Archive for the 'Local Government' Category

Round 3

Round 3

Here we go again,
into the fray.

The Ringaskiddy Incinerator. Oral Hearing. Round 3.

Another bland hotel conference room,
Mr. Inspector on his dais.

To the right
a phalanx of corporate prostitutes in their grey uniformity,
keeping tight formation,
dutifully waiting to do their pimps’ bidding.
Let no-one break the line,
or dare show a glimpse of humanity.

To the left
a huddle of blinkered technocrats,
hoping to get out alive
so that they can go back,
back to hiding quietly
behind their layers of bureaucracy.
They are really not there to fight.

Out front
a motley rabble,
full of hubbub and colour and chaotic consternation
loud, proud and full of vigour
for the fight ahead.
At their centre, a quiet man in a suit
directing the show,
or more like letting the chaos unfurl gently,
the unkempt hair exposing his true loyalties.
He is not really a suit,
more at ease amongst the passions of the masses
than the cold conformity of complicity.

Amidst all this ruile buile of preparation
the fourth estate flit,
notepads at the ready,
thrusting microphones in front of all and sundry,
recording the battle cries and the bon mots.

At the top Mr. Inspector calls proceedings to order.
The rabble quietens and takes their positions,
armed only with love and passion
and bonds of conviction that bind them tighter than any mere mercenaries.
Let the battle commence.

I know which side I’m on.

Advertisements

Dominick’s submission to the Cork Cycle Network Plan

Background
I am a daily commuter cyclist, living and working in Cork City. I have been cycling in and around Cork City for the past fifteen years or so.

Cycle Lanes and Routes
First of all there has been a huge improvement in recent years in cycling infrastructure around the city, and I hope this improvement continues. I regularly use the new cycle lanes on both Anglesea Street / Parnell Place and Pope’s Quay, and these are both excellent. I used to use the old railway line from the marina to Rochestown regularly, and still do occasionally, and this too is excellent. The biggest issue with this route is the state of the road surface on Centre Park Road, which you must use to get to and from the city, which is shocking in places. This causes a definite hazard to cyclists using this route, as there are often huge potholes to negotiate, and you can often be left with the Hobson’s choice of ploughing on into a pothole, or veering out in front of a truck. I hope that this road can get a completely new surface in the near future.

I fully recognise that the potential for developing a complete cohesive cycling route around the city is not practical, as many of the city’s roads are too narrow. One route that could be developed I think is a two way route across the North channel of the River Lee, either at St. Patrick’s Bridge / Bridge Street or at Brian Boru Bridge / Brian Boru Street.

Bike Parking
There has been great improvement in bike parking facilities around the city in recent years, with a number of excellently sited bike racks. However some key locations are still lacking. Topmost of these, for me, is the English Market. There is great potential to put simple racks, probably best parallel to the walls rather than perpendicular, to which bikes could be locked on some of the laneways leading in to the market, such as Market Lane on the Oliver Plunkett Street side, or on the lane that used to have the Vineyard pub (sorry don’t know its name) on the Patrick’s Street side. Other locations I have noticed a lack, or insufficient, bike parking are Opera Lane, in the vicinity of Dunnes Stores on Patrick’s Street, the bus station, around Merchant’s Quay shopping centre, around the Gate Cinema, and around Cork Opera House, and also around Princes Street and McCurtain Street.

Also large sporting and entertainment facilities around the city are generally lacking any bike parking infrastructure, such as at Irish Independent Park, the soccer stadium at Turner’s Cross and Pairc Ui Chaoimh (which I hope can be sorted out in its current redevelopment). Also the Live at the Marquee event during the summer, while it has some bike parking, could do with much better, and maybe the Coke Zero city bikes could set up temporary stands at events like this.

Bike Pods and Bike Lockers
It would be extremely useful for people who want to leave their bikes for a few days or similar, or who have a particularly valuable bike with them, that there be paid bike lockers or bike pods or similar, at a couple of locations around the city. These could be charged on an hourly or daily basis. Suitable locations might be at the train station, the bus station, and maybe close to City Hall, or even within some the multi-storey car parks. These could be made dual purpose, for the use of motor cyclists as well as cyclists.

