This is a copy of the submission made by me via email to Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council for the Pre-Draft Consultation process for the Blackrock Local Area Plan.
Dear Ms Holohan,
I am writing to you in response to the Pre-Draft Consultation process associated with the Blackrock LAP. I welcome the start of the LAP process for Blackrock town as I believe this is a great opportunity for the communities of Blackrock, both residential and business, to shape the future of our town.
Blackrock is a well established town with a very good mix of retail, cafes, restaurants, professional services and residential areas. Blackrock currently has a net retail sales area of 16,000 square metres with a potential to increase this up to 25,000sqm. The town is well served by public transport with quality bus corridors, nine bus routes, two airport bus routes and the DART. The local population is adequately supplied with primary and secondary schools as well as third and fourth level colleges in the hinterland of the town. When the works are concluded on the Old Town Hall building for Dún Laoghaire VEC the town will also have PLC courses provided locally. Blackrock has its own health centre and library.
The issues I wish to see addressed in the LAP are as follows:
- Poor quality of the public realm on Main Street, Bath Place, Georges Street and Rock Hill, in particular the condition of the pathways, kerbing and street surface combined with the faded street markings.
- The problem of proliferation of signage and poles on Main Street, some legal and some illegal, needs to be addressed.
- The quality of shop front design and signage warrants improvement, combined with a move away from the use of the colour black on so many shop fronts.
- Main Street can be very colourless given the current limited space for trees and flowers; in addition the shops should be encouraged to use awnings to create colour and interest on the street.
- Currently there is no attractive outdoor meeting space that could be used for social gatherings or markets. Future development of the town should be cognisant of creating such a space.
- The possibility of undergrounding some more of the electrical cables in the town centre should be explored. Main Street has already been done, so it would be good to reach out into adjoining streets.
- Lack of parking provision in public areas needs to be improved. The four Council owned car parks have a capacity for 175 cars and they are all of an unattractive surface car park design. None of these car parks are well maintained, most are badly littered with broken walls and rusting railings, in fact most of them look like parcels of land left over from other developments. Consideration should be given to constructing a multi storey car park in the town, which in turn would free up one or more of these sites for sale or development for other purposes. My preference would be the site on Carysfort Avenue as vehicles would not have to pass through the town to get into it or better use of the car parking space at the DART station.
- Unfortunately, I do not see any opportunity to increase the number of on street parking spaces in the town. In fact I can see them reducing further over the years especially if a portion of Main Street is pedestrianised.
- My personal view is that Main Street would benefit from pedestrianisation of the section from Bath Place to Carysfort Avenue junction. However to achieve this, a re-routing of the traffic would need to take place. This area could then be repaved so as to allow for a public space for meeting, al fresco eating etc.
- We have a lack of public indoor meeting space, although I acknowledge that this maybe resolved when the works to the Old Town Hall building are completed.
- The town is divided by the Blackrock by-pass (Frascati Road), in particular for pedestrian movement. Many suggestions have been aired on how to resolve this problem over the years. I would favour an at grade crossing for pedestrians between the two shopping centres, while the traffic passes through a new roadway beneath.
- I believe that there is the possibility to improve the road design in the section of the Blackrock by pass from its junction with George’s Avenue to the junction with Carysfort Avenue. In particular better use could be made of the land reservations each side of the road that currently border the pedestrian underpass that is never used by locals. The parcel of land by the house known as Leoville on Carysfort Avenue is in the charge of the Council’s Roads Department, but is not maintained and is an easy dumping ground for rubbish. I think that consideration should be given to redesign this roadway to accommodate bus stops and a right turning lane into Carysfort Avenue for traffic coming from the City etc.
- The Blackrock by-pass is like an unattractive barren canyon, in particular along the section from Temple Hill to Carysfort Avenue. Some consideration on how to make this section more attractive and less harsh with planting or other means need to be thought out.
- Access to the seashore is restricted by the railway line. The current pedestrian bridge over the line is unattractive and there is little or no incentive for people in Blackrock to use the shoreline so close to the town. It seems a shame that more is not made of our coastal location.
- I would like to see the elements of the S2S that relate to Blackrock implemented.
- The condition of Blackrock Baths is an eyesore and a sorry scar on the landscape of the town. Given that the baths are not owned by the Council and that public money is unlikely to be available for their restoration as working baths, some resolution needs to be arrived at as to the future of the structures on this site.
- I would like to see the section of Blackrock Park nearest the town at Rockhill opened up so that it is more visible and accessible to the town as was outlined in the Blackrock Park Master Plan of some years ago. It is regrettable that little has been done to upgrade this “Flagship Park” as it is described by the Council. Many of the suggestions contained in the Master Plan for the town end of the park had merit and should be revisited.
- The LAP includes the St Teresa’s and Dunardagh lands which will, no doubt, be developed at some stage in the future. I would like to see non high rise residential accommodation for families on these lands as I believe that the commercial heart of the town needs to be maintained where it currently is rather than spread out further. Perhaps a community centre could also be accommodated on these lands as well as a car park for users of the nearby Rockfield Park.
- Likewise I would like to see the former Mazda Garage/ Europa motors site developed for non high rise residential purposes.
- I would like to see the re-development of both the Frascati and Blackrock Shopping Centre sites. Each centre has some key retailers that draw shoppers to our town. However I would hope that the re-development of the Frascati Shopping Centre would not impact adversely on the local residents.
- I would welcome more cycle parking in the town but not on Main Street outside the Bank of Ireland as this is currently one of the few spaces for sitting or meeting as a group.
- In relation to populations levels in the area I would like to see a ‘living over the shop’ scheme included in the LAP. The census of 1911 showed a population of over 100 for Main Street while today there are only a handful of people. If there were more people living on or next to Main Street there would be move vibrancy in the town.
- Blackrock has a large number of large office blocks and other office accommodation and I hope to see these being maintained as they provide thousands of jobs in our town. The workers in these offices support the local businesses. I do however worry about the long term viability for the Avondale Business Park off Carysfort Avenue, in particular the building that is the protected structure.
- The zoned E lands on Brookfield Terrace could do with being better separated from the residents on this street as car parking currently spills out over too large an area and there is no delineation between the business areas and the resident’s homes.
- In relation to the house and grounds known as Deepwell on Rockhill, I would not like to see the zoning on this site changed from residential.
- I hope the plan will take into account past flooding incidents in the town when drawing up any plans for future development.
- I believe the QBC shown on the map for Rockhill and Main Street should be deleted.
- I would not like to see an excessive building height being included in the LAP for future developments.
- A new street signage scheme and street furniture scheme should be included in the plan.
- That the history and culture of the town be incorporated in some way into the plan.
- Inclusion of free wifi in the town would be very welcome.
- Finally, I found it very difficult to read the map provided with the document as the scale of it is too small. May I suggest that when the draft goes on display that a more legible map be used.
I look forward to the next stage of this LAP process in due course.