Saturday 23 February 2008

Two rival designs for development of Dún Laoghaire unveiled

A multimillion-euro plan to transform Dún Laoghaire's coastline into a "world-class" tourist attraction was unveiled yesterday.

Two designs for the site along the East Pier to Sandycove were presented to councillors at a private local authority meeting.

"Concept A", which would cost €129 million, envisages a lagoon beach and a pedestrian bridge adjacent to the East Pier. An aquatic play area is intended for the old public baths site, alongside a civic space comprising a restaurant and spa. An underground car park with up to 500 spaces would be provided for visitors.

"Concept B" would cost €92 million and involves provision of a new promenade and sandy beach from the East Pier to the Newtownsmith section. The works entail construction of offshore and shore-connected breakwaters approximately 250m (820ft) out to sea. A new water sports centre in a revamped Sandycove Park would feature.

Either concept would be a massive undertaking and necessitate reclaiming one and a half acres of land from the sea. Councillors decided both should be presented for public consultation.

Public interest is sure to focus on the future use of the derelict public baths - a controversial project in 2005 was the catalyst for the latest designs.

Local conservation groups mobilised against a public-private, high-rise apartment proposal for the site. A petition of 15,000 signatures and several street demonstrations successfully called for the plan to be dropped.

In June 2006, the council adopted a framework for the baths site, setting out a publicly owned amenity that excludes high-rise residential development.

Royal Haskoning Engineers, an international maritime civil engineering group, was asked to produce a feasibility study and preliminary design for the coast from the East Pier to Sandycove, including the public baths.

Management at Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council now faces the challenge of raising finance for the project.

Both design concepts accommodate the proposed Sutton to Sandycove promenade and cycleway. It is thought this will be beneficial when a likely appeal for EU funding is made.

"The public said before they didn't want a private or residential development of the site and we listened," said Fine Gael councillor Mary Mitchell O'Connor. "Our big job now is to find the money for the imaginative and inventive plans."

The Irish Times

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