Monday 31 August 2009

Big fall in planning applications to 10 county councils

THERE HAS been a major slump in the number of planning permission applications made over the past three years, according to a random survey of 10 county councils conducted by this newspaper.

Just 329 planning applications were made to Leitrim County Council this year, up to mid-August. This compares with 2,142 applications for the full year of 2004, the highest figure in the decade for the sparsely-populated county.

2006 was also a busy year for applications but the downturn followed and was particularly notable last year when just 958 applications were lodged.

Planning applications can include anything from a house extension to a holiday home to a 100-house development.

Figures supplied by many of the 10 county councils show that 2006 was the peak year for planning applications, although 2007 was also a busy period for planning offices.

The Department of the Environment’s statistics also highlight the downward direction of planning applications across the State.

Figures are not available for this year yet, but preliminary figures for last year show that 62,906 planning applications were lodged. This compares with 91,654 applications in 2007 and 97,227 in 2006.

The most recent figures produced by the Department of the Environment show that 13,449 planning applications were made nationally in the last three months of last year. This is less than half the number made in 2006, when some 27,689 applications were lodged in the final three months of the year. Waterford County Council received just 490 applications for planning up to August 14th this year. In 2006, 2,069 applications were made but figures dropped to 1,935 in 2007 and 1,314 last year.

Cork county also saw a major slump in applications in recent years. Up to last Friday some 3,743 planning applications were made to Cork County Council.

In the boom year of 2006, 12,814 applications were lodged.

Much of the construction boom of recent years was centred on the Dublin region and the reduction in planning applications is evident here.

Fingal County Council, which has a catchment area taking in urban centres such as Balbriggan, Malahide and Mulhuddart, received 841 applications this year up to mid-August.

In 2006 it received 2,737 applications for the full year. It makes the point that the number of planning applications does not translate into the houses built for a number of reasons. An application may refer to one or 50 houses; permission is denied in some cases; and successful applicants have five years before the planning permission lapses.

Dublin City Council received 5,938 planning applications in 2005. In the first six months of this year, just 1,482 applications were received.

Applications to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council went from 3,143 in 2006 to just 972 for the first 7½ months of this year.

And South Dublin County Council just received 545 planning applications up to mid-August this year compared with 1,881 for the full year of 2006.

Co Donegal saw a significant rise in planning applications in 2006 after it introduced a new county development plan.

Some 9,352 applications were lodged in that year. The number of applications fell to 7,579 in the following year, and 4,880 last year. By the end of July this year, Donegal County Council had received just 1,769 applications. In contrast, it had received 5,787 at the same time in 2006.

Commuter counties such as Meath and Kildare have also noticed a significant reduction in planning applications.

By mid-August this year, Kildare county council had received 940 planning applications. In 2007, it received 3,012 for the entire year.

Neighbouring county Meath received 1,286 planning applications up to August 14th this year.

In 2007, some 3,869 applications were lodged while 3,356 applications were lodged last year.

Irish Times

Sunday 30 August 2009

Council assures public it won't be taken for a ride

Dublin City Council claims "passive surveillance" and electronic locking means its bike rental scheme, which will be launched in two weeks, is unlikely to suffer the fate of a similar scheme in Paris where over half the bikes have been stolen.

Under the scheme, Dublin citizens will have access to 450 bikes at over 40 stations for use within the city centre.

The outdoor advertising company JC Decaux is funding the operation in return for planning permission to erect 72 metro advertising panels on which it can sell advertising.

But in Paris where the advertising company operates the same scheme, over half the original 15,000 bikes have been stolen or vandalised in the two years since it was set up.

The bikes have been strung up on lamp posts and dumped in the River Seine, while some have turned up in eastern Europe and even Africa.

JC Decaux said the €400 cost of replacing each stolen bike is so high in Paris that it can no longer afford to operate the scheme.

But Dublin City Council is confident the capital won't suffer the same fate. "The council has chosen the location of the bike stations very carefully. They are all located in city centre streets with extensive footfalls so the bikes will be subject to passive surveillance by passers-by, making theft more difficult," a council spokesman said.

And if that doesn't work, each bike stand in the station has an electronic locking device which tells the user through a green/red light indicator whether the bike has been successfully locked.

This was not present in other European cites, where many users were unaware
they hadn't locked the bike, thereby presenting a golden opportunity for the random thief.

"We have learned from mistakes made elsewhere" said the council spokesman.

A third line of defence against widescale theft is that each citizen who subscribes to the scheme will have to pay a notional €150 deposit which will only be debited from your account if the bike is stolen or not returned to the station within 24 hours of first being taken out.

But the council spokesman added that the same deposit will be used to cover any damage done to the bike while you are cycling, including a puncture.

Under the scheme, a person can purchase a long-term hire card or subscription for €10 a year debited from your bank or credit-card account, with a three-day card costing €2 targeted at tourists. This card is then used to release and lock the bike.

The first half hour is free; one hour's rental costs 50 cent, two hours cost €1.50, four hours cost €6.50 and every extra half hour costs €2 thereafter.

But as Parisians use the bikes for an average of 18 minutes, the spokesman said the idea is to provide free cycling limited to the city centre.

Dublin City Council is also indemnified against claims should anybody be injured or killed while using a rental bike but it has no immediate plans to expand cycle lanes to make cycling safer. It recommends you wear a helmet but one will not be supplied.

The council also defended the deal with JC Decaux. "The advertising company funds the scheme which is worth €26.5m over the 15 years of the deal. Also, the council will have access to the advertising panels worth €23m," added the spokesman.

Sunday Tribune

Trinity College plans to convert Temple Bar buildings into new pub denied

TRINITY College Dublin has been denied planning permission to convert buildings in Temple Bar into a pub and new college units.

Dublin City Council refused to give the college the green light to go ahead after it deemed the development would be damaging to the area.

"The proposed development for a large public house and restaurant at this location would lead to an excessive concentration of such uses in the area, resulting in an unacceptable negative impact," said the council.

The development was to stretch across seven buildings in total, taking over former banking buildings in Anglesea Street and Foster Place.

An Taisce voiced its concern about the plans to the council in documents seen by the Sunday Tribune.

"While the repair and bringing into use or renewed use of these buildings in some form is welcome, we are concerned about the large licensed premises element of the proposal and its impact on the Temple Bar area," said Kevin Duff. Planning and development consultant Liam Tobin also raised issue with the proposal, as did Charlie Chawke, owner of Dame Street pub, The Bank.

In his objection, put forward by consultants Architectural Construction Technology, Chawke claimed the drawings of plans for the renovations could be "misleading to the public" and said that they were "entirely inadequate".

He also expressed his fear the development may lead to the area becoming similar to Benidorm in Spain, an area which "got a name for cheap alcohol-fuelled holidays and stag and hen nights".

He concluded there was "no provision for parking at all, or for a drop-off/pick-up point" and pointed towards a lack of fire regulations and crowd planning.

Chawke was not the only local publican to raise issue with the plans. Owner of popular watering hole The Stag's Head, Louis Fitzgerald, also lodged a complaint about the application.

According to the planner's report on the building "the application contains three main issues. The first is the changes of uses, the second is the new build and the third is the works to the existing buildings. All have serious problems associated with them."

Trinity College may now lodge an appeal with An Bord Pleanála within the next three weeks. A spokeswoman for the college said: "The college will consider the full decision of Dublin City Council with its design team."

Sunday Tribune

No quick fix to bridge the gap

The collapse of the viaduct at Malahide severed the northern rail route – can it really be fixed within three months?

IF JOE O’DONOVAN, the engineer who designed both the Dundrum Luas bridge and the M1 bridge over the River Boyne, was still alive today, there’s no doubt he would be intrigued by the problems posed by the collpase of the Broadmeadow viaduct to the north of Malahide, Co Dublin and how they can be resolved to reinstate the severed northern railway line.

Joe died last year, long before he might have applied his mind to it. But other structural engineers in Dublin, many underemployed as a result of the recession, have gone out to the estuary to have a look at the damage – motivated by a mixture of sheer curiosity and the chance of bidding for work.

