A row has erupted after a harbour company started demolishing historic buildings as part of plans to redevelop a pier that dates from Victorian times.
The Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company (DLHC) began knocking buildings on the 150-year-old Carlisle Pier, which will be redeveloped as a public promenade and outdoor exhibition and concert space.
But local politicians have criticised a lack of consultation about the plans, and claimed planning permission for the demolition should have been secured before work began.
Plans to carry out the demolition, which is expected to cost between €150,000 and €300,000 and take around 10 weeks to complete, were signalled in July and there is no record of any objections being voiced at that time. Demolition crews began knocking the "derelict and unsafe" buildings, which contain asbestos, on Monday morning. The company said anything of architectural merit would be retained and stored. A DLHC spokeswoman said the company would lodge an application to Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council this week for permission to open up the Carlisle Pier as a viewing, general exhibition and promenade area.
"The work, which commenced on August 31, is to remove the unsightly and dangerous structures within the Carlisle Pier," she said, adding that legal advice was that planning permission was not required.
However, local Green Party TD Ciaran Cuffe said planning permission was required and that demolition works should be stopped.
"Carlisle Pier falls within the curtilage of the East and West Pier, both protected structures. I don't think anyone would miss the newer 1960s buildings surrounding the old Victorian structure, but to carry out what amounts to a scorched-earth policy on the pier is inexcusable. These buildings are part of Dun Laoghaire's heritage," he said.
Councillor Richard Boyd Barrett of the People Before Profit Alliance said he was "gravely concerned" about the lack of a public consultation about removing large amounts of asbestos from the buildings.
A planning application will be lodged today with Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council for the public promenade. Previous plans to develop Carlisle Pier have failed to materialise. Most notably, an ambitious €100m project from the Urban Capital consortium, backed by construction group Sisk and publican Hugh O'Regan, was granted preferred bidder status from DLHC in March 2004. But the complex drew stiff opposition from residents and was shelved.
The Carlisle Pier, which was built in 1859, was named after the Earl of Carlisle, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and became known as the Mailboat Pier, the setting off point for hundreds of thousands of emigrants.
Paul Melia and Grainne Cunningham