Cars give way to pedestrians in new Dublin City Centre Plan

Irish Times

DUBLIN CITY centre will be predominantly for pedestrians, cyclists and those using public transport, with through-traffic discouraged, according to a new strategy developed by city planners.

Titled Your City, Your Space , the draft strategy notes that more than 500,000 people access the city centre daily – 235,000 workers, 45,000 students, 120,000 shoppers or other visitors and 116,000 inner city residents.

Notwithstanding the recession, it states that projections for 2020 suggest figures could increase to 350,000 workers, 70,000 students and 180,000 residents. This would “put pressure on the public realm”, requiring reallocation of road space.

“While economic needs require private car and service vehicle access . . . the predominant movement pattern in the city centre will be on foot – which means it is vital that the public realm is easily accessible, pleasant and safe.”

Dublin City Council says it recognises that a “collaborative approach” is needed to “develop a standard of public realm befitting our capital city”. The draft strategy sets out detailed actions to achieve this, in collaboration with other agencies.

City manager John Tierney says the purpose of the strategy is not to propose expensive master plans or signature redevelopments for the coming years but is about working to create better ways to carry out the work that goes on each day in the city.

Key players carrying out works in public spaces are identified as the city council, transport agencies, utility companies, State agencies and private developers.

However, there is “no overarching control mechanism other than a permit system”, the draft states.

“Establishing an effective code of practice for doing work and reinstating afterwards would be beneficial . . . it would also reduce waste and costs,” it adds. A need for consistency in materials used is also noted.

“There has been a proliferation of street furniture, signage and other forms of street clutter in recent years [which has] negatively affected the accessibility of spaces and their visual quality,” it states. Removing such clutter, where possible, would improve the public realm.

Among the proposals listed in the strategy are a pilot project to tackle an unidentified “high-profile dereliction blackspot in the city centre”, develop designs to upgrade Grafton Street, College Green and a “project” to improve the Liffey quays.

“This strategy proposes an ambitious schedule of actions [that] will require innovative solutions. It is a first step in promoting a world-class public realm for Dublin, and delivering its objectives with energy and enthusiasm will be a significant achievement for the city.”

The draft concedes that funding for public realm improvements, or even maintenance, “is an issue in the current economic environment, and new methods of funding need to be found” – by encouraging the private sector to manage public areas.


We want one of these in Croydon – Gourmet Tram

Visit Brussels

As its name suggests, ’Tram Experience’ aims to offer a gastronomic and touristic experience that is unmatched anywhere in the world. Guests will be able to enjoy several classic dishes of Belgian gastronomy, all modified for the occasion by top chefs. At the same time, they will be travelling along some of the Region’s most attractive roads, seated inside a vehicle with a white, sleek and modern decor.

€75 per person all-inclusive, but still necessary to book well in advance. The tram rolls into action on Valentine’s Day.

Former Isreali Prime Minister Indited in Planning Corruption Scandal

Former Israeli Prime Minister and former Mayopr of Jerusalem Ehud Olmert has been indited today in a scandal that also involves the former Chier Engineer (chief Planner) 2001-2006  Uri Sheetrit.  The case involves the high rise hill top Holyland development complex, which, because of its hideousness and being an obvious breech of the strict low rise controls in the eternal city local have long believed was corrupt.


 Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was indicted Thursday on new corruption charges for allegedly seeking bribes in a wide-ranging real estate scandal that dwarfs the other cases in which he’s accused.

According to the indictment, millions of dollars illegally changed hands to promote a series of real estate projects, including a controversial housing development in Jerusalem that required a radical change in zoning laws and earned the developers tax breaks and other benefits.

Jerusalem residents have long suspected that the hulking Holyland housing development, built on a prominent hilltop, was tainted by corruption, and Thursday’s indictment against Olmert cemented those doubts about his integrity.

The alleged crimes took place while he was mayor of Jerusalem, a position he held before becoming prime minister in 2006. Olmert has denied all charges.

The former Israeli leader is already standing trial on separate charges of accepting illicit funds from an American supporter and double-billing Jewish groups for trips abroad – also before he became prime minister.

He has denied those charges, too, and claims no wrongdoing during a three-decade political career dogged by suspicions of corruption but no convictions. The accusations, however, forced Olmert to resign after a three-year term as prime minister in 2009.

The Holyland case broke two years ago on the strength of a businessman involved in the Holyland project who turned state’s witness.

The indictment accuses Olmert of seeking money, through a middleman, from Holyland developers to help out his brother, Yossi, who fled Israel because of financial problems. According to the indictment, Yossi Olmert received about $100,000.

Ehud Olmert is also accused of asking the middleman to help out city engineer Uri Sheetrit, who also had money woes. Sheetrit later dropped his opposition to the broad expansion of the Holyland complex, which burgeoned from a small development into a massive, high-rise project that sticks out from its low-rise neighbors. According to the indictment, Sheetrit received hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes.