What to do next is the conundrum facing Iarnród Éireann. “It’s a very difficult problem,” says one engineer with long experience of railways. “The immediate thing is to establish whether works need to be carried out on the remainder of the viaduct, before they start looking at possible interim measures, such as a temporary bridge.

“Even if they had a spare bridge that they could stick in the gap, how sure would they be that the rest of the structure would stay up? And if it does need to be replaced, you have to remember that Broadmeadow Estuary is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), and that would mean doing a full environmental impact statement (EIS).”

He recalled that the National Roads Authority had “horrendous problems” in building a bridge across the estuary to carry the M1. For not only is it designated an SAC under the EU Habitats Directive, but also a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the Birds Directive – mainly to protect migratory Brent Geese. Thus, any new viaduct or bridge would have to go through the planning process, even though it would qualify for a direct application to An Bord Pleanála under the Strategic Infrastructure Act. “You’re talking about a long time-scale for that, a lot longer than three months,” the railway engineer warns.

A leading structural engineer, who does not wish to be named, describes the Broadmeadow viaduct as “not dissimilar to most of the national infrastructure we’ve inherited, like all those masonry arch bridges designed for the horse-and-cart era that are still standing today – even under the weight of Glanbia tankers”.

The viaduct has a span of 182m (600ft) and was first built by the Dublin Drogheda Railway in 1844 – rather optimistically from timber. This was replaced in 1860 by the Great Northern Railway with a wrought-iron superstructure standing on 11 stone piers grounded in a seabed causeway. Ten of these are still standing. In the 1960s, the wrought iron was replaced by a pre-stressed concrete deck. It was a 20m section of this deck that collapsed on Friday, August 21st, after one of the stone piers crumbled beneath it.

As reported in The Irish Times on Wednesday, Iarnród Éireann was alerted the previous Monday by a leader of Malahide Sea Scouts that the viaduct could be in danger. As regular users of the estuary for watersports, they had noticed a “massive change in the water flow over the past two months”, one of his colleagues says. A third of the water was going through one of the arches that collapsed, because this part of the seabed causeway had been breached over the past two months – effectively creating “rapids” under this arch right alongside the pier that crumbled.

It was possibly because the damage was below the water at high tide that it wasn’t spotted during an inspection carried out the following day. Neither was any deviation from normal conditions picked up by the track-monitoring vehicle that passed over the viaduct on Thursday, just 24 hours before the collapse.

Whatever about what precisely went wrong, Iarnród Éireann’s priority now is to get the railway line opened as quickly as possible. According to the structural engineer, this could be done by spanning the gap, with or without rebuilding the missing pier. “The pier could also be replaced quite easily, if that option was chosen.”

He says this could be done by driving steel piles into the seabed, either from a barge or from the viaduct itself – assuming that the rest of it is stable. This would be “a pragmatic engineering solution” that would allow the line to be reopened relatively quickly, rather than “going for something more complex”.

Strengthening works might also be needed to reinforce the remaining 10 piers, if this was necessary. In his view, merely because they are nearly 150 years old doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t stay standing to get the viaduct “up and running and perfectly safe”. In the long-term, a replacement could be considered.

Many of the elements of a new viaduct could be prefabricated and slotted into place in Broadmeadow Estuary. The new Samuel Beckett Bridge in Dublin’s docklands, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, was shipped from Rotterdam; cable-stayed on a pivot, its span is 123m. The Boyne Bridge west of Drogheda is also cable-stayed, but with a taller “inverted Y” pylon to support its 400m span. Another structural engineer suggested a conventional viaduct supported by fewer intermediate piers.

Any replacement viaduct would first have to be designed and then subjected to an EIS. Then it would have to go through the planning process which, as the structural engineer notes, “can’t be done overnight”.

Only after getting the all-clear could it be built. The viaduct carried 90 trains each weekday, including three with zinc ore from Tara Mines. For the mining company and for 10,000 commuters, the sooner it’s reopened the better.


Following the collapse of the viaduct, commuters were faced with some difficult journeys.

Pamela Duncan looks at how the week went


There were mixed reports from commuters, with some happy with the alternative bus arrangements - even though drivers took different routes and some had to be directed by passengers. Others, such as commuters in Rush and Lusk in north Co Dublin, found themselves unable to get on full buses.

Ruairi Hickey, who commutes to and from the city centre from Collon near Drogheda, says his week has been “pretty poor”. “I’ve been trying all the different ways of coming in. There’s a private bus from Carrickmacross – goes through Collon on the N2 – so I tried that. That was OK coming in in the morning – gets you in in about an hour but I left the office at 5pm on Monday and I didn’t get home until 7.10pm whereas if I left the office at 5.10pm to get the train I’d be in Drogheda at 6.05pm so it’s a long day. I drove yesterday because I had to work late but it’s what, nearly €2 for the toll at Drogheda and €12 for the tunnel, so it’s €14 in and €14 out – that’s €28 a day – that’s too expensive. Lifestyle-wise, I coach kids rugby two nights a week and that kicks off at 6.30pm, so there’s no way I can get back for that at the moment.”


Conor Faughnan of AA Roadwatch says that disruptions to traffic were minimal this week but warns that the worst is yet to come. Faughnan says traffic has been a “little heavier” incoming on the M1 but said that this was a “very false picture”. He says that the actual impact will not be known until the second week in September when school-goers and late holiday makers have all returned to the roads. “There is no doubt that traffic volumes are going to worsen as surely as night follows day . . . How badly this will affect the north of the city – we’ll find that out in the next couple of weeks.”


Andrew McLindon, media and PR manager for Bus Éireann, says the company has been “coping fine” with the extra volumes of passengers. “We will have to factor in that schools are back next week but we will be monitoring that situation on an hourly and daily basis.” Maria Brennan, Dublin Bus press officer, says the company had had a “fine week”. “We’re very happy with the way everything went. We’ve put on an extra 16 buses but we will continue to monitor the situation when the schools come back next week and we may put on extra buses if necessary.”


Alan Field, the founder of, says there has been an increase in carpool matches as a result of the rail disruption: “We’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of people along that route.”


The estimated number of daily rail journeys which have been affected by the viaduct collapse


The number of extra Dublin Bus/Bus Éireann buses which have been provided each day since the disruption


Irish Times

Thursday 27 August 2009

Culture by the seafront

THE SPOTLIGHT will be firmly on Dún Laoghaire for the next few weeks, what with this weekend’s Festival of World Cultures and its Mountains to Sea Book Festival from September 10th to 13th.

So it might be a good time to visit the County Hall on Marine Road to look at the plans for a Cultural Centre and Central Library that the council wants to build in Moran Park (the area adjacent to the Pavilion, between the Royal Marine hotel and the Metals, with the bowling green and overgrown pond behind it).

The seafront at Dún Laoghaire has long been a contentious matter, with long-running rows over the future of the disused ferry terminal and the East Pier to Sandycove baths site. But it’s likely that there’ll be a broad welcome for the developments on the Pavilion side of the street: the council is building a linear park on top of the railway line next to the cafés and restaurants – it should be finished by January.

The proposed library and cultural centre, designed by architects Carr Cotter and Naessens, would be a major addition to the town, including an art gallery, meeting rooms, music library with practice facilities, performance space and more, as well as serving as library HQ for the county. It’s on display in the town hall from 10am to 4pm until September 21st (as well as at the council’s Dundrum office).

The East Pier to Sandycove baths site remains to be decided.

Irish Times

Iarnród Éireann says work is progressing on western rail link

IARNRÓD ÉIREANN has denied that a delay in the reopening of the western rail corridor has anything to do with the McCarthy report which claimed the project may not be viable.

The Ennis to Athenry line, which has been derelict since closing in 1976, was expected to reopen this month. However, Iarnród Éireann has now confirmed that services will not start until early December. The company has said the project is progressing, and that no mention has been made to it of the contents of the McCarthy report.

A spokeswoman said the latest delay had occurred because “tamping machinery” operating on the project has had to be seconded to carry out emergency work on the Sligo to Dublin line.

“The track has been laid and the line is complete and we are pressing ahead, although we are a small bit behind schedule. We still have some other work to carry out, for example, we are still completing works on the station and car park at Sixmilebridge.”