Bike Lifts for the Northside of the City
If we are truly to embrace cycling culture in Cork, a big obstacle to this are the hills on the North side of the city. The installation of bicycle lifts, similar to that in Trondheim in Norway, at a few key locations around the city could go a long way to opening up the north side of the city to cycling. I believe there is a French company marketing such technology. I have a number of suggested locations, such as St. Patrick’s Hill, Shandon Street as far as the north Cathedral, Summerhill North / Ballyhooly Road as far as Dillon’s Cross, and Popham’s Road, from near Blackpool Shopping Centre up to the church.

Making Work Places/ Shops/ Schools etc. more Cyclist Friendly
I think that the provision of cycling infrastructure should be fully integrated in to the planning process, so that any new developments, or any redevelopments, must provide appropriate cycling infrastructure as part of the development. I think this should apply to any sort of commercial development, or really any sort of development beyond a single private residence, including workplaces, shops, leisure facilities, schools, etc. Even private houses should be designed so that there is space to park bicycles. A key part of any design process should be the consideration of how someone arriving by bicycle at a location would fare. The following are some sample questions which could be used to test any new developments for cyclist compatibility. Where do they park the bicycle? Where do they store their helmet/ panniers/ rain gear, so that they don’t have to carry it all with them? Do cyclists need shower and / or locker facilities to freshen up and to store their gear? I think Cork City Council should consider providing a facility in the City Centre to facilitate those working or shopping in the city arriving by bicycle, where they can park their bicycle safely, where there are lockers for them to store their gear, and where there are showers available if they are arriving sweaty. Such facilities should be integrated into all larger workplaces, and where there is a concentration of smaller workplaces, such facilities should be provided communally.

Developing and Fostering a Culture of Cycling in Cork City and Environs
In order to develop a culture of cycling, it is first important to ask the questions as to what are the fundamental obstacles to this. In the last fifteen years or so that I have been cycling in Cork, the number of cyclists has increased dramatically, and if this growth is to continue, which is good for the general population in so many ways in terms of the environment, health, reduction of congestion and pollution, tourism, ease of mobility, and so on, the questions must be asked as to what is preventing more people becoming cyclists. This is not just a questions of hard cycling infrastructure, which I have already dealt with above, but is also a question of how to shift mindsets and open people up to the possibilities of cycling.

The biggest obstacle to the growth of cycling is fear. There is now largely a couple of generations in existence who have lived their whole lives using cars as their principal means of transport, and who either have never cycled, or who have only cycled as children before they were old enough to drive. There are also many parents who would not let their children cycle out of fear, even as teenagers. These are largely people who do not and have not cycled themselves. Overcoming these fears is not easy, and any schemes aimed at getting those who don’t / haven’t ever cycled out on bikes is to be encouraged. To that end, such events as the Rebel Pedal, the Cork Cycling Festival, family fun cycles, cycle to school days, charity fun cycles and so on, should be supported, encouraged and facilitated where at all possible. The long term benefits of getting people on to bicycles who haven’t cycled before are huge. Hopefully the recent introduction of the Coke Zero city bike scheme will encourage many of those who have never cycled to get out there and give it a go.

Another obstacle to the real growth of cycling is that many view it as purely a leisure or sporting activity, and not primarily as a mode of transport. While the leisure cyclists should certainly be supported and encouraged, my main concern is with cycling as a mode of transport, and many do not see it in this way. The Government’s bike to work scheme has certainly helped promote the idea of cycling as a principal mode of transport, but all possible avenues to promote this viewpoint should be explored and promoted. The introduction of cyclist friendly infrastructure within work places and schools, as outlined above, would certainly help.

It must be said that there are road users out there who neither expect, nor respect, cyclists. In my experience in the city, one of the main groupings that cyclists come into conflict with are taxi drivers. As taxi drivers are professional drivers, and their working days on the roads, they come into contact with many cyclists, and should be aware of the space cyclists need, and should also be aware of the hazards they can cause cyclists. However by their behaviour on the roads, it is patently clear that many, certainly not all, taxi drivers have no fundamental understanding of the risks they can pose to cyclists. I know that in other countries to overcome such issues, the car drivers have been taken out around the city on bicycles for a few hours, and they have the hazards caused by drivers pointed starkly out to them. I propose that, to start with, a group of taxi drivers be taken out by some experienced cyclists for a few hours around the city, as when they experience cycling from the cyclists’ perspective, they will hopefully change their behaviour as drivers as they become more aware of the hazards they pose to cyclists. Such a scheme may be possible in conjunction with the Coke Zero city bike scheme, who might be able to provide the bicycles for such an event.

