Contentious plans by Dublin Airport operator, daa, to install a tolling system for a new paid drop-off and pick-up zone for the country’s busiest airport may yet be prevented from getting off the ground.
This follows the sole objector to the scheme, an independent member of Fingal County Council, councillor Joe Newman launching a fresh planning challenge against the controversial proposal.
Cllr Newman’s appeal to An Bord Pleanála against last month's grant of permission by Fingal County Council includes a submission from Senator Emer Currie in support of the appeal.
'Money grabbing exercise'
In her submission hitting out at the planned tolling system, Senator Currie has claimed that “Dublin Airport Authority has reduced an Irish tradition of collecting family and friends at the airport or welcoming family home for Christmas to a money grabbing exercise".
Senator Currie states: “We so often see RTÉ reporting from Dublin Airport each Christmas as families welcome home loved ones. This application puts a price on the personal touch.”
Last month, daa stated that the new tolling system was part of daa’s ‘Sustainability’ agenda.
However, in a stinging riposte to daa’s Sustainability agenda claim, Senator Currie has told An Bord Pleanála “the only ‘green agenda’ here is the colour of the money daa would serve to gain from it”.
Last month, the grant of permission by Fingal County Council sparked anger from across the political spectrum.
However, as Cllr Newman was the only person to object at Council level, the Swords man was the only person entitled to appeal the grant of permission to An Bord Pleanála.
In his appeal, the Fingal councillor has told the appeals board that the daa application "strikes a balance in favour of their financial interests over the stability and quality of the public realm”.
Cllr Newman has requested that An Bord Pleanála stage an oral hearing into his appeal.
In her submission in support of the appeal, Senator Currie has stated that “introducing this toll against the background of spiralling living costs has been so obviously and insensitively overlooked too".
The senator stated that “if planning permission for tolling infrastructure does go ahead, I am seeking a condition that no charges are introduced until such a time as Dublin airport is serviced by adequate public transport links”.
She said “there is no need for the tolling infrastructure as people have been using the drop-off zone appropriately for numerous years now”.
Senator Currie added that "this planning permission will encourage cars to stop at the terminal as opposed to the current free flow set up at Dublin Airport where people use the drop off zone appropriately and sparingly and there is no issue with congestion”.
The Fine Gael Senator further contends that “this planning application does little to make ingress and egress more convenient for passengers”.
She argues that “these changes may lead to people staying longer than usual in the drop off zone as they will have paid for it”.
Asked to comment on the appeal, daa group head of Communications, Kevin Cullinane said on Tuesday: “We note the appeal to the recent granting of planning permission by Fingal County Council.
Mr Cullinane added: “Our focus right now is on the restoration of efficient operations at Dublin Airport as passenger numbers rebound following two years of very low numbers due to the pandemic. Our top priority at the moment is to ensure a speedy return to the exceptional passenger experience that people have come to expect from Dublin Airport.”
Last month, Mr Cullinane outlined the rationale behind the new tolling system.
He said: “the new system aims to reduce car journeys to and from the airport and to encourage passengers to make greater use of public transport."
He added: “Commercial funds raised by the new system will be ringfenced for sustainability initiatives at the airport."
Prior to the appeal being lodged, daa was not planning for the system to be in place for the upcoming Summer season and had outlined its intention to commence construction in the second half of 2022.
Planning consultants for daa, Coakley O’Neill Town Planning stated that the proposals will result in a more coordinated, controlled and efficient management of passenger drop off and pick up.
An Bord Pleanála is due to make a decision on the appeal in August. However, that is likely to be deferred as the appeals board is currently dealing with a backlog in cases.