Explaining the reason for the delay, she added: “Tamping machines are used to go over the track and stress-test it before we can let trains run on it. There were some issues on the line in Sligo, so these tamping machines had to be diverted there from where they had been working on the Ennis to Athenry line. These machines are now back and working on the line, and we now expect a start date in early December.” The project is the only piece of transport infrastructure mentioned in the McCarthy report, raising fears that it could face the axe. There are also concerns the delay in opening the line has been orchestrated until the Government has decided which elements of the report will be implemented.

Clare Green Party councillor Brian Meaney said: “It would be a gross misuse of funds now not to complete the project when it is already practically complete.

“The issue of public transport links to two of the largest urban centres on the west coast greatly enhances the sustainability and future, both environmentally and economically, of the Limerick-Shannon-Ennis-Galway region.”

A spokesman for the West on Track Community Campaign has accused the author of the McCarthy report of “targeting the west of Ireland”. Colmán Ó Raghallaigh said: “The western rail corridor is a valid and sensible project, is supported by over 100,000 people, can be done at tremendous value to the taxpayer, and will be as viable as any other rail project in Ireland.

“The McCarthy report has chosen to pick one project from the plan that should be axed – the western rail corridor – which is about 1 per cent of the total budget.”

He added: “Colm McCarthy is targeting the west of Ireland and applying his Dublin 4 vision and prejudices to a completely different set of circumstances.”

Irish Times

Between a rock and a goat's place in Waterford

RESIDENTS OF Waterford city’s only high-rise neighbourhood, Bilberry Rock, are a tough breed. The area has a population of just 42, who are broad and stocky, walk on spongy, padded feet, sport long beards, and favour a hairstyle that involves a blonde fringe covering the eyes. The menfolk, known affectionately as “Billies”, are noted for showing off their strength to other males by shaking their heads and butting each other with their long horns, writes MICHAEL PARSONS

It sounds just like a Saturday night on the quays of the southeast’s big port city. But, in fact, Waterford’s famous wild goats never venture downtown these days and are unlikely to come to the attention of gardaí.

However, their head keeper, Martin Doyle, explains that their behaviour during this “rutting season” makes even the wildest bunch of partying “stags” seem tame by comparison. The goats stand facing the wind, fill their lungs to capacity, and then “urinate on to their own faces and noses” before exhaling a scent called “the love potion” to attract females. The odour, which he says “can travel up to six miles”, is “better than any after-shave and while it may not smell good, it’s a great aphrodisiac”.

Doyle (48) is standing on Bilberry Rock, high above the steep banks of the River Suir on a 14-acre commonage that is “home to the world’s only city-centre herd of feral goats”. It’s a far cry from his previous life working on the Orient Express, “looking after royalty and film stars”.

The Bilberry goats, grazing on their windswept summit – which is also a traditional courting spot for local couples – have been a feature of Waterford city life and lore for generations. Local people believe they were originally brought to Ireland by French Huguenots more than 300 years ago, and experts believe the breed is unique. Dr Raymond Werner, an internationally renowned expert on goats, is reported as claiming that the Waterford goats may be related to the central Asian Pashmina Down breed group.

The rock itself is named after a plantation of bilberry bushes laid down in the 18th century by a local apothecary who used the berries for medicinal purposes. At the end of the 1990s the wildlife habitat was threatened when plans were drawn up to build a housing estate on the land. The local community fought back and in the ensuing court and Bord Pleanála battles, the goats were represented by their own law firm – David Morris Co solicitors of Clonmel – a first in Irish legal history. As Doyle puts it: “Bord Pleanála ruled that a feral goat herd was incompatible with a housing estate.”

Since then, the developer’s plans have been shelved and the council has relented. The Bilberry Goat Heritage Trust has been established and the future of the goats seems secure.

Doyle expects more than “2,500 people to visit the site on Gracedieu Road during this week’s Heritage Week promotion. Among those visiting yesterday were Ian and Eimer Cheevers and their two sons, Jack (10), who said “I really like it; I love the goats and the scenery“; and Sam (4), who liked their “funny horns”.

Among the infectiously enthusiastic volunteer workers were Alberto Soteldo (29), a Venezuelan living in the nearby village of Kilmeaden, who “wanted to do something different” and finds the project “amazing and unique”. Mark Condon (12) spent his last summer before going to secondary school helping out and “really enjoyed it”.

The trust hopes to revive the lost tradition of goats’ cheese-making in Waterford and next year there will be 20 milking females producing 40kg of cheese a week. It believes that Bilberry Goats’ Cheese, once a Waterford delicacy like the city’s famous blaa (a type of bread-roll), could become a “luxury food item which would be sold in top-range shops and even be exported to Harrods”.

Irish Times

Application to build gas-fired power station at Ferbane

AN APPLICATION has been lodged with An Bord Pleanála for a €300 million 325 megawatt gas-fired power station in Ferbane, Co Offaly.

The application by Offaly-based Lumcloon Energy, which plans to feed into the national grid at peak times as a back-up to wind energy, could create 50 jobs.

The proposed plant would operate on the site of the former ESB peat-burning Ferbane power station, which was demolished in 2002.

Lumcloon Energy applied to the Commission on Energy Regulation in 2008. It is hoping to be granted a licence this year.

Lumcloon Energy spokesman John Gallagher said the plant would create 500 jobs during construction and a further 50 permanent positions on completion.

“The hope is that the planning process will be dealt with by the end of this year or early in next year. Construction should take about two years; by 2012 we should be ready.”

The plant will consist of two generating units – a flexible unit consisting of two gas turbines and one steam turbine and a smaller simple-cycle unit. The simple-cycle unit is a reserve/peaking unit to support wind energy power plants in the event of a rapid fall-off in wind generation.

Lumcloon Energy says the plant will also be the first to use a new, more efficient design for condensing steam produced at the plant back into water.

The proposed plant has been specifically designed to support the Government’s plans to develop renewable energy.

As the Government plans to generate 40 per cent of Ireland’s energy from wind by 2020, the plant has been designed for quick back-up in case of energy shortages due to calm weather, said Mr Gallagher.

The proposal has been met with approval locally. “We have held a number of consultations and briefing meetings over a year, and there has been strong support locally,” said Mr Gallagher.

Local councillor Eamon Dooley (FF) welcomed the proposed site.

“The site they have there was already an industrial site and it is going to be a lot cleaner then what we had there before.”

He said although the introduction of a gas pipeline from Athlone was of concern to a small number of landowners, the general consensus was positive.

Irish Times

Monday 24 August 2009

Twinlite to build over 200 apartments in Mount Argus scheme

Building firm Twinlite Developments expects to start work on more than 200 apartments at Mount Argus in Dublin early next year after receiving planning approval.

Dublin City Council has granted permission for the development of five apartment blocks at the former Passionist monastery. The blocks will range in height from two to six storeys, and Twinlite is also building a community centre on the site.

Rick Larkin, director of Twinlite, said that the firm expected to go ahead with the development at Mount Argus despite the poor economic environment and an oversupply of apartments in the capital. He said there was proven demand for quality apartments that were well-priced.

The Mount Argus apartments will all have their own balconies or roof terraces, and the development will include a basement car park with 309 spaces and 227 bicycle spaces. It will also incorporate more than 1,000 square metres of solar panels.

Twinlite bought the 5.7 acre Mount Argus site in March last year for about €20 million. As well as the apartment blocks, it has sought permission to develop a mixture of apartments, duplexes and townhouses in the 1860s monastery building. The firm has to keep the facade of the building, but has met opposition to the development.

The company is also waiting on a ruling from An Bord Pleanála on its plans for a €100million indoor ski resort and sports centre.

The plan to build Snowtopia at Tyrrelstown in Dublin was rejected by Fingal County Council earlier this year, but Twinlite appealed to An Bord Pleanála, which is due to decide by September 8.

Larkin said that Twinlite was ready to ‘‘press ahead’’ with the Snowtopia development if it was granted planning permission. He said that the firm had already agreed funding from a number of foreign banks, and it should not be affected by the credit crunch.

However, he said that the company, which is behind the 2,000-unitTyrrelstown scheme, had cut costs in a number of areas in response to the downturn. It has recently taken back the running of its Park Plaza hotel in Tyrrelstown from management firm Hotel Partners to save money.