The 87-page indictment also ensnares other powerful Israeli figures. Former Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, who succeeded Olmert, was charged in the Jerusalem real estate scandal. Danny Dankner, the former chairman of Israel’s second-biggest bank, was charged with offering hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to a government official to rezone land for one of his businesses.

Local campaign posters seeking future phases of the scheme to be halted and returned to a park.


30% of all retail stock is now redundant – Jones Lang LaSalle

In its first annual property forecast since its merger with King Sturge it warned that the only in-town locations not to undergo decline would be central London and the top 20 regional destinations.

JLL calculates that 30 per cent of all retail stock is now redundant and needs to be recycled. But on a positive note this will present opportunities for food stores, cinemas and residential to come back into the town centre.

According to JLL research, 50 per cent of all retail leases are set to expire between now and 2015, with half of those expiring in 2012 and 2013. This includes some major chunks of retail real estate including schemes such as Hammerson’s West Quay in Southampton. Some retailers like Arcadia have already signalled their intention not to renew leases. And according to Grainger retailers like Dixons are only renewing if they can negotiate a flexible deal with the landlord, often involving a £1 headline rent with a turnover top-up.

Secondary locations are most at risk, according to JLL, and often landlords’ concessions are not enough to convince retailers to stay. Because rateable values have not been revealed since 2008, in many towns rates payable now exceed the rent on a new letting.

But out-of-town the picture is brighter, and JLL forecast a surge in development activity as landlords redevelop second-generation retail parks built in the 1980s with new units to captalise on strong demand from high street retailers such as John Lewis, Marks & Spencers and Debenhams.

My retail media

#NPPF could damage Heritage says Loyd Grossman – Chairman of Heritage Alliance

Loyd Grossman chairman of the Heritage Alliance  in the Telegraph 

As this newspaper’s Hands Off Our Land campaign has shown, people and organisations ranging from the National Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds to dissident cabinet ministers, backbenchers, farmers and ramblers have all raised serious questions about and objections to this fundamental overhaul of the planning system.

I share their concerns, but would also like to make the point that planning reform is not just a rural issue, but also one that significantly affects London, our great regional cities and our market towns. The Government have presented their plans as a major contribution to their growth agendawhich I welcome as we must deliver prosperity to more people- but by implying that the conservation and protection of our historic environment somehow doesn’t contribute to growth they have shown a perverse misunderstanding of the value of our heritage, rural and urban.

The NPPF frames the economic development debate for towns and cities in terms of ‘vitality and viability’, and that of the countryside in terms of ‘raising quality of life and the environment’ as if quality of life and a distinctive sense of place were not as critical to urban as to rural areas. We live in one of the ten richest countries in the world, yet in too many places, it just doesn’t feel like that. We see squalor and neglect and the consequent lack of civic pride, social engagement and good citizenship.

Why can’t our governments grasp that our heritage can be and should be a major part of delivering better lives to more people? All over Britain, people care passionately about their everyday historic environment. Recent figures tell us that 93% of adults agree that ‘when trying to improve local places it is worth saving their historic features’ and 71% agree that they are ‘interested in the history of the place’ where they live.

Our heritage has been the heart around which many major, successful and sustainable – to use the NPPF’s favourite word- regeneration projects have been built: Gloucester Docks, the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter, Manningham Mills in Bradford are a few among many examples. If such developments don’t make a contribution to our economic and social well being, I don’t know what does.

I am also puzzled by the NPPF’s failure to mention tourism, aside from one fleeting mention of rural tourism. Tourism is one of this country’s major economic activities and heritage driven tourism contributes a useful £20 billion a year to the economy. Where there are cathedrals, museums, heritage centres and historic high streets there are also flourishing shops, pubs and hotels.

The NPPF also fails to understand that the dynamism of town and city centres is about much more than retail and commercialised leisure. It is the rich and inspiring mixture of culture, education and sheer historic beauty and interest that can make our towns and cities such compelling places to work in, live in or visit. One way to ensure that a town centre first approach prevails is to concentrate any new development on brownfield – reviously developed- sites.

The purpose of planning is to balance short term demands and interests with long term public benefit. In its current form the NPPF reduces the long term public benefits of protecting our heritage, by the loss of the vital presumption in favour of conservation and the lack of policy on designated assets where there is less than substantial harm.

The NPPF is admirably concise, but such brevity can lead to ambiguity. In a wide variety of ways- economic, social and spiritual- our historic environment is one of our outstanding national assets. For too long, government has seen it on the wrong side of the balance sheet. If we want to deliver more prosperous and meaningful lives to our citizens, our heritage is a tool waiting to be picked up and used.