City Centre is now excellent. The issue of when, where and how commercial waste is presented in the City core needs to be reviewed and addressed. The significant amounts of commercial waste presented for collection on City streets at peak evening times gives an overall feeling of clutter and sloppiness, which is not the reality.
Smithfield Light Boxes – Light boxes were installed in Smithfield Sq. on 5 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. Additional light boxes have been installed in the Docklands depicting historic images of the area, with proposals for O’Connell St. moving forward.
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 this resulted in a full programme of outdoor live performances throughout the month of September.
Paint the Town – In June, the Council issued a callout for street artists to work on large-scale artworks in appropriate locations across the city. Artists were encouraged to be as creative as possible with their designs. The purpose is to celebrate the city and enhance the experience of the public when coming into the city while supporting Street Art as an art form. The following artists were selected: Shane Sutton, Juilette Viode, Cian Walker and Neto.
Work is now complete on 2 of the 5 sites chosen (Dorset Street and Kevin Street), with the remainder on site or commencing in the coming weeks. This collaborative project creates art through partnerships. The art has been made possible by the following property owners: Camden Yard by Westridge at Kevin Street, Terence Harvey Limited at Dorset Street, Kish Fish at Bow Lane, Marlett Group Tara Street /Townsend Street, and Focus Ireland Prussia Street.
Failte Ireland Grant Schemes
A key part of the work of the Office of City Recovery has been ongoing engagement with all stakeholders in the City Centre. This includes representative groups, businesses of varying sizes, citizens, stautory agencies and non-statutory agencies. The ability to easily engage with any stakeholder and meet on site to discuss issues has been a key cornerstone of the Office of City Recovery and how we have operated.
Next steps – 2 year timeframe 2022 – 2023
The establishment Office of City Recovery was intended as a short term measure to assist, drive and lead the post COVID re-opening of business etc., especially in the core city centre area, where the impacts of the COVID pandemic were especially acute. The initiative has highlighted the critical role of the City Council and the services it delivers in the economic life of the city.
This work of the Office is nearing completion. Over the next three months I intend to work with different Departments in progressing various longer term initiatives that will reinforce the recovery.
These include the following:
Complete public toilet tender and install toilets at 3 locations in the City Centre. (Environment & Transportation)
Advance public toilet provison in all major City Counicl parks. (CRES)
Re-establish, expand and invest in the City Events Programme. (CRES)
Re-establish, expand and invest in the City Public Arts Programme. (CRES)
Develop an ongoing marketing plan for Dublin City Centre to highlight positive attributes about the City Centre. (Communications Section)
Deliver a Public Realm Plan for the City Centre in cooperation with Environment & Transportion Department and the Area Offices with a focus on maintenance, upkeep and implementation of long term public realm plans including the following actions:
- Further invest in power washing and street cleaning.
- Appoint a Public Domain Officer with specific responsibility for the City Centre Area.
- Complete long term Public Realm plans for South Anne Street, Duke Street, Suffolk Street, Lemon Street, Duke Lane, South William Street, Castlemarket, Talbot Street, Talbot Lane and North Earl Street as a matter of urgency.
- Develop a special City Council internal group to focus on O’Connell Street and deal with public realm issues on the street.
- Seek to eliminate or greatly restrict the presentation of commercial waste for collection in plastic bags.
- Seek to reduce the delivery hours for Grafton Street and Henry Street to finish at 9.30am
Deal with perceptions of Safety in the city centre
- High Level Street Issues – Housing Department, Lord Mayor and Area Offices
- City Centre Business Forum – Housing, Lord Mayor and Area Offices.
The Office of City Recovery was always intended as a short term measure. It will cease on 31 December 2021. Over the next three months I will also work with the Chief Executive to ensure that appropriate organisational arrangements are put in place to continue the work of the Office and to maintain a high concentration of service provision etc. for the city centre area.
Apprenticeships, Arbour Hill, Ballybough, Broadstone, Business, Church Street, City Centre, Clonliffe Road, Constitution Hill, Dublin City Council, East Wall, Employment, Fine Gael, Garda, Jobs, Markets, Montpelier, North Circular Road, North Strand, North Wall, Phibsborough, Planning, Quays, Rathdown Road, Sean McDermott Street, Smithfield, Stoneybatter, Transportation, Urban Form
Fine Gael Councillor - North Inner City
Leader, Fine Gael, Dublin City Council
Chair, Urban Form & Planning Strategic Policy Committee