TCD Submission Grand Canal Innovation District


In June 2018 Trinity College launched a proposal for a new Innovation District centred on Grand Canal Dock. The rationale for the initiative, and the logic underlying its location at the heart of Dublin Docklands, is set out in a detailed Project Manifesto. This also referenced the setting up of a High Level Group to oversee development of the project and the need to involve community and voluntary stakeholders in a consultation process was recognised.

And while the Manifesto is broadly welcomed by boat owners and related groupings, there is a concern at the lack of attention paid to issues relating to the long planning history of the GCD and ongoing controversies surrounding the mix of uses that the dock can accommodate.

Also the Manifesto overlooks the unfortunate state of dereliction that characterises the Eastern end of the site, a situation that can be viewed as a consequence of the failure of a variety of authorities to deliver on earlier plans and proposals based around Community Gain commitments that were entered into in the planning phase that preceded the 2008 financial crash.

This earlier vision flowed from work undertaken as long ago as 1992 in the shape of the Grand Canal Corridor study, funded by Government and undertaken by consultants Brady Shipman Martin.

The illustration below, drawn from the BSM report provides a useful summary of the mix of uses then envisaged for a restored and enlivened GCD. (IMAGE TO FOLLOW)

These proposals were given fresh impetus subsequently with the establishment of DDDA as a planning and development authority for Docklands. Following extensive local consultation and with the support of local political figures, a framework plan called Flagship 21 was launched. This plan placed a particular emphasis on the potential for locating a range of maritime-related activities and facilities in the area around the historic 18th century Graving Docks. This included boat building and repair, training in maritime skills and support for community facilities.  A new organisation, the Irish Nautical Trust, was established to oversee delivery of the plan, with support from Government and statutory bodies.

However, the demise of DDDA resulted in these plans being shelved and the Graving Docks site subsequently passed into the hands of NAMA. Matters were further complicated by the establishment of Waterways Ireland, a North South Body operating under the 1998 Belfast Agreement. Ownership and Management of GCD and the Waterways Heritage Centre (and Ireland’s inland waterways network generally) is now vested in WI.

However, ownership of the Graving Docks site remains in the hands of NAMA, at least for the present. (referenced as Block 19 in the SDZ planning framework). In advancing the SDZ process, from 2012, Dublin City Council have committed to the retention of a community and voluntary dimension to the GCD development, though detailed proposals haven’t been brought forward.

Against this general background, it would be helpful if the Group tasked with delivering GCID  took account of this legacy of pre-existing proposals and also committed to supporting their delivery within a reasonable timeframe.

In summary, elements that need to be provided include a dedicated Community and Voluntary Zone at Block 19, independently managed and operating on a semi-commercial basis with provision for the following:

  • A boat building academy, operating to the highest International standards and linked with a pre-existing network (UK, France, Scandanavia, US).
  • Provision for Maritime, Docklands and Inland Waterways Heritage (all the more urgent now following the demise of the Waterways Heritage Centre).
  • Greatly improved levels of public access around the site
  • Expanded supply of residential marina berths, which could also provide student accommodation.
  • General Maritime  Skills Training.
  • Assessment of existing levels of Biodiversity and consideration of a strategy to promote species diversity in and around the canal basin.

Based on discussions at a recent IWAI seminar, it is clear that, for a growing body of water users and conservationists, there is a strong desire to deliver on a Community-lead vision for Grand Canal Dock. In our view this can be delivered in a way that complements and even enhances the welcome proposals for a Grand Canal Innovation District.

Reg McCabe



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