Sunday, 1 March 2009

For the birds: Dun Laoghaire council scraps harbour water sports project

A PROPOSAL for the construction of a marine lake in Dún Laoghaire harbour has been abandoned after the Department of the Environment ruled the development would conflict with a special protection area for birds.

The scheme was mooted as a recreational facility at the West Pier in the harbour – the newer pier – and would have provided a range of activities to the public including rowing, canoeing and sailing.

But management at Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council have decided to scrap the project, which was an objective of the local authority's county development plan.

In a report to councillors, county manager Owen Keegan noted that the Department of the Environment had decided to designate Dublin Bay as a special protection area under the EU Birds Directive.

In addition, he noted the location earmarked for the marine lake fell within the SPA.

He then revealed that he had asked the department to exclude the area selected for the marine lake from the SPA, so that the project could proceed, as planned.

However, he said this request had been rejected.

"In these circumstances and given the position of the department in this matter, I regret to advise members that I see no merit in pursuing the marine lake proposals any further, notwithstanding its undoubted merits," Keegan said.

A report by consultants Biosphere Environmental Services (BES) concluded that as the project would generate "adverse impacts" for feeding and roosting water birds in the area, it would be inconsistent with the SPA.

However, while a pre-feasibility study by consultants Royal Haskoning found the lake would conflict with the SPA, it also pointed out there were several factors in favour of the construction of the lake outside of the West Pier in Dún Laoghaire harbour.

The study said the water depth throughout most of the surrounding area was of "sufficient depth" to facilitate the lake.

Green party councillor Gene Feighery criticised the council for scrapping the proposal and claimed the local authority should not have cited the SPA as the main impediment to the scheme.

She said the Royal Haskoning report outlined a number of other issues that would act as constraints to the development of the lake at the West Pier.

"In my opinion it is unhelpful to cite the SPA designation, which will benefit the community and environment as a whole, as an impediment to development," she said.

The council originally said the lake would have had the potential to increase participation in water sports given that space within the harbour is increasingly being used to accommodate commercial marina developments.

This is the second time in recent months that the local authority has made a controversial decision linked to a special protection area for birds.

Sunday Tribune

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