‘‘The hotel business is very, very difficult - and we are suffering like anyone else,” said Larkin. Twinlite also has developments in London, which will be ‘‘the centre of the business’’ in the future.

‘‘Prices got totally out of hand in Dublin,” he said. New figures for Twinlite’s building contracting company show a 41 per cent fall in turnover to €11.7 million in the 12 months to the end of August 2008.The firm made a pre-tax profit of €234,000, but said it was ‘‘difficult to determine the financial impact’’ of the economic downturn and credit crunch.

Sunday Business Post

Aldi's Finglas development vetoed

Retailer Aldi has been refused permission for an apartment development in Dublin's Finglas because it did not submit adequate drainage information, meaning the scheme would be "prejudicial to public health" and "contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area".

Aldi planned to develop 90 apartments and a creche on the three acres it owns at the former Premier Dairies site opposite Clearwater shopping centre.

Sunday Tribune

Taoiseach's brother's power plan is fast tracked

AN BORD Pleanála is to fast-track a planning application for a €350m power station in Co Offaly, which is backed by the Taoiseach's younger brother, Barry Cowen, after ruling that the project was a strategic infrastructure development.

The move means that the project could receive planning approval within months. It comes as industry sources indicated that Japanese conglomerate Mitsui may be interested in acquiring a stake in the company behind the plans, Lumcloon Energy.

Lumcloon is backed by Irish engineering firms R&R Mechanical and Terotech International.

Sunday Tribune

Sunday 23 August 2009

The latest act at Smock Alley

ARCHAEOLOGY IS RARELY used for marketing purposes, but there has been such excitement about the discovery of remnants of Dublin’s Smock Alley Theatre that promoter Patrick Sutton is shamelessly employing it as a fund-raising tool to “reinstate” this famous playhouse on its original site, writes FRANK McDONALD Environment Editor

Reinstatement would be impossible, however, as there are three different versions of Smock Alley. The largest and most complete is the shell of SS Michael and John’s Church, where archaeologist Linzi Simpson and her team have unearthed the base walls of two earlier theatres, the oldest dating from 1662.

They have found pieces of mosaic flooring, clay pipes, wig curlers and oyster shells, all testifying to the importance of the theatre in Dublin life, but most importantly the physical evidence showing where the earlier playhouses were located. And Sutton, who is director of the Smock Alley Project, is bowled over by it all.

SMOCK ALLEY WAS only the second theatre to be licensed in Dublin after the restoration of King Charles II (the first was located in Werburgh Street). In one form or another, it continued attracting theatregoers throughout the 18th century – with no less than four separate entrances for different social classes.

All the great actors of the era, including David Garrick and Peg Woffington, performed in Smock Alley, frequently to raucous audiences whose members smoked thin clay pipes, ate lots of oysters and quite possibly threw the shells at actors who incurred their disapproval.

Riots were not uncommon.

“Playgoing in 18th-century Ireland was, at the best of times, a noisy, boisterous contact sport, a public bear pit in which servants, parliamentarians, butchers, Trinity students, haberdashers and ‘ladies of quality’ debated art, sex, politics and fashion,” according to Dr Chris Morash of NUI Maynooth.

In his book, A History of Irish Theatre , 1601-2000 , he brings Smock Alley to life in a series of colourful vignettes that capture the public mood perfectly at different times.

“You could become completely addicted to historical accounts of it in the 18th century – all the duels and the riots,” says archaeologist Linzi Simpson. Amid the damp soil, almost bog-like to walk on because of seepage from the River Liffey, she points to the red-brick wall that survives from the original theatre and how it is bisected by the curved stone wall of the second Smock Alley, forming a curious double-horseshoe shape, all within the shell of the third.

It was this theatre, built in 1735, that later became a mere whiskey store and was acquired for conversion into the first purpose-built Catholic church in Dublin in 1812. Only its facades to Lower Exchange Street on the riverfront and Essex Street West to the rear were altered for church use.

ACCORDING TO SIMPSON , who works with archaeological consultants Margaret Gowen and Co Ltd, the roof was raised to accommodate a very fine Regency Gothic ceiling for the new church.

This was one of the features that conservationists managed to save when the building was converted for the ill-fated Viking Adventure centre. This extravagant project by Temple Bar Properties, costing nearly £6 million (€7.7 million), also incorporated the adjoining boys’ and girls’ schools, west and east of the church, respectively. The Gothic-style boys’ school was hollowed out completely to provide a circulation area between levels of the indoor Viking theme park.

At the time, in the mid-1990s, architects Gilroy McMahon argued that their interventions in the former church and school buildings were “totally reversible” – including the insertion of an intermediate floor that obliterated any sense of the impressive volume of SS Michael and John’s and drew visitors too close to its ceiling.

The gallery of the church was taken out, although pledges were made that it would be salvaged and stored for future use, if required.

Nearly 15 years later, nobody seems to know where it is, or whether any of it still exists. Like so many other elements of old Dublin, about which similar promises were made, it has disappeared.

After Dublin Tourism’s ill-fated Viking Adventure closed in 2002, Temple Bar Properties sought proposals for the complex. The one eventually approved came from Smock Alley Ltd, which proposed reinstating the theatre use – with limited bar facilities – and providing a new premises for the Gaiety School of Acting.

Patrick Sutton, who is also director of the Gaiety School of Acting, says the second phase of his plans for Smock Alley would involve carving out a U-shaped balcony from the concrete intermediate floor inserted in the mid-1990s; the removal of much of this floor would at least reinstate the volume, if not the fabric, of the building.

But the second phase is critically dependent on raising sufficient money – €8 million altogether, of which something over €4 million has been banked so far. This funding gap means that the offensive intermediate floor would be retained in its entirety, with a theatre slotted in underneath as an interim arrangement.

“The plans are to reinstate – for Dublin, Ireland and the world – the Smock Alley Theatre on its original site,” Sutton says. “We’ve tracked the DNA of the building, the heart and soul of what we have here, and fully realise its international significance. But if you ask if we’ll be doing a mock-up, the answer is no – nor should we be.” It can’t, in any case, be a reinstatement of the theatre itself, since there are three versions to choose from and not a single drawing that survives – other than the footprint on John Rocque’s 1756 plot-by-plot map of Dublin, on which it is shown as the Theatre Royal. All that can be reinstated, therefore, is the original use.

‘THIS PLACE HAS no business becoming anything other than what it’s going to become,” Sutton says emphatically. “We’re on a journey here and we’ve had good support, even in the current economic climate.” The Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism has put up €3.8 million, and this has been supplemented by private donors.

“We’re moving forward to complete phase one by the end of 2010, creating a performance space by putting a temporary slab over the archaeological layers,” he explains. In the longer term, assuming more money can be raised, it may be possible to incorporate glazed panels in the floor, through which these layers can be seen.

Just back from the US, Sutton has registered the Smock Alley Foundation in Delaware as a vehicle to raise tax-deductible donations from Irish-Americans who want to “put something back into the homeland”. He says he’ll “go over with a clay pipe, red brick and mosaic from Smock Alley and touch them for it”.

His plans for the former boys’ school is to turn its shell into “potentially one of the finest venues in the country” – certainly, the most unusual. It would be a theatre without any seats; instead, the audience would be standing on the gently-rising ramps, leaning on the guard-rails for support – much like Dublin GAA supporters on Hill 16.

The former girls’ school, which currently houses the Cultivate Centre (which is moving), is to be renovated as a new home for the Gaiety School of Acting – now restyled as the National Theatre School of Ireland – which is currently based in Meeting House Square; sadly, this would remove the square’s only lively weekday use.

Like Harry Crosbie, Sutton believes that people want to be entertained during a recession. He wants to “stir things up”, just as the Sheridan brothers did in the Project Arts Centre during the 1980s. And one of the things he finds so compelling about Smock Alley is that “you can smell the soul of theatre in this place”.

