Seanad Éireann - Volume 158 - 10 March, 1999

Adjournment Matters. - Road Closures.

Mr. Costello: This is a simple matter but it is exercising the minds of many residents in the vicinity of the Phoenix Park and around Dublin city. The proposal to close Spa Road in the Phoenix Park is a result of the worthwhile and desirable decision to upgrade the National Zoo by linking it with some of the lands of Áras an Uachtaráin and, thereby, overlapping into the area currently covered by Spa Road. The proposal is to incorporate Spa Road into the new development.

A new safari-type zoo is desirable so animals can live in more natural surroundings than the restrictive and constrained surroundings in which they are currently kept. However, Spa Road is a lovely little road inside the walls of the Phoenix Park. It comes up from the junction of Infirmary Road and North Circular Road and runs behind McKee Barracks. There is an entrance for motor traffic from that junction and a pedestrian entrance further along. Clearly it is used a lot and enjoyed by many local residents and people from [752] all over the city who go there, particularly on a Sunday afternoon.

Opposition to its closure has come from the residents of Blackhorse Avenue, North Circular Road, Navan Road, Infirmary Road and Oxmantown Road, the people who would be most affected by the closure of Spa Road. Ideally the road should be kept open to both commuters and pedestrians, but if it is not possible to keep the road open to motorists, it should at least be kept open to pedestrians. I believe the road will enhance the new development, because the area bounds the extension that is envisaged and it would be an opportunity for the public to walk in the vicinity of the new zoo. It could be incorporated into the development without interfering with the road itself.

The wish locally and citywide is that Spa Road in the Phoenix Park will be retained while the development proceeds.

Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands (Éamon Ó Cuív): Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghlacadh leis an Seanad as ucht an rún seo a chur síos. Táim anseo in áit an Aire de Valera atá gafa sa Dáil.

I would like to say from the outset that the Minister has every sympathy with the thrust of the motion tabled by Senator Costello who seeks to retain the Spa Road in the Phoenix Park as a pedestrian route. I am pleased to have this opportunity to elaborate on her position.

On examination of the Office of Public Works' proposals for the extension of Dublin Zoo, it became clear that closure of the Spa Road was envisaged as the road divides the existing lands of the zoo from the additional lands of Áras an Uachtaráin, which it is proposed to incorporate into the zoo.

Traffic management policy for the Phoenix Park is set down in the Phoenix Park management plan which was adopted by Government in 1986. Under this plan, it has been the longstanding policy of the Department to close roads in the Phoenix Park to through traffic on a phased basis. The purpose of this is to reduce the accident rate and enhance the visitor experience by eliminating traffic in areas of the park, thus achieving a more peaceful atmosphere in those sections.

To date, the road closures introduced have been very successful in terms of creating a safer and more tranquil environment for all park users. Closed roads include the Odd Lamp Road, Furze Road, Khyber Road and the Lower Glen Road. In light of this longstanding policy, the Minister is supportive of the proposed closure of the Spa Road to through vehicular traffic. However, she supports the objective of keeping the road open for pedestrian and cyclist use. She is aware also that there is concern among local residents about the proposed closure of a section of Spa Road.

As part of the response of the Department under the public consultation process on the zoo proposals, the Office of Public Works has been [753] informed of the Minister's views on Spa Road. She has suggested to the Office of Public Works that further consideration be given to the feasibility of accommodating pedestrian access and a cycle way through this road. The Office of Public Works will have to consider the operational and financial realities in the overall context of the development of Dublin Zoo. It must be acknowledged that the achievement of such an objective is likely to have logistical and financial implications, as a means would have to be found to secure the zoo adequately while at the same time providing some form of access for the public.

The Minister is expecting a response from the Office of Public Works within the next few weeks and she hopes to be in a position to make a final decision on the subject soon after. The outcome is somewhat uncertain at this stage, but the Minister will be happy to inform the Senator of the final decision in the matter. Mo leithscéal ar son an Aire arís.