Dublin’s South William Street to be fully pedestrianised

Move opposed by owners of Brown Thomas Car Park and some other businesses

Dublin city councilors have agreed to press ahead with the full pedestrianisation of South William Street, despite opposition from some businesses, particularly car park owners.

Last summer, the council permanently banned cars from several areas around Grafton Street, including South Anne Street, Dame Court, most of Drury Street and a small section of South William Street.

While trials in 2020 had shown overwhelming public support for the pedestrianisation of South William Street, the move was opposed by the owners of the Brown Thomas Car Park, now known as the Grafton Car Park.

The council had asked the car park owners if it would be possible to reverse their entry and exit arrangements to make South William Street an entry point to the car park with exit from Clarendon Street. “This would then allow for the majority of the street to be pedestrianised,” the council said.


The car-park owners said doing so would pose “insurmountable structural difficulties that cannot be overcome”. In addition they said the trials caused considerable congestion internally to the car park and its business dropped by 30 per cent from the first week of the trial.

As a result, only the small area between the car-park exit and Exchequer Street, a 30 metre stretch, was pedestrianised with the only vehicles using the street those exiting from the car park.

However, city councillors have agreed to include an objective for the full pedestrianisation of South William Street in the new city development plan.

Green Party councillor Claire Byrne said the council “cannot be beholden to one retail unit in the city and their car park”. South William Street was one of the most intact Georgian Street in the city but its “pedestrian experience is very compromised” she said.

“We have done trials already they were a roaring success. In DublinTown’s own surveys almost 70 per cent of the businesses are supportive of full pedestrianisation and we know that the public sentiment towards this is incredibly strong. We all know the only reason we aren’t doing this is because of the Brown Thomas, now Grafton, Car Park.”

Fine Gael councillor Paddy McCartan said it was “vital to maintain the momentum” of pedestrianisation in the city “Particularly after the success of Capel Street, bringing it to another south side street now is imperative”. Car parking was “a minor issue in the context of people’s enjoyment and freedom to benefit from pedestrianization”.

Independent councillor John Lyons said the street was “so hostile to walk on when cars are moving through”.

While she appreciated the importance of retail, Social Democrats councillor Catherine Stocker said: “We really can’t be held hostage In terms of our city design by the car park of a shop.”

The car park owners were unavailable for comment.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times