4. Design Statement
This section sets out the concepts and standards supporting and informing design decisions and describes the manner in which the proposed development responds to the project objectives.
4.2 Design Context
The proposed development has been designed with careful consideration to ensure minimal negative impacts on the environment, and with an aim of overall positive impacts. None of the proposals are considered to have any significant long-term impact on the environment, and any impact will largely be short-term during the construction stage. An EIA Screening and AA Screening have been carried out on the proposed development. The reports documenting these screening processes accompany this planning application.
The proposed development has been designed with reference to and to comply with the Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets (DMURS) in terms of the overall principles of design, such as viewing O'Connell Street as both a link and a place and use of the user hierarchy placing pedestrians ahead of motorists, and specific standards, such as lane and carriageway widths and appropriate corner radii.
Consultation with Limerick City and County Council Fire Department has ensured that the design of the proposed development complies with access requirements under the Building Regulations 2006 Technical Guidance Document B Fire Safety. This requires a minimum road width and access routes, which is provided as part of the proposed layout.
4.3 Design Team
The public realm design has been developed by a multidisciplinary Design Team consisting of the following:
- Design Lead including engineering and street operation – Arup
- Public Realm Design – Nicholas de Jong Associates
The environmental aspects of the project have been considered and assessed by an environmental team including:
- Environmental Screening – Arup
- Townscape and Visual Aspect – Nicholas de Jong Associates
- Traffic Modelling – Systra
- Conservation & Cultural Heritage – Judith Hill
The development of the design has been guided by all relevant directorates within Limerick City and County Council.
The O’Connell Street Revitalisation project is designed to provide an area of high quality public realm within the city centre core while facilitating movement through the area, and seeking to future-proof the street for potential alteration as sustainable transport provision increases.
4.4 Meeting Project Objectives
Minimise transport-related impacts on the environment
The proposed development reduces the space on the street dedicated to private vehicles through a reduction in traffic lanes, parking and loading. General traffic will be reduced to one lane for over 270m, from William Street to south of Cecil Street. This will discourage through-traffic from travelling through the city rather than around it, while continuing to provide access to the city centre. A bus lane will be introduced along the same length of the street to encourage use of public transport and bicycles in the city centre, and contribute to increased mode share by sustainable modes. These measures combined will facilitate movement of people into the city as distinct from the movement of cars, and thus reduce the effects of the transport network on the surrounding environment.
Moderate unnecessary vehicular traffic in the city centre and on O’Connell Street in particular
As described above, general traffic will be reduced to one lane for over 270m, from William Street to south of Cecil Street. Along with the introduction of raised tables at junctions, and narrower vehicular lanes on O'Connell Street, this will discourage through-traffic from travelling through the city rather than around it, while continuing to provide access to the city centre.
Create an attractive public realm to facilitate increased footfall on O’Connell Street
The total pedestrian area on O'Connell Street will be increased by approximately 1,750m2 under the proposed design. This represents a 37% increase on the public realm area at present. Space dedicated to vehicular traffic on the street will reduce by 925m2, a reduction of 28%. The remaining 825m2 of new pedestrian area will be created by reducing on-street parking and relocating disabled parking spaces, taxi ranks, loading bays etc., as shown on drawing number OCS-L-011.
The existing and proposed increased pedestrian area will form the majority of the public realm improvements on the street, with footpaths widened significantly. Wider footpaths will incorporate areas for meeting, numerous seating areas, 43 trees, additional planting including grass and low-level shrubs and flowers. An interactive water feature opposite the Augustinian Church will create a feature of interest in the middle of this block. The raised tables at junctions will provide continuity of movement for pedestrians, while plaza areas at Cruise’s Street, Thomas Street and at the proposed International Rugby Experience will contribute to an increased sense of “place” to foster the idea of the street as a destination as well as a link.
Provide improved access to the city centre for all, through an efficient and reliable transport network
The implementation of a bus lane on three blocks of O'Connell Street, Limerick’s main street, creates an opportunity to improve bus service reliability and efficiency. Access to and through the city centre by private car remains possible, however as described above the road space currently allocated to the private car will be redistributed amongst pedestrians (through improved public realm and footpath areas), public transport and cycling (through provision of the bus lane).
The design also permits flexibility in terms of future pedestrianisation and/or public transport provision, whereby it will be possible through the use of automatic bollards to close the section of O'Connell Street between William Street and Roches Street to traffic entirely, or indeed to create a public transport-only corridor should that become viable in the future.
