COUNCIL officials in charge of the controversial redevelopment plans for the Dun Laoghaire Baths in south Dublin have been accused of wasting public money on the project before securing guarantees that substantial development is even possible.
It has been claimed that any redevelopment at the seafront area in Dun Laoghaire could run into problems as there are significant "restrictions" attached to leases covering the area.
The revelation has caused disquiet amongst local politicians who claim management at Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council have spent thousands of euro of tax payers' money on both consultancy fees and the marketing of two proposed developments for the seafront area.
Both of these schemes – which involve a major rejuvenation of the seafront area and the now defunct public baths – are in public consultation phase. Plans for a major development on the coastline sparked local objections which reached fever pitch in 2005 with public marches and demonstrations.
The leases on the shoreline are held by the Department of the Marine, which entered into discussions with council officials to amend the paperwork in 2001, to pave the way for future works.
However, the Sunday Tribune has learned that these discussions were never finalised and restrictions on development remain in place.
Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council confirmed it took part in "negotiations with the relevant government departments but the negotiations were not concluded".
The council also confirmed that the two schemes proposed for the seafront now undergoing public consultation "have not been examined in light of these old leases as no decision has been made by the council at this stage to proceed with any scheme".
However, it would not shed light on the nature of the restrictions and said it was not possible to estimate the money spent on planning and promoting the two schemes.
"The council is not in a position to give an estimate as work is ongoing and final invoices have not been submitted," said Bernie Gilligan, senior executive officer at the economic development and planning department. However, while confirming that the "restrictions" on the leases have not yet been addressed despite discussions with government seven years ago, Gilligan said: "We are confident that any difficulties associated with these restrictions can be overcome".
Over 1,000 submissions have been received in relation to the two proposed developments and a report on the consultation process is expected by the end of the year. At that stage, the council's elected members will decide the future of the project. However, the council's spending public money on producing the concepts before ensuring the lease restrictions were amended has proved controversial.
"I think it's a bad way to handle public money and people have told the council they don't want this fantastic 'Disneyfication' of the sea front," said local Green councillor Gene Feighery.