THE PROPOSED development of Dublin Port which would have increased its capacity by 50 per cent has been rejected by Bord Pleanála.
The Dublin Port Company’s plans to infill 21 hectares (52 acres) on the eastern extremity of the north port area at Alexandra Road would have a detrimental impact on the south Dublin Bay and Tolka Estuary pSPA (proposed special protection area) designated under the EU Birds Directive, the board found.
Insp Brendan Wyse also recommended that Dublin Gateway, as it was called, should be rejected on the basis that it constituted unsustainable development and would further entrench Dublin Port’s dominance at the expense of regional ports. However, those recommendations were not accepted by the board.
The saga relating to the infill of Dublin Bay stretches back to 1972 when it was first proposed to infill large swathes of the area. The latest proposal rejected by Bord Pleanála was first put forward in 1999.
The port company argued during lengthy public hearings that the development was essential as it was nearing capacity. It also claimed the expansion would give it deep-sea berthing facilities for the larger container ships which were coming on stream.
The proposal envisaged four new berths for roll-on, roll-off ferries with 600 parking places, new access roads and a rail link.
A short statement from the company noted the decision, and said it was reviewing it in detail before making any comment. However, a company source said they were “stunned”.
“This was a very robust application by the company and it went into huge detail from a ecological point of view. It embraced the process fully and was focused on getting all the information out there,” the source said.
The company had hoped that the evidence of ornithologist Richard Nairn that the site was not a key part of the habitat used by birds in Dublin Bay or in the pSPA would be enough to persuade Bord Pleanála to grant planning permission.
However, the planning inspector found the proposal did not “adequately establish that the proposal would not adversely affect both the integrity of this SPA and the natural heritage of Dublin Bay”.
BirdWatch Ireland’s policy officer Siobhán Egan said it welcomed the acknowledgement that even a small part of the bay constituted a “vital refuge” for birds.
The decision was welcomed by campaigners, local people and politicians, almost all of whom were opposed. The chairman of Dublin Bay Watch, Fine Gael councillor Gerry Breen, said he hoped it would be the end of the “40-year folly” by the port company .
Clontarf Residents Association spokeswoman Deirdre Tobin said the decision was a “day of great celebration”.
“We really hope that this has been the final attempt to gain planning permission for a development that has no support among residents and environmental groups surrounding Dublin Bay.”
Politicians from all the mainstream parties opposed the development. Minister for State Seán Haughey said the decision would be “warmly welcomed” by all who cared about the bay.
Senator Ivor Callely also welcomed the rejection, as did the local Green Party.
However, the Irish Exporters Association said the decision showed a “worrying lack of understanding of the economic needs of exporters”.