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'People in Ballymun are wary of plans because of the failed regeneration so we'll see if we can win them over'

New plans envisage the current square next to Ballymun Main Street being transformed into a new plaza divided into two sections.

THE CENTRE OF Ballymun could be transformed into a “focal point” for the area under new plans published by Dublin City Council. 

The Council is seeking submissions from the public on a redesigned town centre which will include green space, benches and an improved public realm if given the green light. 

The plans envisage the current square next to Ballymun Main Street being transformed into a new plaza divided into two sections – the lower section comprising an amphitheatre facing towards the Axis Arts Centre while the upper section would include enclosed green space with a potential for market stalls. 

The current square was built in the early 2000s and is mostly concrete. A recent Council report noted that its layout “does not allow for the plaza to act as a focal point for the area and does not create a distinct sense of place within Ballymun.”

Local councillors have previously said that Ballymun in its current form is transient and needs a outdoor focal point for the community after years of stalled regeneration. 

“It needs to be used more than it is, it’s our main civic space but it’s just not getting used properly,” Independent councillor Noeleen Reilly told The Journal.

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The regeneration of Ballymun was first announced in 1997, and was divided into two phases – a re-housing programme and an urban regeneration programme lead by the Council-owned Ballymun Regeneration Ltd (BRL) and local community groups. 

The demolition of the Ballymun flats, built in the 1960s, began in 2004 and kick-started plans for the area’s transformation.

The regeneration was never completed, however, due to a lack of investment followed by the recession and in 2013 BRL was wound down. 

Community facilities planned for the area including a new shopping centre, a bowling alley and a cinema were never built. 

Local residents have voiced concern in recent years that there is very little to keep people in the town and that people living in Ballymun are forced to travel elsewhere for shopping and entertainment, Fianna Fáil TD Paul McAuliffe told The Journal.

In 2017, the Ballymun Local Area Plan was drawn up. It says there is a need for public realm improvements and a focal point for visitors and businesses. 

Plans for a revamped town square were first mooted by the Council 15 years ago but were delayed due to works associated with the former Metro North project, said McAuliffe. 

In the intervening years, the Axis Arts Centre has become an important community hub, however, he said.

“The new plans effectively make the entry to the Axis a principle feature and I think that’s important, it’s become a huge institution,” said McAuliffe. 

However, he said that it could take some persuasion to get people in the area on board. 

“People in Ballymun are very wary of plans and drawings because of the failed regeneration so we’ll have to see if we can win them over,” said McAuliffe. 

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Under Council plans for the revamped plaza, a series of new public spaces would be created. These would be bordered by planted areas and trees with new public lighting installed throughout. 

Independent councillor Reilly said she believes people in Ballymun will welcome the new space. 

“People are glad that something is happening to it, it is a space for people to use and a community area,” she said, adding that the new plans are one of a number of ongoing projects in Ballymun. 

Separately, demolition of the Ballymun Shopping Centre across the road from the plaza is almost complete. The redevelopment of the mall, known as Town Centre, was central to the original regeneration plans but the site became part of NAMA’s portfolio after the economic crash. 

The Council subsequently bought the site and aims to have a plan for its redevelopment ready by the end of the year, the Council’s Chief Executive Brendan Kenny confirmed. 

Robert Murphy, who owns Supervalu in Ballymun, has welcomed plans for a revamped plaza. 

“It’s great to see investment going into it. We’ve learned a lot over the last 15 months about the importance of outdoor spaces. Although this is an urban setting it’s still very welcome,”said Murphy. 

The Council is seeking feedback on the proposed plans until 20 August. 

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