With construction possibly beginning as early as January 2018, Trinity has expressed a number of concerns regarding the development of the new College Green plaza, including stress on Trinity’s facilities and the risk of flooding to the college.
In correspondences between Dublin City Council and Trinity, obtained after a freedom of information request by The University Times, College officials laid out several areas of concern with regards to the effects the plaza will have on the college community.
Some of the most pressing concerns include the increased amount of visitors to Trinity as a result of the development, which would pedestrianise large aspects of College Green, placing Trinity at the head of a 7,300 square metre plaza.
College, in letters and emails sent to Dublin City Council, also raised concerns about special access for dignitaries, emergency services and vehicular access to the Provost’s House at Number One Grafton St. Speaking to The University Times, Veronica Campbell, Bursar and Director of Strategic Innovation in Trinity, said that the College is trying to find “a balance between the use and the aesthetics of the College plaza”.
Trinity has been extensively consulted by planners as the proposed development moves closer and closer to a start date for construction. The new plaza, when completed, will see the College Green area pedestrianised with space created to allow for up to 15,000 people to congregate outside Trinity’s Front Gate. The existing road outside Front Gate will remain but will only be used by taxis and buses. Existing statues will be repositioned and a new water sculpture will also be installed, with trees, benches and cycle routes also added.
Discussions began in early 2016, when the first significant consultations for the College Green development began, led by Dublin City Council. In an email from May 2016 to the Executive Manager of the Environment and Transportation Department in Dublin City Council, Pat McDonnell, Deputy Director of Buildings in Estates and Facilities, said that Trinity is “broadly supportive” of the proposed changes to College Green.
The email, however, laid out several points that the College wanted Dublin City Council to note. In 2017, Campbell laid out three points which have not reached “immediate agreement”. These points arose after a meeting of the College Board who were “generally positive” about the development but had a few concerns. There are still ongoing discussions between Dublin City Council and the College to resolve these issues.
These relate to the materials that will be used to surface the plaza, the framework regarding public events, which may take place on the plaza, and concerns expressed by Trinity regarding a Dublin City Council development policy, which didn’t include creating a public toilet block.
A recurring concern of the College is the increased pressure on Trinity’s facilities due to the large number of people who will pass through Trinity, and the wider area after pedestrianisation.
At a College Board meeting in May, it was noted by members that there may be a need for increased security due to anti-social behaviour. Other issues included Dublin City Council’s reluctance to create a public toilet block with Trinity expressing “significant concern” over the amount of people who may enter the College to use its facilities. Greg Power, Head of Capital Projects and Planning, advised at the College Board meeting that the potential risk of flooding to the College was being considered.
Despite the fact that the plaza will be pedestrianised, Trinity has requested that vehicular access be allowed in certain circumstances. This includes vehicular access to Number One Grafton St, the Provost’s House, and access for dignitaries and emergency services. College welcomed the addition of Foster Place – where Trinity owns buildings – into the plans, saying that it looks forward to restoring “this little street to its former glory”, but noted that provision for delivery vehicles should be made.
College is also concerned about how Trinity students and staff will access campus. As it stands, over 50 per cent of staff and students use public transport to get to and from Trinity. Noting in the email that the success of the plaza is “dependent on the quality and management of the plaza but also, the ability of citizens and visitors to access this area of the city via a reliable and efficient transport network”, College has called for a review of the proposed traffic management measures. This includes the introduction of “strategically placed pedestrian crossings” across Luas and bus corridors to ensure safe passage for pedestrians on the plaza.
Trinity, one of the most recognisable buildings on the historic Dublin street, has also expressed considerable concerns about the impact of the development on College’s buildings. After discussions, Dublin City Council has agreed to consult Trinity’s own heritage experts on architecture, planning and landscaping for the plaza. “We have ongoing dialogue with Dublin City Council anyway and there’s a very specific discussion going on”, Campbell said.
The plans to pedestrianise College Green have been around for years but continual delays have meant the project has been at a standstill. The process has been complicated by opposition from public transport providers and local businesses, many of which have warned that the development will have a negative impact on their livelihoods. Despite its concerns, Trinity has been largely and persistently supportive of the project. In his email to Dublin City Council, McDonnell said that “Trinity is fully supportive of Dublin City Council’s aim to create a civic space of international quality at College Green”.
If the project goes ahead as planned in January 2018, it will see College Green returned to a building site mere weeks after the completion of the Luas works. The Luas project, which began in 2014, will see the Green Line connect to the Red Line with 13 new stops, including several around Trinity. The project is entering its final phase with several test runs taking place over the next few weeks. The construction work drew the ire of many Trinity students who were residents on campus, with works being temporarily halted during exam season due to complaints, and the Provost Patrick Prendergast moving temporarily out of Number One Grafton St due to the noise caused by late night works.