Re: Re: Grafton Street

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From today’s Independent. As has been said a slight case of the horse having bolted but better late than never I suppose…

Council to wage war on shopfront shockers

DUBLIN City Council has deemed that Grafton Street is in danger of growing old disgracefully.

It has set itself the task of restoring some “old decency” to the thoroughfare.

The city fathers are concerned the area is in real danger of becoming more bargain basement than haute couture.

They have issued an SOS – save our status – in the hope of restoring the street’s fading grandeur, and reviving its high class shopping ambiance.

A similar plan was successfully used to bring dignity back to O’Connell Street more than a decade ago, when it was deemed that burger joints and amusement arcades were draining its character.

Under the council’s radical new proposals, fashion stores, beauticians and art galleries would be favoured.

But no more fast food shops, betting shops, phone call outlets or banks will get planning permission on the capital’s premier shopping street.

Loud music, showy shop signs and flashy advertising would be banished from the area which has become “tired”, according to the council. Among the “worst offenders” for overly colourful branding are Vodafone and Spar, its report claims.

It says too many mobile phone shops, newsagents and pharmacies are threatening Grafton Street’s position as Ireland’s most upmarket shopping area.

The council claims heavy branding, “jarring” signs and broken paving have reduced the street’s appeal.

In the proposed draft variation of the Dublin City Development Plan, it is claimed this has “serious implications” for the future of Grafton Street” and its role in the city centre.

The council wants to make Grafton Street an architectural conservation area (ACA), which would mean any changes to a shopfront would require planning permission. There would be an upgrade of the street’s paving, bins and signs.

Feedback on the plan is being sought at present, but it is expected to be introduced before the autumn.

The council says that the street “has a warm and intimate character”, but this has been damaged in recent years.

It states the growing number of non-fashion shops have created “an imbalance in the mix of units in the street”.

If Grafton Street gets ACA status, a new public space would be created near St Stephen’s Green and special planning controls would be put in place to help improve the mix of retailers and encourage high fashion stores.

Flashy colours would have to “be avoided” and corporate branding would have to blend in with historical buildings.

However, the high rents on Grafton Street have already pushed many retailers out of the street.

Critics of the council’s plan are likely to point out that mobile phone giants and convenience stores are the only type of outlets which can now afford to locate there.

SPAR Ireland said last night that it was an international brand but would continue to talk to Dublin City Council about store design. Vodafone said it would contribute to the consultation process and was complying with planning permission.

Samantha McCaughren

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