Conclusion
That is all I have to say for now on the subject. If I can be of any further assistance, please feel free to get in touch. I look forward to the continuing development of cycling in and around the city, and to the development eventually of a cycling culture in Cork, as exists in many cities on the European continent already.

Bad election for the Green Party – Bad election for Ireland

While I am a bit down about my own result and that of my party nationally it must be put in perspective. Most people simply do not understand how important environmental issues are going to be over the coming years, including within the next five years of the local government term. In particular our media do not seem to have a clue.  In choosing to effectively exclude the Green Party from local Government for the next five years, the Irish electorate has demonstrated that it is far more interested in giving out and looking backwards, rather than planning for a safe future for us all, and this is a decision that the electorate will come to rue.  The only hope is that we stick at what we are doing in Government, putting the building blocks in place for us to deal with what is coming over the years ahead, and that in the next few years the Irish electorate, and the Irish media who have been dreadful over the past few years, start to understand what is really happening on our planet.  We have to get away from our obsession with money and economics (witness George Lee’s huge vote) and realise that economics is just one pillar of good decision making, with the environmental and social pillars having equal importance.  Unfortunately the electorate has all but eliminated those who understand the importance of the environmental pillar from local government, and largely replaced them with people who have limited understanding of any of the three pillars.  A sad day for the future of this country.

Cllr. Donnelly welcomes new tougher planning laws

28th May 2009

Gormley’s changes will make it much more difficult for councillor’s to zone too much land for development

The Green Party’s candidate for the Carrigaline area of Cork County Council and for Passage West Town Council, Cllr. Dominick Donnelly, has said that changes to planning laws announced today by Environment Minister John Gormley will allow for better planning in County Cork.

Cllr. Donnelly said: “The Green Party has brought in major changes to the planning system for the first time since tribunals were established to investigate corruption ten years ago.  It will mean better services for our community based on sensible planning, and a clampdown on dodgy developments.”

 “I particularly welcome the aspect of the new legislation which requires a two-thirds majority on the county or city council in order to zone land for development, whether it be for the adoption of the county development plan, or for an amendment to the plan.  This will mean that no one party will be able to rezone land on their own, and should prevent the kind of corruption which Frank Dunlop used, and which has ended up with his imprisonment this week.”

Cllr. Donnelly continued:  “In many ways the downfall of the Celtic Tiger happened in local authorities up and down the country getting too greedy, and zoning too much land for development.  Much of this excess zoned land is what now makes up the toxic assets which have brought our banking system to the brink of collapse, and which have necessitated the setting up of NAMA.  Most of this zoned land will see no development during my lifetime.”

“It was councillors from all the main parties, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Féin who voted through these zonings on councils up and down the country.  On many local authorities, it was only the Green Party representatives that opposed the widespread zoning of land for development.  A classic example of this was my Green Party colleague on Monaghan County Council, Vincent P. Martin, who was the only councillor to oppose the adoption of their county development plan, a plan which effectively allowed for the doubling of the population of the county.  Where are all these people going to come from?  They don’t exist, and this sort of overzoning is clearly ridiculous, but it has taken a Green Party Minister for the Environment to sort it out, as all the other main parties are up to their eyeballs in overzoning.  They seem to be too busy looking after their friends and backers to do a sensible job,” concluded Cllr. Donnnelly.

Cllr. Donnelly concluded:  “On a final note, these most welcome changes will promote a much more sustainable level of development, which will help support the economic renewal of the country, and will help break the cycle of boom and bust economics which all the main parties seem hell bent on continuing.”

