The operator of Dublin Airport has been given the green light to proceed with controversial plans to introduce a new tolling system for motorists dropping off and collecting passengers at the airport.
An Bord Pleanála has upheld the decision of Fingal County Council to grant planning permission to daa to develop new, tolled drop-off and pick-up zones at the airport’s two terminals.
The board rejected an appeal against the council’s ruling by local independent councillor, Joe Newman.
The Swords-based public representative had accused daa of “jumping the gun” with the new tolling system given plans for a metro system to link Dublin Airport with the city centre.
“There is also no operational need for the tolling infrastructure as people have been using the drop-off zones appropriately for numerous years now,” said Mr Newman.
The new drop-off and pick-up zones are part of plans to make alterations to sections of the existing road network at Dublin Airport including routes to and from the Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 buildings.
It will also involve changes to the existing layout of the Express Red Long-Term Car Park at the airport including the removal of 206 spaces and the development of a time-limited, free waiting zone for 100 vehicles dropping off and collecting passengers.
Consultants for daa said the plans were designed to reduce the number of passengers using private vehicles for drop-off and pick-up and to encourage the greater use of public transport as well as making more efficient use of the airport’s road network.
While the decision by An Bord Pleanála will allow daa to install “pay cabinets”, control barriers and automatic number plate recognition cameras, a daa spokesperson said: “Dublin Airport has no current plans to introduce drop-off or pick-up charges”.
In February 2021, Fingal County Council had rejected a previous application by daa to develop a tolling system on a number of grounds including the loss of long-term car parking spaces.
The latest changes will result in a net increase of 100 short-term car park spaces and a net reduction of 220 long-term spaces.
The airport authority said the changes would not breach the permitted capacity of 4,000 short-term spaces and 26,800 long-term spaces at the airport.
The airport operator has already promised that revenue from the new charging system will be ring-fenced for sustainability initiatives at the airport.
In its ruling An Bord Pleanála said the proposed changes would not adversely affect the residential amenity of the area subject to compliance with a number of planning conditions.
The board said the development would also be acceptable in terms of pedestrian, cycle and traffic safety.
It limited the use of the Terminal 2 surface car park and tolling infrastructure for a temporary period of five years to facilitate the planned development of the proposed Metrolink system.
Mr Newman claimed daa could have simply used specialised staff to manage the small number of motorists who could cause congestion at drop-off and pick-up zones through stricter enforcement.
The councillor said daa had chosen “financial interests over the stability and quality of the public realm.”
Mr Newman said the best way of ensuring the new tolling system does not lead to congestion at the terminals would be to allow for a 10-minute free period for vehicles with strict enforcement.
“Such a provision would also allow for travellers with accessibility complications, including families with several young children to use the daa facilities in the safest possible manner,” he added.
Mr Newman was supported in his appeal by Fine Gael senator, Emer Currie, who claimed daa's proposal would encourage cars to stop outside the terminals compared to the current situation where the drop-off zone was used “appropriately and sparingly” which avoided congestion.
Ms Currie said the airport authority had “reduced an Irish tradition of collecting family and friends at the airport or welcoming family home from Christmas to a money-grabbing exercise.”