2. Objectives and Constraints
2.1 Vision and Objectives
A vision statement was established for the O’Connell Street Revitalisation project which visualises O’Connell Street as “Limerick’s signature street, a desirable place to live, work and shop which embraces Limerick’s rich Georgian heritage”. The project aims to provide a high quality urban environment supporting ease of movement for all, and to reposition the city centre as the premier regional destination for retail, cultural, commercial, work and leisure purposes.
The project objectives were developed under the headings below according to the Department of Finance’s Common Appraisal Framework for Transport Projects and Programmes. This was carried out in cognisance of the Limerick City Development Plan 2010-2016 as extended, Limerick 2030, and the Limerick Movement Framework Strategy.
- Minimise transport-related impacts on the environment.
- Moderate unnecessary vehicular traffic in the city centre and on O’Connell Street in particular.
- Create an attractive public realm to facilitate increased footfall on O’Connell Street.
- Provide improved access to the city centre for all, through an efficient and reliable transport network.
Safety and Physical Activity
Promotion of walking and cycling in the city centre.
- Provide a safer environment for users of the city centre.
Accessibility and Social Inclusion
- Improve ease of movement in the city centre, particularly for vulnerable road users.
- Increase public transport accessibility in the city centre.
- Support Limerick’s strategic economic and sustainable planning aims.
- Promote low-carbon strategies in accordance with the European Regional Development Fund funding conditions.
2.2 Constraints Study
A constraints study was carried out to identify constraints to the project under a number of different headings:
- Geotechnical; and
Potential constraints to the project from an engineering point of view include traffic movements and current street operation, existing utilities, and structures on and underneath the street.
The operation of the street in terms of access for businesses and residents represents a constraint during both construction and operation. The main retail area of the city centre extends from the junction of O’Connell Street with Denmark Street to the junction with Cecil Street, including varied uses such as large high street chains, independent retailers, banks, cafes and fast food outlets. Commercial occupants are likely to have varying requirements or preferences for the operation of the street, including but not limited to pedestrianisation, loading access, and vehicular access for customers. The larger commercial premises do not carry out their loading from O'Connell Street but use back and side streets, however, access will be required from O’Connell Street for customers and staff throughout construction and post construction, as well as deliveries for smaller businesses.
Existing one-way streets in the city centre, including O'Connell Street itself, were a consideration which needed to be taken into account throughout the project design in terms of potential movements through the city. This network reduces ease of movement for cyclists, public transport services and private traffic. Any proposed alteration to existing movements should be carried out with consideration of the potential interaction between pedestrians, cyclists, public transport vehicles and private traffic. Where possible, the project should aim to improve the environment around these movements for all users, minimise safety risks, and facilitate public transport in particular as the city centre bus network shares the general traffic lanes and is constrained to certain routes due to one-way systems.
Many utilities are present along and crossing the street, primarily underground. It is important to maintain these services in the long term, and to minimise disruption as much as possible during construction. The level of cover over buried services varies but is generally less than 200mm as determined as part of the site investigation works carried out in 2017 as part of this project. Due to the nature of the project as an urban realm scheme, services will not be diverted, as they are required to serve the properties in the area, but they may need to be rationalised, ducted, upgraded and/or re-laid at a revised depth or in a revised line in certain locations, depending on the extent of the works and the condition and location of the services.
As O'Connell Street incorporates part of Georgian Limerick, there are a number of historic buildings on the street, some of which include basements under the buildings, open light-wells to the front, and vaulted coal cellars underneath the street itself. Some of these are in active use while others have been filled in, walled off, or in the case of light-wells, covered over. There is also a walking culvert running along the centre of O'Connell Street between the coal cellars. This culvert acts as a combined storm and foul sewer. Site investigation has revealed that the depth of cover to these structures is very shallow in places, and previous collapses to the vaulted coal cellars have been noted in the vicinity.
The proposed design has taken cognisance of the location and condition of the underground structures, and as far as possible avoids disturbance to these as part of the works.
Potential geotechnical constraints overlap with engineering constraints in that they consist of below-ground constraints, including the basement structures and the walking culvert running below the street.
The actual ground itself is also a consideration, however. Due to its urban setting, the site is predominantly underlain by made ground which often overlays the Georgian vaulted basements that extend across the full width of the street. The made ground mainly comprises of gravelly clay. Given the nature of the project, it is likely that the made ground will have to be replaced by road and pavement build-up for the planned urban revitalisation of the street.
Environmental constraints were compiled and considered under the following topics:
- Population and Human Health;
- Historical, Cultural and Archaeological;
- Landscape and Visual;
- Land and Soils;
- Water Quality, Hydrology and Hydrogeology;
- Air Quality and Climate;
- Noise and Vibration;
- Traffic and Transportation; and
- Land Use and Material Assets.
The potential effects of the proposed development on each set of constraints was assessed as part of the EIA Screening Report, which is included with this planning application.