13th October, 2008

On Tuesday 7th October Paschal raised the current situation in relation to plans to address parking for major events in Croke Park. He asked the Department of Transport or the Dublin Transport Authority to become involved in implementing a sensible plan. Please see the below transcript of the debate.

Senator Paschal Donohoe: I welcome the Minister. He will be familiar with the subject of this Adjournment matter. It concerns the immense difficulties that can be caused in areas surrounding major sporting venues. I wish to focus on Croke Park, parking around that venue for major match fixtures and the work of residents’ associations and others in trying to put forward a solution to this problem. When people who do not live adjacent to Croke Park hear me and others describe the difficulty match fixtures can cause they tend to discount our advocacy and describe us as “cranks”. They claim it cannot be that bad. However, anybody who lives in the Glasnevin, Drumcondra, Phibsborough, North Strand or East Wall areas is aware of the near chaos that sometimes descends on their areas when a major sporting event takes place in Croke Park.

This chaos can take a number of different forms. In residential areas, it can mean residents being unable to get into or out of their houses if they do not have a parking scheme in place on the road. It can take the form of ambulances and Garda and utility vehicles not being able to gain access to roads and laneways because of illegal parking. An entire residential area is in effect gridlocked out of life when a major sports event takes place in Croke Park. When visitors from other counties come to they stadium, they want parking but, since they do not know the area as well as the residents, they park anywhere there is a space. They are becoming increasingly frustrated over not being allowed to park in estates and neighbourhoods in which they would have been allowed to park in the past. They cannot do so any more because of the parking schemes and double yellow lines in place.

The residents in the area have done great work in organising the local community to do something about the issue. They launched a very successful and well-organised campaign with a view to asking Dublin City Council to put in place a plan for resident-only permit parking within a certain cordon and to have it coincide with the introduction of park-and-ride facilities. It is a very sensible and well thought out plan on which there has been much debate.

I raise this matter because the people involved are not interested in displacing the problem. They recognise the issue is not going away and is getting worse. They have arrived at a pragmatic solution to address it, that is, not to allow people park within a certain area but to provide them with public transport alternatives. This proposal is with Dublin City Council and, for a number of different reasons, it is unlikely to be implemented in the near future. Given that the Department of Transport and the Dublin Transport Authority are to try to deliver co-ordinated strategies to respond to congestion problems in the city and the Dublin region, I implore them to take a leadership role regarding the issue and recognise that it is serious and affects residents’ quality of life. There is no reason a sensible plan, if well implemented, could not make life a lot easier for them and the people visiting Croke Park to enjoy a great day out. The kinds of problems we are creating for both the residents and visitors are intolerable given the kinds of steps we are able to take as a country.

I thank the Minister of State for attending and I would appreciate his response.

Deputy Noel Ahern:    Given that I live in an area not far from the one in question, I understand the problem. The role of the Department of Transport is the setting and implementation of national transport policy. We do not micromanage issues at local level. I believe very strongly in local authorities managing their own affairs regarding these matters, subject to general policy directions from national Government.

The Department received several requests to allow local councils to address the parking problems and congestion experienced on certain days by residents who reside on public roads in the environs of venues such as sports stadia. The Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, took action to address this issue in 2007. As part of the Roads Acts 2007, he progressed an amendment to the Road Traffic Act 1994 providing a by-law making power for road authorities across the country to restrict or prohibit, in the interest of the safety of road users and preventing traffic congestion, the parking of vehicles on public roads in the vicinity of stadia or other venues when sports or entertainment events are being held therein.

A process is already in place with regard to newly constructed stadia whereby the promoters of large stadia, such Lansdowne Road, when seeking planning permission to provide or upgrade a facility, must present both a transport impact assessment and, as has been the case more recently, a mobility management plan, MMP. The MMP sets out the impact of travel generated by the provision of the facility on the surrounding transport network and general area. On submission, it is the job of the relevant local authority to ensure that measures proposed to meet the demand for travel to and from the facility by various modes are implemented.

For those facilities already in existence, such as Croke Park, where the process governing its enhancement did not require the provision of an MMP, it falls on the local authority to implement measures, such as parking controls, in the surrounding area to ensure that amenity and access to that area are maintained and enhanced for residents. This is the basic position and the reply I have to hand outlines additional information.

I remember being on Dublin City Council when councillors were clamouring for power to take steps such as that proposed by the Senator. They got the power and it is up to them to reach agreement locally. If the system is floundering at present, it may be because some people were over-ambitious. It is up to the councillors, through management, to try to address the issues. Councillors from other parts of the north-side or other parts of the city should have a greater understanding of the matter and should be capable of doing their business provided they can reach agreement. It is not the intention of the Department to get involved and micromanage and hold the hands of the councillors. The Department gave them powers under legislation and they should be able to work out the problem.

Additional information on park-and-ride facilities, Iarnród Éireann’s work on parking and the DTO study has been circulated. However, what I stated provides the fundamental gist of the answer. I may not have the correct information but believe the councillors who were promoting the proposal were over-ambitious. The area does look very big on the map. I will not pretend to be fully up to date on what is happening but it is up to the councillors to try to do the business. They are all elected members of Dublin City Council and should have a greater understanding of the problem. They are working in the area in question, or the adjoining area, and should be able to solve the problem for themselves using the legislative framework. The ball is in their court.

Councillors are always looking for extra power from various Departments. They have it in this case and therefore one must ask why they cannot do the job. I am sorry I cannot help the Senator.