Smock Alley Evolution Of A Building

1662 First Smock Alley Theatre opens on Essex Street West

1670: Original building collapses and is replaced by larger horseshoe-shaped theatre

1735 Third theatre built on the same site

1812 Building converted to SS Michael and John’s Church

1829 Church is the first in Dublin to ring its bells for Catholic Emancipation

1988 Church closed by the Archdiocese of Dublin

1991 Property acquired by Temple Bar Properties (TBP)

1995 Church and its two schools converted to Viking Adventure

2002 Viking Adventure closes

2003 TBP (now Temple Bar Cultural Trust) seeks proposals for use of complex

2005 Proposal by Smock Alley Ltd to convert the church into a theatre and provide premises for Gaiety School of Acting approved

2008 An Bord Pleanála confirms Dublin City Council’s decision to grant planning permission for the proposed development.

Frank McDonald
Irish Times

Thursday 20 August 2009

'Spectacular' tower lights for Opera House at Wexford

THE WEXFORD skyline is to be changed by a new lighting system to be installed on the fly tower of Wexford Opera House.

The lighting system, described as a “spectacular lighting feature” was commissioned through the Per Cent for Art Scheme by the Office of Public Works (OPW), which is overseeing the project at the €30 million opera house on High Street.

The artwork, entitled Liquid Mountain , was created by Limerick artist Andrew Kearney, who won the €65,000 commission, and will be unveiled on September 25th, to mark the closing of the inaugural Wexford Culture Night.

Mr Kearney hopes his creation will be “a cultural and architectural hub, viewed by residents and visitors alike from various traditional vantage points”.

It has been described by the arts department of Wexford County Council as “a spectacular lighting feature” and “a ground-breaking 21st-century art commission . . . that will change the Wexford skyline forever”. The Liquid Mountain will consist of 16 LED floodlight units.

Ciarán McGahon of the OPW said they would have a very low energy consumption and would not have too great an impact on the opera house’s electricity bill.

The power source for the lighting system will be laid within the roof space of the opera house. The system can be accessed through a web browser, enabling particular sequences of light for special occasions, such as the opening of the opera festival.

Mr McGahon said that an anemometer – a device that is used for measuring wind speed – on the roof of the opera house will monitor the variations in wind activity.

This information will then be processed by the lighting system, which will change colours with the variations in the weather.

Elizabeth Rose-Browne, press officer with Wexford Festival Opera, said preparatory work for the installation of Liquid Mountain is expected to begin at the opera house at the beginning of next week.

Irish Times

Green light given to extend BurrenLife project

THE BURRENLIFE project has received a late reprieve after the European Commission extended the project’s work for a further five months.

The work of the BurrenLife group – which is putting in place a blueprint for the future development of farming on the Burren – was due to expire on August 31st next.

However, project director Dr Brendan Dunford confirmed yesterday that the commission had given the green light for the extension of the project to January.

Dr Dunford said that the extension was vital for BurrenLife to complete its work.

Recently, Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith announced that farmers in the Burren were to receive €3 million to implement the practices developed by BurrenLife across the Burren over a three-year period from 2010.

The EU conservation programme has been in place for the last five years and has identified the central importance of the farmer and the cow in the conservation of the Burren.

Dr Dunford said yesterday: “There has been a tremendous amount of research collated over the past five years and it is our job to bring that data together now.

Dr Dunford said the data will form the blueprint for future farming in the Burren.

Since 2005, the project’s work has centred on 20 farms covering 3,000 hectares in the Burren and Dr Dunford said that the aim was roll this out to 700 farms across 72,000 hectares from 2010.

The chairman of Burren IFA, Michael Davoren, said yesterday: “We are absolutely thrilled that the scheme has got an extension. BurrenLife has done wonderful work over the past 4½ years and we are hopeful now that the scheme can be rolled out across the Burren.”

The importance of the farmer and the cow to the Burren was first recognised by the State six years ago when the Department of the Environment hired a herd of cattle to conserve the site of the iconic 5,800-year-old Poulnabrone dolmen.

Dr Dunford said: “The pilot project posed the questions and now we have the answers and with the various legal designations on the Burren landscape and a possible World Heritage site designation, all of that in the future will be contingent on the work BurrenLife does.”

He cited a recent study which shows that 88 per cent of Burren farmers are positive about the impact of BurrenLife.

He was hopeful that the Department of the Environment would provide the funding to allow the administration and research for the spending of €3 million over the three years from 2010-2012.

For some years scientists have been reassessing their views on what influences in the past, whether natural or man-made, made the Burren as we know it today.

The long-held view was that the action of glaciers was the only influence that created the moon-like landscape seen in some parts of the Burren.

However, research by Prof Michael O’Connell, of the palaeoenvironmental research unit in NUI Galway’s school of natural sciences and botany, conducted research which showed that there had been extensive grazing activity across much of the Burren.

Cattle, not glaciers, cleared the rough limestone landscape of surface vegetation.

In addition, there had been extensive open pine forest cover in the north Burren west of Ballyvaughan

For some years it was argued that livestock should be kept off the Burren in order to protect rare species of flowers such as the gentian. Researchers showed however that scrub bushes will quickly colonise and overwhelm areas where there are no cattle or sheep to eat these plants as they sprout.

Irish Times

Architects complain over ESB competition

THE ROYAL Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) has lodged a formal complaint with the European Commission over the conditions set by the ESB for an international architectural competition to redevelop its headquarters on Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin.

In a letter to the commission, RIAI director John Graby says a “huge percentage” of architectural practices in Ireland and throughout the EU were excluded from the competition by a condition specifying a minimum fee income of €2.5 million a year.

Noting that the ESB is 95 per cent-owned by the Government, he says the RIAI is “concerned to ensure, particularly given the scale and national importance of this project, that the public interest is best served by ensuring that the contest is as competitive and transparent as possible”.

The complaint is being pursued even though several Irish practices – all affiliated with the RIAI – were included in the shortlist to go forward to the detailed design stage. These include Gilroy McMahon, Grafton Architects, Henry J Lyons and Partners, OMS and Scott Tallon Walker.

Mr Graby’s letter, which notes that the RIAI is the regulatory body for professionally qualified architects in Ireland, complains that aspects of the ESB’s design contest are in breach of EU procurement rules – not least the €2.5 million “entry bar”, which it describes as “exclusionary”.

The letter says fee-income information for 2008 provided to the RIAI by 450 Irish practices shows that only a small number generate an annual turnover of more than €1 million. It estimates that only six practices generate a turnover of €2.5 million.

The RIAI maintains that EU directives requiring “clear, proportionate and non-discriminatory selection criteria” are being breached and that the composition of the jury and two-step decision-making process chosen by the ESB “are in breach of the fundamental principles of transparency and equal treatment”.

It is anticipated that three winners will be selected by the jury, chaired by ESB chairman Lochlann Quinn, by the end of November and they will then be “invited to participate in a negotiated procedure leading to the award of a follow-up architectural services contract” to design the headquarters.

Mr Graby’s complaint notes that the RIAI outlined its concerns in a letter to the ESB and that the institute’s president, Seán O’Laoire, met Mr Quinn to discuss the matter but the ESB subsequently indicated the rules would not be changed.

Irish Times

Wednesday 19 August 2009

Councillors feel shift in powers is needed

SOME 93 per cent of councillors believe there must be a rebalancing of powers between county managers and public representatives, according to a survey conducted by two Fianna Fáil Senators.

But less than half of councillors surveyed would support the introduction of directly elected mayors.

The results of the Joint Survey on Local Government Reform and Directly Elected Mayors, carried out by Senators Jim Walsh and Mark Daly, found that 49 per cent of cross-party councillors would support directly elected mayors.

Questionnaires were sent to all councillors before the local elections in June and 37 per cent responded. A report on the results of the survey were circulated to councillors in recent days.

City or county managers perform the executive functions of the council and, according to 81 per cent of councillors, have too much power. And 93 per cent of councillors said there was a need to rebalance the power of county managers and elected representatives.

The report on the survey stated that the strong response stemmed from “the lack of political responsibility and accountability afforded to county managers”.

It said many councillors felt they, as democratically elected representatives of the people, should be the ones to hold the power.

“It is the councillors who pay the price for bad management of council business. Many councillors feel that their hands are tied in their efforts to effect real beneficial and meaningful change within the system,” the report said.

Mr Walsh said yesterday they would be discussing the results of the survey with Minister for the Environment John Gormley.