Cllr. Donnelly welcomes €696,400 funding for recycling in County Cork from the Environment Fund

23rd May 2009

Cllr. Dominick Donnelly, Green Party member of Passage West Town Council and candidate for the Carrigaline area of Cork County Council, has welcomed the announcement from the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, John Gormley, of funding for the operating costs of bring banks and civic amenity sites from the Environment Fund. Cork County Council will receive €696,400 out of a total allocation of €6.4 million nationally for the period July to December 2008. This is an increase of €1.4 million over the equivalent period in 2007. The money in the Environment Fund comes from the Plastic Bag Levies and the Landfill Levies.

Cllr. Donnelly said: “It is very welcome news that Minister Gormley has increased the level of funding from the Environment Fund to help local authorities defray the costs of running bring banks and civic amenity sites. With the global market for recyclates suffering from a huge drop in prices currently, it is costing all local authorities significantly more than it used to, to provide bring banks and civic amenity sites. This demonstrates the Government’s determination to support measures to aid the recovery and recycling of waste.”

Cllr. Donnelly continued: “I hope that Cork County Council will now use this increased funding to remove the gate fee of €3 for the civic amenity sites which they imposed earlier this year. This gate fee is proving to be a huge disincentive for the public to do the right thing, and recycle as much of their waste as they possibly can. In these times of economic constraint on many families, it is vitally important that they do not incur extra costs in order to recycle their waste in the correct way. It is vital that Cork County Council removes the €3 gate fee for civic amenity sites right away.”

Cllr. Donnelly welcomes Green Party Leader’s clampdown on rogue builders

13th May 2009

-Developers who leave housing estates unfinished to be targeted

Green Party candidate Cllr. Dominick Donnelly has welcomed moves by Environment Minister and Green Party Leader John Gormley to clamp down on rogue builders who leave housing estates and apartment blocks unfinished.

For the first time, Councils will be able to share information on bad builders and apply it to planning decisions, ensuring that those with a history of unfinished projects will be unable to get planning permission for their next project.

Green candidate Dominick Donnelly who is running for election to Cork County Council and Passage West Town Council said: “The issue of unfinished estates, with poor roads, neglected green areas and lack of lighting has been coming up on the doors again and again. Many of the housing estates built during the boom were never properly finished, leaving those who paid high prices for their houses to put up with neglected and in some cases, dangerous roads, footpaths and green areas.”

The clampdown initiated by Minister Gormley will result in a national system to share information between Councils, who can track a developer or builder’s previous record. Currently, local authorities cannot take a developer’s track record into account when considering planning permission, allowing rogue developers to reoffend.  

“These welcome moves will encourage developers to finish off roads and footpaths and to finish garden landscaping, if they want to get permission for their next project,” concluded Cllr. Donnelly.

The new planning laws will come into effect under the Planning bill 2009, which is currently being finalised by Minster Gormley.

Cllr. Donnelly calls for directly elected mayor for County Cork

13 May 2009

Cork County Council should follow Dublin’s lead and elect a powerful mayor

Green Party county council candidate and former Mayor of Passage West, Cllr. Dominick Donnelly has said that people in County Cork would benefit from a powerful directly elected mayor with powers to direct transport, planning and other local services.

Following the announcement by Minister for Local Government John Gormley that Dubliners will be voting for a mayor with a range of new powers next summer, Cllr. Donnelly said: “Our county deserves a mayor with real powers, elected by the people – and answerable to them. We would benefit from an elected mayor that could better steer policies to create jobs and improve local services in our area.  I hope that Dublin is just a starting point for powerful mayors and I encourage people to support my campaign for a directly elected mayor for County Cork.”

“The green paper on local government reform, published by Minister Gormley last April, was in favour of directly elected mayors in cities and counties. It also recommended that the democratic policy making function of local government would be strengthened by giving important powers of initiation – budgets, development plans etc, to the mayor.  I hope that the forthcoming white paper which is due to be published soon will support this recommendation and I ask people to give me their support so I can convince John Gormley that County Cork needs a directly elected mayor,” concluded Cllr. Donnelly.

Links:

More details on Minister Gormley’s announcement can be found at: http://www.greenparty.ie/en/news/latest_news/elected_mayor_for_dublin_next_summer

The government’s green paper on local government reform can be accessed at: http://www.environ.ie/en/LocalGovernment/LocalGovernmentReform/