Promotion of walking and cycling in the city centre
The proposed design includes widening of footpaths to a minimum width of 4m, with most locations significantly wider than this. Seating areas will be provided throughout in order to provide rest areas for pedestrians, with pedestrian plazas to provide meeting areas on the street in tandem with wide footpaths to allow through movement by pedestrians. The creation of plazas and focusing on the street as a place as well as a link will contribute to the attractiveness of the area, which will encourage walking through more pleasant surroundings.
Due to the existing one-way system within the city centre, and the limited cycle network, it was not proposed to include cycle lanes on Phase 1 of the O'Connell Street Revitalisation as it would not provide additional cyclist connections over the relatively short length of the scheme. However, the inclusion of the bus lane on the eastern side provides a less heavily-trafficked lane for use by cyclists, improving ease of movement southbound. The design will also accommodate with minimal amendments a two-way dedicated public transport corridor with segregated cycleways if required under the Limerick Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy. Bicycle parking stands will be integrated with proposed seating areas to provide safe areas for locking bicycles with passive surveillance.
Provide a safer environment for users of the city centre
The scheme has been designed with the aim of improving the safety of all road users on O'Connell Street and the connecting side streets. Narrowing of the carriageway, introducing raised tables at junctions, and providing a shared surface across the street for three and a half of the four blocks will create traffic calming measures to reduce vehicular speeds. The creation of plazas and large areas of public realm will emphasise to motorists on the street that O'Connell Street is a place as well as a link for through movement, and increase visibility of pedestrians and vulnerable road users.
The removal of kerbside activities such as loading and parking will also improve visibility between pedestrians and drivers, and reduce risks for cyclists travelling along the street and pedestrians crossing the street from between parked vehicles. The narrowed carriageway and raised tables will also improve ease of crossing O'Connell Street and the side streets at each junction for pedestrians.
Improve ease of movement in the city centre, particularly for vulnerable road users
A number of measures were included in the proposed design in order to improve ease of movement within the study area. These include a shared surface between Denmark Street and Roches Street, which will slow vehicular speeds and provide comfort and more freedom of movement for pedestrians, and in particular mobility impaired pedestrians, by removing kerbs and level differences. Tactile paving will be included along the edge of the carriageway in these areas to guide visually impaired pedestrians.
Raised table crossings at the junctions with side streets will improve ease of crossing for pedestrians by providing a surface at one level along the length of the proposed scheme, which will particularly benefit mobility impaired users.
Provision of a bus lane along three blocks of O'Connell Street will make it easier to access public transport services, and also offer a southbound priority route for cyclists to and through the city centre.
Increase public transport accessibility in the city centre
There are currently no public transport priority measures within the city centre. Provision of a bus lane along three blocks of O'Connell Street will improve public transport efficiency, reliability, visibility and accessibility. Removal of on-street parking will improve access to services at bus stops. While the stop outside the Augustinian Church will be relocated south to the next block, an additional bus stop will be provided on Patrick Street in order to improve public transport coverage of the city centre, and the stops on Sarsfield Street and Henry Street will remain under their existing layouts, which are in close proximity to O'Connell Street. The design will accommodate with minimal amendments a two-way dedicated public transport corridor with segregated cycleways if required under the Limerick Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy.
Support Limerick’s strategic economic and sustainable planning aims
A number of planning and policy documents, including the Limerick City Development Plan, Limerick 2030, the Mid-West Area Strategic Plan (MWASP) and the Limerick Movement Framework Strategy (MFS), include objectives relating to O'Connell Street. These range from providing for public realm and public transport improvements on O'Connell Street, to potential pedestrianisation of O'Connell Street and pedestrian improvements at junctions, to a city centre transport strategy, which is currently under development by Limerick City and County Council in partnership with the National Transport Authority. The proposed development will support these aims, by providing pedestrian and public realm improvements as set out above, providing a public transport priority corridor, and providing a flexible design which can be adapted to the future needs of the city.
Promote low-carbon strategies in accordance with the European Regional Development Fund funding conditions
The proposed development significantly reduces the space allocated to private cars on O'Connell Street, and provides bus and cyclist priority as well as pedestrian space in its place. This will contribute to the reduction in carbon emissions in the city, and sets a precedent in terms of introduction of public transport priority to encourage further reduction of car usage.