RETAILERS in Dublin's Temple Bar have reacted angrily to plans for a €2m 'umbrella' cover for a square in the area.
Planning permission has been granted for an elaborate roof system over Meeting House Square which will enhance its ability to host concerts and other shows.
However, business owners in the area say they are not happy about the proposals which they feel were pushed through without adequate debate.
They say the money would be more effectively spent in marketing Temple Bar, one of the capital's tourist hubs, which has suffered a decline in visitor numbers.
The Temple Bar Cultural Trust (TBCT), which is behind the move, dismissed the concerns, saying it was the first time such issues had been raised and insisted the work would be good for the area.
The scheme includes the erection of four permanent, overlapping, retractable rain-screen umbrellas and decorative laser lights.
It is to be funded by a €1.3m National Development Plan grant through Fáilte Ireland with the shortfall met directly by the TBCT, itself funded through commercial rents on several local buildings.
"I remember being at a meeting and looking at [the plans] and saying that is not going to fly. I can't see it being realistic at all," said Martin Keane, owner of Blooms Hotel and several other Temple Bar establishments.
"It's a few million and the way I see it, it is not the time. I would be fine if there was someone to sponsor it. I would rather see money being spent on marketing Temple Bar. If it was my money that is what I would be doing, but it's not – it's the taxpayers' money."
Enda Martin, another retailer, said the general feeling in the business community was that the money would be better used on physical improvements and publicity.
"Considering the climate, if that money could be brought into and spread throughout the area, particularly in Merchants Arch and Temple Bar Square, people could get a better return from it," he said.
However, dismissing the criticism, TBCT chief executive Dermot McLaughlin said the project had actually received widespread support and that the NDP grant was specific to the project.
He said that, in spite of assertions by certain people that they were unaware of the project, there had been a public planning process and a newsletter had been circulated to subscribers.
"I think it's rubbish. If someone has a question about the NDP capital fund for cultural tourism they really need to go and talk to the minister about it," he said.
"It's a bit late in the day for people who have been sitting on the fence to come crying now when they had their chance with the planning process like anyone else.
"When the [original] Temple Bar regeneration was under way, people were saying we could spend that money on something else.
"People are saying, 'How come they can spend €2m on a thing like that?' but I would say that the advantages for Temple Bar are enormous. It's one of the best-planned areas in Dublin."