“There has been a tendency not to devolve powers to local government, that needs to be looked at,” he said. “There is also a complete imbalance of power within councils, with a lot of executive decisions being made by city and county managers. The democratic mandate must be respected.”

Irish Times

Quality of water off Irish coast improves

WATER QUALITY in Irish coastal areas and estuaries is showing significant improvement, according to a British scientific journal.

A report for the Marine Pollution Bulletin by three scientists attached to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that dissolved oxygen conditions in a number of estuaries “continue to improve”.

This is “probably” due to more extensive municipal waste-water treatment, the authors, Shane O’Boyle, Georgina McDermott and Robert Wilkes, say.

They single out Castletown estuary in Dundalk, the Lee estuary and Lough Mahon in Cork city and the Liffey estuary in Dublin as showing the benefits of such treatment.

The survey of 95 areas around the coast from Lough Swilly in Donegal to Dundalk bay represents “the most comprehensive overview to date” of oxygen conditions in Irish estuarine and nearshore coastal waters, the authors say.

Testing at 533 monitoring stations was conducted over four years between 2003 and 2007.

Of the 95 water bodies surveyed, 85 had sufficient level of oxygen to support aquatic life. These 85 corresponded to a surface area of 3,125sq km.

Some 10 areas, representing a surface area of just over 20 sq km, were found to be deficient in oxygen but were still able to support aquatic life. No evidence of hypoxia or anoxia was found by the team.

This contrasts with a global increase in seasonally-persistent hypoxic zones due to declining dissolved oxygen levels associated with coastal pollution.

The authors challenge a report published in the US journal Science last year which claimed that coastal pollution had created 20 “dead zones” or hypoxic areas around the Irish coast.

That assessment, which relied on data from the Ospar Commission, the northeast Atlantic marine environment body, is “in no way supported by the observations presented here”, the Marine Pollution Bulletin contributors state.

Improved waste-water treatment, licensing of industrial emissions and closure of older more polluting industries has had a positive impact, the authors say.

Over 80 per cent of discharges in 2006 received secondary treatment at least, according to the EPA, compared to only 21 per cent of discharges between 2000 and 2001.

However, they also note that another report in 2006 noted that a quarter of discharges to Irish surface waters from agglomerations with a population of 500 people or over received no treatment or only “very basic” treatment.

They predict that the situation is “expected to improve significantly”, and oxygen deficiency may be eliminated altogether from the coast as a result of measures associated with the EU nitrate and urban waste-water treatment directives, and the Water Framework directive.

The study has been welcomed by Dr Brendan O’Connor, director of Aqua-fact, a Galway-based environmental consultancy.

“This is a very comprehensive factual study,” he told The Irish Times .

“Ireland could be the envy of many highly-industrialised countries if we continue in this direction, and we just have to be watchful and ensure we continue to implement legislation and support regular monitoring.

“If we can also improve our freshwater quality we should see great benefits with our groundwater supplies – groundwater being our ‘oil’ resource,” Dr O’Connor says.

Irish Times

Tuesday 18 August 2009

Squares are cool at city's new venue

It's recycling on a whole new scale - shipping containers will be used to build a new public space beside the capital's O2 music venue.

The site - to be called the Parlour - will form part of the Point Village development near Dublin Port. It will be used to host free outdoor events - including concerts, theatre, céilis, political rallies and a weekly produce market. A giant screen to show movies and sports events will also feature.

Dublin City Council said that temporary planning permission of up to five years would be sought and that it was expected to be completed early next summer. The cost would be minimal.

"There's not going to be development there for some time in the current climate and the purpose of this is to animate a space that would otherwise be lying there unused" - said a council spokesman. "This is a huge opportunity with a new Luas terminating at the site and will give that whole side of the city a new space."

Architects LiD Architecture have won a design competition organised by Dublin City Council and entrepreneur Harry Crosbie, owner of the O2, which will see 116 shipping containers arranged in a giant square at the front of the venue and which will include a staging area.

"The Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland, which chose the design from a number of submitted concepts, said the design showed high levels of flexibility, adaptability and toughness."

The Irish Independent

Marine Survey of Special Protection and Conservation Areas to commence

A series of surveys of Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPA) have commenced around the Irish coast.

The surveys are being carried out in order to facilitate the Government in meeting its obligation to develop management plans for a number SACs for habitats and SPAs for birds. The management plans will identify a range of conservation objectives which will, subsequently, be used to inform the conservation status of a particular site. In addition, licensed activities in these sites must be assessed in light of the conservation objectives.

The Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Food has directed that the Marine Institute - in cooperation with the National Parks and Wildlife Service ( NPWS) and Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) - commission a series of surveys of a number of SAC and SPA sites over the next three years.

This year’s surveys will be carried out throughout the months of August and September 2009. The sites have been selected on the basis of licensing needs for both fisheries and aquaculture. The surveys will constitute seabed investigations (grab, core and video sampling) of both inter-tidal and sub-tidal habitats and will likely encompass both licensed and unlicensed seabed areas. It is expected that additional European sites will be surveyed over the next number of years.

For further information on the surveys, contact Francis O'Beirn at the Marine Institute - Tel: 091 387 200 or Email:

Cycle and the City

450 new dublin-bikes will be available on Dublin streets to Dubliners and visitors to the city from the morning of 13th September 2009.

They will be free to hire for the first 30 minutes of each journey. The bikes are supplied to the City as part of a contract that Dublin City Council signed with JCDecaux in 2006, that will also see public information campaigns, advertising and new signposting to city centre amenities.

The City Council awarded a 15-year contract to JCDecaux to provide 450 bicycles and maintain them at 40 separate locations in the city, to provide civic information panels to Dublin City Council for public information campaigns and to provide a 'way finding' signposting scheme to help give people directions to different amenities in the city.

The three elements are to be delivered in return for JCDecaux having the use of public space to erect advertising stations - each of which was subject to an individual planning application. Planning permission was granted for 72 advertising stations and 66 are in place. JCDecaux have also removed 100 existing billboards in the city, as part of the contract.

“We expect the bikes to be very popular and Dubliners and visitors to the city, alike, will benefit from the new directional signs to city centre amenities” - said John Tierney, Dublin City Manager. “The advertising stations have been in operation since September 2008 and have been used by Dublin City Council for a variety of public information campaigns - including litter reduction and water conservation.”

The advertising element of the scheme has become even more valuable to the City Council in the light of the directive from the Department of Finance that the Council should reduce its annual advertising spend by 50%. This scheme allows the City Council to advertise various services and projects without incurring any costs whatsoever.

Public information campaigns are already planned for as far ahead as August next year. The current value of the JCDecaux contract with the council - over 15 years - is:

- The dublinbikes cycle scheme € 26,791,000
- Communications System (Civic Information) €23,464,000
- Way finding System €4,106,000

€ 54,361,000

It should be noted that the contract will be delivered at no risk to Dublin City Council. The council examined the provision of a bike scheme some 10 years ago, but did not proceed with the scheme due to prohibitive costs.

Cycle and the City

450 new dublin-bikes will be available on Dublin streets to Dubliners and visitors to the city from the morning of 13th September 2009.

They will be free to hire for the first 30 minutes of each journey. The bikes are supplied to the City as part of a contract that Dublin City Council signed with JCDecaux in 2006, that will also see public information campaigns, advertising and new signposting to city centre amenities.

The City Council awarded a 15-year contract to JCDecaux to provide 450 bicycles and maintain them at 40 separate locations in the city, to provide civic information panels to Dublin City Council for public information campaigns and to provide a 'way finding' signposting scheme to help give people directions to different amenities in the city.

The three elements are to be delivered in return for JCDecaux having the use of public space to erect advertising stations - each of which was subject to an individual planning application. Planning permission was granted for 72 advertising stations and 66 are in place. JCDecaux have also removed 100 existing billboards in the city, as part of the contract.

“We expect the bikes to be very popular and Dubliners and visitors to the city, alike, will benefit from the new directional signs to city centre amenities” - said John Tierney, Dublin City Manager. “The advertising stations have been in operation since September 2008 and have been used by Dublin City Council for a variety of public information campaigns - including litter reduction and water conservation.”

