This article is originally from The Irish Times.
College Green civic plaza project ‘halted’ due to EU procurement rules, council says
Decision made to re-advertise for architects due to extension of traffic-free zone
The contract to design a new civic plaza for Dublin’s College Green has been terminated and the project “halted” due to EU procurement rules, Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan has said.
The council has dispensed with the services of Paul Keogh Architects, the firm contracted more than six years ago to design the traffic-free plaza that was to be the capital’s premier civic space.
The council had been expected to lodge a fresh planning application last summer following the refusal of permission for the plaza by An Bord Pleanála in 2018. Late last year, it said the application would be delayed until this year.
However, the council has now decided it must restart the procurement process for a design team for the plaza, before it can prepare a planning application.
Mr Keegan said the project had “halted” and “unfortunately” a planning application would not be submitted to the board this year. There was “no question it will delay the project,” he said.
In May 2017, two years after announcing the project, the council submitted its application to the planning board but was refused permission in November 2018.
While the board praised the designs, which it said would produce a “quality public realm” that would “significantly enhance the amenity and attractiveness of this city centre location”, the pedestrianisation, it said, would have “significantly negative impacts” on bus movements and traffic.
The diversion of buses away from College Green as part of the BusConnects project, and a contraflow bus lane for Winetavern Street, would address these problems, the council said.
In November 2020, new plans for the plaza were published, which would have seen the traffic-free zone double in size from that mooted in previous designs, stretching it from College Green to the junction of Dame Street and South Great George’s Street.
Due to the extension of the size of the traffic-free zone, it has been now decided to readvertise for architects, to comply with EU procurement rules, Mr Keegan said.
“The scope of [the project] has increased by adding a significant part of Dame Street and that brought [the architects] outside the procurement they were appointed for,” he said. “This has halted the project.”
There were, he said, “strict rules now that are being enforced so we have to go out and procure a design team and that is a fairly elaborate process. Given the size and scale of the project there is no question it will delay the project.”
Asked if the application would be made this year, he said: “No it won’t, unfortunately.”
The decision was “extremely disappointing”, Mr Keogh of Paul Keogh Architects said. “We started working on this six years ago and it is extremely disappointing that the design work has all been jettisoned because of procurement rules.”
It was, he said, “extremely hard to comprehend” why the contract was being terminated now, when the decision to extend the pedestrianised area was made in November 2020.
However, he said, he would be submitting a tender to develop the plaza when it was re-advertised.