Councillors have approved a plan for a major expansion of the People’s Park in Dun Laoghaire which will see the popular facility extend to include a new raised platform over the existing railway line between Dun Laoghaire and Glasthule.
Details of the project which will cost an estimated €750,000 were unveiled at the council’s monthly meeting held on September 10.
The expansion will see the railway line which runs alongside the park in the area known as the Metal being covered in a similar fashion to work already carried out on Queen’s Road a short distance away.
The council believes the project which will further enhance the amenity value of the park which is already the location for Tea Rooms, a children’s playground and a farmer’s market on Sundays.
Acting senior parks superintendent, Rory O’Sullivan said the cost did not include the price of a major new piece of sculpture planned for the People’s Park nor the funding being paid for by Irish Rail.
In response to criticism about the cost of the project, council manager Owen Keegan stressed that he did not determine the level of spending in the council’s capital budget but that he had a responsibility to work toward implementing projects agreed by councillors.
He told the meeting that a tender for an extension of the Tea Rooms in the People’s Park would be issued in October.
Mr Keegan promised that plans for redevelopment of the controversial site of the old Dun Laoghaire Baths could begin soon as An Bord Pleanála had recently ruled that the project did not require an Environmental Impact Statement.
He pointed out that the expansion of the People’s Park along the Metals would be part of the overall redevelopment of the Baths area.
Mr Keegan also expressed surprise that one business owner in the area was unhappy with the project.It is understood that the owner of the popular Teddy’s Ice Cream shop on the seafront expressed concern about the plans and its potential impact on his business.
Cormac Devlin (Fianna Fáil) expressed concern about the amount of money that was being spent on such project at a time when other important services were being cut.
Patricia Stewart (Fine Gael) welcomed the plan and noted that other similar phases of covering over the railway track had brought life to the Metals.
In an impassioned speech John Bailey (FG) said the council’s management had got “a lot of stick” for its earlier initiatives along the Metals and he commended Mr Keegan for his foresight.
“It’s the best thing to happen to Dun Laoghaire,” he remarked, before adding that anyone who didn’t favour the project didn’t live in the town.
Mr Bailey said the expansion of the People’s Park would also help to cut out anti-social behaviour.
Jane Dillon Byrne (Labour) said her only reservation about the plan was the removal of existing oak trees and she hoped that new trees would be planted in the park.
However, Victor Boyhan (Independent) voiced his total opposition to the project describing it as “excessive and expensive.” “Just let’s leave it alone,” he pleaded. Mr Boyhan pointedly observed that Blackrock Park was in a deplorable state.
He accused the council of “flying kites” with a lot of projects. “This is crazy and a waste of money,” he concluded.
Barry Saul (FG) who represents the Dundrum area claimed favouritism was being shown to the Dun Laoghaire area when it came to funding to the detriment of areas like Dundrum and Glencullen. He claimed there was “a growing imbalance” between Dun Laoghaire and other parts of the local authority. While he supported the expansion of the People’s Park, Mr Saul warned he would not be supporting any similar projects in future.
Melissa Halpin (People Before Profit) expressed amazement at the speed at which certain plans which were supported by the council’s management could move. However, she conceded that the plans for the People’s Park were “not a bad idea.”
Following the debate, members of the local authority voted 24-1 in favour of the proposal with Mr Boyhan the sole objector.