The advertising element of the scheme has become even more valuable to the City Council in the light of the directive from the Department of Finance that the Council should reduce its annual advertising spend by 50%. This scheme allows the City Council to advertise various services and projects without incurring any costs whatsoever.

Public information campaigns are already planned for as far ahead as August next year. The current value of the JCDecaux contract with the council - over 15 years - is:

- The dublinbikes cycle scheme € 26,791,000
- Communications System (Civic Information) €23,464,000
- Way finding System €4,106,000

€ 54,361,000

It should be noted that the contract will be delivered at no risk to Dublin City Council. The council examined the provision of a bike scheme some 10 years ago, but did not proceed with the scheme due to prohibitive costs.

Outrage as runway extension into sea approved

A CONTROVERSIAL decision to grant planning permission for an airport extension through a protected maritime habitat has prompted outrage from objectors.

Sligo County Council has granted permission for the 285- metre extension to the runway at Sligo Airport into the sea, with 10 conditions attached.

But opponents of the plan warned yesterday that the development, across an environmentally sensitive area of wetland that is protected under the EU Habitats' Directive, could land the taxpayer with substantial fines. They are seeking justification for the €10m development which will not result in any larger planes being able to land.

John McDermott, spokesperson for the Dorrin's and Cummeen Strand Conservation Group (DCCG), described the decision as "simply outrageous" and said that the group would be appealing it to An Bord Pleanala.


"There is no doubt but that we are appealing this, all the way to the Supreme Court and Europe if necessary. We are absolutely shocked as all the evidence that we have suggests that this development is totally illegal and that it cannot happen because it is happening in a protected area.

"We believe this decision has exposed the taxpayer to enormous fines from Europe," he said.

Mr McDermott argued that the application had failed to meet two conditions required to justify building on a protected area. They had not shown that there were no alternatives and they had not proven an overriding need for the development.

"Clearly there are alternatives to building on Dorrin's Strand. We would also say that whatever about justifying such a development during the Celtic Tiger years, there is no justification now.

"Our information is that the planes are routinely half full or less," he said.

He added that the extension through the sheltered bay of Dorrin's Strand, an important wildfowl habitat and the location of thriving shellfish farm, would create new channels of water, which could threaten access to the picturesque Coney Island.

"There is no doubt that the construction will have a major impact," added Mr McDermott.

Sligo Airport currently hosts two daily flights to Dublin. Aer Arann flights to and from Manchester were abandoned earlier this year.

The airport authority, which aims to double the present number of 50,000 passengers per year, has argued that the extension to the existing runway on land reclaimed from the foreshore is a necessary development to ensure the airport's future.

Sligo Airport manager Joe Corcoran described it as a positive decision but added it was only the first step towards delivering the project.

Chairman of the board, Albert Higgins expressed his delight that planning permission had been received.

"It has been a very vigorous application. It has taken a long time to adjudicate. We are confident that we have looked into everything," he said.

In November 2002 passengers and crew on board a Celtic Airways flight were forced to evacuate down emergency ladders after the aircraft skidded off the runway, and came to a halt with its nose in the sea.

In its report, the Aviation Authority pointed to the lack of an adequate over run area and made a number of safety recommendations.

Anita Guidera
Irish Independent

Monday 17 August 2009

Environment office to close

THE ENFO office in Dublin, which provides environmental information to the public, is to be closed by the Department of the Environment next month.

A spokesman for the department said the office, which is on St Andrew Street in the city centre, and is Enfo’s only premises, is being closed as part of a “restructuring” of the services.

Enfo provides information on the environment and climate change and on Irish and European law as it applies to these areas.

The building had held the State’s only public library dedicated to the environment. The department spokesman said the service was moving to more online internet based delivery and that much of the information was already available online.

Irish Times

ESB names architects shortlisted to design new Dublin headquarters

SOME OF Ireland’s leading architects as well as several well-known international names have been shortlisted to prepare detailed designs for the redevelopment of the ESB’s headquarters on Lower Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin.

The selection includes Grafton Architects, who won the 2008 World Building of the Year award for their Bocconi University faculty building in Milan; they entered into partnership with O’Mahony Pike Architects, who have designed some of Dublin’s best apartment buildings.

Also on the shortlist is Gilroy McMahon Architects, headed by Des McMahon, who was responsible for the redevelopment of Croke Park and is currently preparing plans to replace Liberty Hall; his collaborators for the ESB competition are Henry J Lyons and Partners.

Scott Tallon Walker, one of Ireland’s longest-established architectural firms, has also been selected. It appears on the shortlist in its own right, as it did not need to find partners to fulfil the ESB’s stipulation that entrants must have a turnover of at least €2.5 million a year.

This “entry bar” was the most controversial condition in the competition, as it effectively excluded most Irish architects unless they teamed up with other practices. It was strongly criticised by their professional body, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland.

OMS Architects, formerly known as Ó Muiré Smyth, found partners in Copenhagen-based 3XN Architects to meet the ESB’s condition, and they have jointly made the shortlist. A daring design by 3XN recently won an international competition for the Museum of Liverpool.

Other big names from abroad on the ESB’s shortlist are Skidmore Owings and Merrill, designers of numerous high-rise buildings including the Sears Tower in Chicago, and Rafael Vinóly, who is masterplanning the Battersea power station site in London for Treasury Holdings.

The shortlist also includes a joint submission by London-based BDP Architects, who has an office in Dublin, and Dixon Jones, who are chiefly known for their cultural projects. Another joint entry consists of London architects and space planners DEGW and engineers BDSP Ltd.

The ESB received a total of 44 submissions from more than 60 Irish and international practices, including a number of joint entries, as part of the initial phase of the competition.

Those on the shortlist have until November to prepare detailed designs for the Fitzwilliam Street site.

The company said it anticipated that three “winners” would be announced in early 2010. It will then be up to the ESB’s board to decide how to proceed with the project, which would provide a new headquarters containing at least 35,000sq m of office space.

The jury that selected the shortlist was chaired by ESB chairman Lochlann Quinn.

Irish Times

Artefacts found at historic theatre site

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have discovered artefacts and part of the original Smock Alley theatre (then known as the Smoke Alley theatre) in Dublin’s Temple Bar.

The original Smoke Alley theatre, which dates from 1662, was the first theatre in Dublin to secure a royal patent, issued following Oliver Cromwell’s death. It would have been where English actor and theatre manager David Garrick (1717-1779) staged his version of Hamlet.

The theatre also staged works by Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816), whose father, Thomas, was the theatre’s manager.

Through connections with Covent Garden in London the theatre thrived and was remodelled a number of times before it was rebuilt in 1735. In later years the site was home to a Catholic church, SS Michael and John’s, and the Dublin Viking Experience.

Sections of the building dating from each period were discovered in the archaeological excavation which is being completed as part of an €8 million plan to reopen the building as a theatre complex, including a main theatre, a studio and rooms for the training of actors.

Commenting on the discoveries yesterday, Patrick Sutton, director of the Gaiety School of Acting and the Smock Alley project, said what had been found was “not only the original walls of the 1662 building but of some of the walls of the later buildings”. He said a mosaic tiled floor uncovered was “as ornamental and beautiful as anything you would see”. Also recovered were timbers from the theatre’s stage, wine bottles and a man’s wig curler.

The discoveries, which form a national monument, are being recorded in situ before being moved to the National Museum. The excavation, which ended yesterday, will be sealed up on Monday, but it is hoped a permanent exhibition will be incorporated in the completed complex.

Mr Sutton paid tribute to the archaeologist Linzi Simpson, who he said had surprised him with the discovery when he returned from America. He also paid tribute to the Temple Bar Cultural Trust, Dublin City Council and the Department of Arts for their help in bringing the €8 million project along. “We have more than half the funding in place and will be setting up a foundation in the States to get the rest, I am confident it will be done,” he said.

Irish Times

Corrections & Clarifications benefit Dublin City Council

An article in last Friday’s edition, concerning the high-rise plan for the Carlton site in Dublin’s O’Connell Street, stated that An Taisce wanted Dublin City Council reprimanded for granting permission for the development. Dublin City Council approved a plan for an eight-storey building as part of the development but not a 13-storey building. An Bord Pleanála has come out against the eight-storey building.

