Sunday 20 April 2008

Dun Laoghaire or Barcelona? That's a €420m question

A proposal to fill in up to 100 acres of Dublin Bay between Dun Laoghaire pier and the 40-foot point at Sandycove and build man-made beaches, break-waters and lagoons has been attacked by various interests in the area, including councillors who say there are no funds to pay for the grandiose schemes.

There are currently two separate sets of proposals for the development of the stretch of coastline, from different sets of consultants both hired by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Council.

One has produced proposals for the massive infill of the shoreline and bay at costs estimated at up to €129m. A second set of proposals for tourist development, by former Bord Failte Chairman, Michael McNulty's consultancy firm, has proposed developments around the Harbour and Scotsman's Bay with projects costing €420m.

No indication has yet been made as to where the money would come from to fund either of the massive projects, should they get the go-ahead. However, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Council itself is strapped for cash and voted last Monday to extend its bank overdraft by €7m.

The local council is attempting to increase Dun Laoghaire's tourism potential to boost the once thriving seaside town. Commercial activity in Dun Laoghaire has been adversely affected by a number of recent events, including stringent parking regulations, blocking off certain streets to traffic and the building of the one-million sq ft Dundrum Shopping Centre several miles away, which has attracted customers who once patronised Dun Laoghaire. Over 30 shops out of a total of 240 or so in Dun Laoghaire are currently empty with another 16 for let or sale.

While the huge schemes for the coastline are aimed at reviving the town, some councillors believe the costs are so prohibitive that it is only putting off the development of the unsightly baths context for another five to 10 years.

Already critics say that one of the plans is aimed at preventing "coastal erosion" even though there is no erosion as the bay is already protected by man-made granite breakwaters.

Plans put forward by Mr McNulty's Tourism Development International would dramatically alter the seafront with massive leisure and residential developments including a huge water park in a massive glass geodesic dome on the seafront.

The plans put forward by consultants for the stretch of coast from the old Baths to the beach at Sandycove have been described as "colossal, Disneyland stuff" by Green Party councillor Gene Feighery.

He said: "The consultants have produced an expensive response to the brief. However the public have made their feelings clear.

"We want a swimming pool rather than over-ambitious development on the waterfront. Two options for development were presented to us with price tags ranging from €129m to €87m. Neither option includes a public swimming pool."

Local Green TD, Ciaran Cuffe, added: "We want a well-designed modest swimming pool rather that extravagant development. Any proposal should respect the marine environment of Scotsman's Bay, currently a breeding ground for shellfish and a sensitive habitat.

"We were afraid that this would happen. Once you bring in consultants without a clear brief they tend to produce over-the-top proposals. It is eight years since I first called for a modest development on the site with a heated swimming pool, a toddlers' pool and a cafe. Perhaps the pool could use solar power for heating the water. Such a proposal need not be more than two- or three-storeys high and would be a fantastic amenity for the people of Dun Laoghaire and beyond. The consultants and the council need to be reminded that Sandycove is not Barcelona and that modest development is more appropriate on this crucial site."

The coastal development proposals drawn up Dutch marine engineering company, Royal Haskoning, were also strongly criticised by speakers at a public meeting organised by the Save Our Seafront group in the Kingston Hotel in Dun Laoghaire on Monday night. Several objected to the massive scale envisaged in the plans and to the destruction of the marine environment. About 60 people attended the meeting chaired by Richard Boyd Barrett who had initially described the proposals as "positive" but agreed at the end of the meeting that the group would oppose them.

The future of the Baths and Harbour has become a major issue in Dun Laoghaire.

When Mr Boyd Barrett ran in the 2002 General Election as a Socialist Workers Party candidate he polled only 876 votes. But in the last election, as an independent running on a "people before profit" and "save our seafront" ticket, he polled 5,233 votes and came close to being elected.

The plans unveiled for the proposed development of the seafront have gone on public display in the local council offices in Dun Laoghaire.

They show the proposed filling in of a stretch of coastline and bay about 1.4km in length up to around 300m beyond the current rocky shoreline.

The brief put forward by the council for the development of the Baths-to-Sandycove coast stated that any development should be "subtle and landscaped" and "compliment the coastline" enhancing the "existing built and natural environment".

The two sets of proposals from Royal Haskoning include a 500-space underground car park and almost 1km of man-made beach protected by two massive break-waters and the infilling of almost the entire stretch of coast out to a distance of up to 300m.

Irish Independent

No comments: