Our recommended next steps on Strand Road
On the 5th August 2021, Dublin Cycling Campaign sent two recommended next steps to all Dublin City Councillors about the Strand Road cycleway. Those recommendations were sent via email and the full contents of that email are below.
I’m writing on behalf of Dublin Cycling Campaign.
The High Court ruled against the six month trial of the Strand Road Cycleway on 30th July. Our members and supporters were very disappointed in the result as Strand Road Cycleway would have provided a badly-needed safe family-friendly cycle route along the south of Dublin Bay.
Dublin Cycling Campaign has reviewed the judgement. The ruling concluded that there was a minor issue with one aspect of the project approval process that meant the council might have underestimated the impact of the project. It did not find a fundamental issue with the council’s approach to project approval. In our opinion, the issue is rectifiable.
We recommend the following as next steps. :
- Quickly deliver the Strand Road Cycleway by rectifying the issue the judge found in the previous process and resubmitting the project for approval under the Roads Act
- The Council needs to appeal this judgement as it creates precedent that will complicate and delay the delivery of other walking, cycling, public transport and greening projects in Dublin and across the country
At the bottom of this email we explain our reasons for recommending these next steps.
There was clear public demand to trial the project in both public consultations. The project is worth persevering on. We need leadership from councillors. Strand Road needs your public support.
Our team of volunteers are available to meet with you if you would like to discuss this project or cycling infrastructure in your LEA.
All the best, Kevin Baker Chairperson Dublin Cycling Campaign
Best Way to Deliver Strand Road Cycleway
In our view, the fastest way to deliver Strand Road is not to appeal this judgement as that could take 18 months in the Court of Appeal. The fastest way is to fix the issues highlighted by the judge and re-submit the project for approval.
Below is our understanding of the reasons for the judge’s ruling.
As part of the project approval, the council asked independent environmental experts to complete an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) screening report. EIA screening report determines whether a project exceeds certain thresholds under EU environmental law. If it does, a full EIA report must be prepared and submitted to An Bord Pleanála for approval, which is a 3-4 years process. The kinds of projects that exceed the thresholds are motorway construction, MetroLink, BusConnects or a new four lane road. All Part 8 projects are examples of the kinds of projects that are below the thresholds.
The EIA screening report for Strand Road found that this project was below the thresholds set out in the EIA Directive and didn’t need to apply to An Bord Pleanála for approval. The judge ruled that the screening report was inadequate. The judge stated that he didn’t believe the six month trial was a temporary project as it might be extended if successful. The screening report was based on the assumption the project was temporary for six months. As a result the judge ruled the screening report inadequate as it didn’t assess what environmental impacts there would be at six months and one day. As the screening report was inadequate the judge can’t declare whether the project needs an EIA and application to ABP or not.
The issue with the EIA screening report is minor and rectifiable.
In our opinion, there is nothing preventing Dublin City Council from commissioning a new EIA screening report from a new independent consultant that takes into account the feedback from the judge. It is likely that a new EIA screening report would also conclude that an application to An Bord Pleanála isn’t required. The Council could then approve the project under the Roads Act again.
This process could be completed within a couple of months. Though it is likely that determined objectors would again challenge the new decision in the High Court, which could add 4-6 months delay.
Rectifying the issue and re-applying will be significantly faster than an appeal, which could take 18 months.
The council needs to appeal the judgement
We strongly believe that this judgement needs to be appealed. There are a number of issues with the judgement.
The judge declares Strand Road “road development” that requires an EIA without providing any reasons as to why he made that determination.
The judge uses his own “common sense” to dismiss an aspect of the EIA screening report about air and noise pollution instead of relying on the “best scientific evidence”, which is the legal standard in EIA case law.
The judge’s interpretation of legal terms like “road development” and “urban development” and how they relate to traffic management policy, the EIA Directive and Irish planning law is unexpected to most observers.
These interpretations are novel and set legal precedent that could complicate or delay many other projects in Dublin. The judgement sets an extremely low-bar for what counts as building or construction work for the Council that requires EIA screening. This could require the council to commission an EIA screening report every time the council wants to resurface a road, install a new school zone, speed ramp or footpath extension anywhere in the city. This is obviously absurd and not what either the EIA Directive or Irish regulations had in mind.
The council must appeal this judgement otherwise many other projects across Dublin and other local authorities will be complicated and delayed.
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