DUBLIN PORT Company is applying, for the third time, for planning permission to reclaim 21 hectares of Dublin Bay to expand its operations.
The Port Company which unsuccessfully sought permission in September 1999 and in March 2002, will this time apply directly to Bord Pleanála under the Strategic Infrastructure Act.
The application, which the Port Company claimed is in the national interest, comes in advance of the conclusion of three separate studies on the future use of the bay. It also comes in advance of the the final designation of most of the inner bay - including the 21 hectares - as a Special Protected Area (SPA), by Minister for Environment John Gormley.
News of the impending application, which is to be lodged by September 8th next, has provoked a strong reaction from politicians.
Dublin North Central TD Finian McGrath claimed he had a letter from the Taoiseach Mr Cowen, effectively promising that the infill would not go ahead.
Mr McGrath told The Irish Times he had been given a specific promise by former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, in return for support for the Government, that the infill would not take place.
Mr McGrath added that this promise was confirmed in writing by Taoiseach Brian Cowen in recent weeks. "Mr Cowen wrote that anything in my agreement with Mr Ahern would be honoured as far as he was concerned", said Mr McGrath.
Clontarf area member of Dublin City Council Gerry Breen said he believed the application was a "final attempt" to infill the 21 hectares which front onto Clontarf Road. He said that the application would cost the State-owned Port Company €100,000 in Bord Pleanála fees alone, and he added that the timing of the application was "interesting", considering the the three studies on the future of the bay.
The end of this month marks the last date for submissions on Mr Gormley's proposed SPA designation which covers all of the inner bay area with the exception of the shipping channels in and out of the port.
The same week marks the start of public meetings on the future of the bay organised by the Dublin Regional Authority at the behest of Minister Gormley.
In addition, while September 8th marks the date by which the Dublin Port Company plans to lodge its application, it is also the final date for submissions on the Department of Transport report on the strategic future of Dublin Port.
Dublin City Council has said it too is pressing ahead with a strategic framework study following last year's public consultation which found 70 per cent of respondents wanted the port to be moved to another location.
However, a spokesman for the port company said it had completed an extensive planning application, including an environmental impact statement, which will be submitted to An Bord Pleanála.
The spokesman added that as the project had been designated "strategic infrastructure" by Bord Pleanála as far back as last year, the company was required by law to submit the application to Bord Pleanála and not to the planning authority. In relation to the timing of the application, the spokesman said the Dublin Port Company was charged with facilitating trade at the heart of Ireland's largest market.
"Ireland needs to be prepared to deal with the upturn when it comes by having sufficient port capacity . . . Therefore, the 21-hectare gateway expansion of the north port area will provide much needed additional capacity at Dublin port which is of strategic importance to the Irish economy and Ireland's capital city."
The Irish Times