Irish Times

Marine inquiry launched as Corrib gas vessel hits rocks

THE DEPARTMENT of Transport and Shell EP Ireland have initiated separate investigations into the grounding of a Corrib gas project support vessel off Erris Head in Co Mayo early yesterday.

The 32-metre Flamingo with five people on board ran up on rocks close to Ooghran Point between Erris Head and Ballyglass shortly after 5am.

Weather in the area was not reported to be severe, with a west-southwesterly force five, according to the Irish Coast Guard. It said a small fuel leakage did not constitute a pollution risk. A diesel slick was contained with booms and a skimmer was deployed, according to Shell EP Ireland.

The vessel, which has been contracted from Pacific Blue for the offshore pipelaying work, sought assistance at about 5.15am yesterday.

Two boats close by, including a rigid inflatable, reached the Flamingo before the lifeboat. They assisted along with the Donegal tug Nomad, owned by Sinbad Marine of Killybegs and also hired for the offshore pipelaying.

The vessel was towed to shelter in Broadhaven Bay and diesel fuel was pumped off. Plans were made later to tow it to Killybegs.

The department confirmed that its marine survey office was investigating the circumstances and Shell is conducting its own internal inquiry. A fly-over of the area by the Irish Coast Guard Sligo-based helicopter yesterday afternoon confirmed that there was no serious pollution, but the situation would be “monitored”.

A Shell EP Ireland spokesman said the incident would not delay the continuing work to backfill the trench, which was dug for the offshore section.

The 83km Corrib gas offshore pipeline has been laid from Glengad and through Broadhaven Bay out to the manifold at the Corrib gas field. Hydrotesting of the pipe has been completed, according to the company.

Spills of a chemical additive during testing on July 29th and of a small amount of oil at Glengad late June, have been reported to an environmental consultancy which was commissioned by the department to monitor work.

The consultancy has informed the department that there is “no ecological impact” as a result of the chemical additive spill.

The offshore pipelaying work began in late June amid heavy security, shortly after An Bord Pleanála completed its oral hearing on the planning application into a modified route and compulsory acquisition orders for the onshore pipeline.

The appeals board has deferred a decision until on or before October 23rd, due to the “complex nature” of the application.

Irish Times

Friday 14 August 2009

Employee of Cork hospital opposes private facility nearby

AN OBJECTION has been lodged against the development of a private hospital in Cork by an employee of a neighbouring public facility, the Mercy University Hospital (MUH.)

Graham O’Reilly, employed by the Health Service Executive as shop steward at the MUH, has lodged an appeal with An Bord Pleanála against the development of the €80 million private hospital by Owen O’Callaghan at Lancaster Quay on the Western Road in Cork city centre.

The 100-bed, 140,000 sq ft hospital, to be built at Mr O’Callaghan’s Lancaster Quay hotel and apartment complex, was given the green light by Cork City Council planners last month despite 10 submissions lodged by objectors during the planning process.

Two appeals have been lodged with An Bord Pleanála against the development, one of which has been submitted by Mr O’Reilly.Some 51 signatures from staff and patients at MUH were collected and submitted to Cork City Council in support of Mr O’Reilly’s objection, which was based on arguments against the suitability of the location and the scale and height of the proposed private facility.

The private hospital, which is to be located within walking distance of the MUH, could contribute to traffic congestion that could potentially delay ambulance access to the MUH and as such represents a risk to public safety, according to Mr O’Reilly.

“Existing traffic congestion and the lack of a car park in the area would only be worsened by another hospital so close to the Mercy and could delay AE access,” Mr O’Reilly states in his objection, which was submitted to Cork City Council on June 30th.

Mr O’Reilly says the hospital, which replaces a block of apartments originally planned for the site, would result in a loss of views of a famous Cork landmark, St Finbarr’s Cathedral.

In June, Sheehan Medical announced plans to open a new €90 million private hospital in Mahon, on the eastern outskirts of the city, due to open next spring.

In his submission, Mr O’Reilly questions the need for Mr O’Callaghan’s private hospital, citing the Sheehan development and the close proximity of a planned co-located hospital at Cork University Hospital (CUH). He also claims that the private facilities could result in a two-tier health system.

The plans for the site were lodged in May, and Cork City Council gave the go-ahead for the project at the end of July.

However, conditions were attached to the plan, including a development contribution of close to €1 million.

A second and separate appeal to An Bord Pleanála has been lodged by appellant Kieran Vincent.

Irish Times

Reprimand of council over high-rise Carlton site plan urged by An Taisce

AN TAISCE has called on Minister for the Environment John Gormley to reprimand Dublin City Council for granting permission for the high-rise Carlton development in contravention of statutory plans.

This follows a decision by An Bord Pleanála earlier this week to reject a large number of elements of Chartered Land’s scheme for the 5.5-acre site centred on the old Carlton cinema on O’Connell Street.

The development was approved by the council last December but was appealed to An Bord Pleanála. The board has yet to make its final decision on the project but wrote to Chartered Land last Monday advising that a number of elements were unacceptable.

Chief among these was a 13-storey building topped by a “park in the sky” which the board has told the developers to “omit”. It has also advised them to reduce demolition, reduce heights and use more traditional materials.

The board noted the scheme did not comply with the council’s planning guidelines for the area, which have statutory force. These include the Architectural Conservation Area and Area of Special Planning Control designations.

An Taisce’s heritage officer, Ian Lumley, said this called into question the credibility and competence of the council’s planners who gave permission for the scheme: “The planners and senior management have breached plans which have gone through public consultation and have been voted on by the elected councillors and it’s hard to see how their positions remain tenable.”

The Carlton scheme was just one of a number of “overscaled developments” the council had allowed which were then refused by An Bord Pleanála, he said.

An Taisce was calling on Mr Gormley to use his powers under the planning act to launch an inquiry into the actions of the council and to consider appointing a commissioner to take over the council’s planning functions.

A spokesman for the council said it did not comment on An Bord Pleanála decisions. A spokesman for the Department of the Environment said if Mr Lumley made a submission it would be given consideration.

Other opponents of Chartered Land’s scheme, including the National Heritage and Conservation Group, have welcomed the board’s rejection of the park in the sky.

Irish Times

County Council rejects Brides Head proposals

PLANS FOR a massive sporting development at Brides Head, including three pitches and an all-weather running track, have been dashed as Wicklow County Council rejected the proposals.

The Town Council had high hopes for the state-of-the-art facility having lodged plans with Wicklow County Council in early June. But this week the council refused the application due to concerns over its impact on the environment and the serious traffic hazard it could present. The development would have consisted of three playing fields and ancillary clubhouse facilities. The smaller of the three pitches included a perimeter all weather running track. The main pitch would be floodlit and boast a double sided stand accommodating 150 spectators on one side and 75 spectators on the other.

Car parks would have provided spaces for 180 vehicles, while the clubhouse consisted of eight changing rooms, an officials changing room, a gymnasium and weights room, a bar and function room and a multipurpose sports hall.

However, the planning department had problems with the location of the development on a prominent headland, Brides Head's landscape designation as an area of outstanding natural beauty, the impact it would have on nearby protected structures Wicklow Old Lighthouse and Old Semifore and the lack of adequate visual assessment.

According to the planning department 'It is considered that no proper assessment has been carried out of the impact of the development on the Wicklow Head proposed Natural Heritage Area and Candidate Special Protection Area, and in the absence of such information the development is likely to degrade this important environmentally sensitive area.'

The refusal report also states, 'Inadequate assessment has been submitted to show that the existing road network in the vicinity is adequate to cater for the traffic movements generated by the development, and in the absence of such information the development would represent a traffic hazard.'

Wicklow People

Over €1m for off-road cycling and walking routes in Cork and Limerick

The Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey TD has announced that he is making funding of €932,000 available for the development of a 4.8km off-road cycle and walking route linking Passage West to Rochestown in Cork.

He is also making €150,000 available for a 1,600m off-road cycle track linking Kilmurray with the Schoolhouse Road adjacent to Limerick city.

The aim of this new funding is to encourage more people to think about leaving their cars at home - particularly for short journeys - and to opt to cycle or walk, instead, where possible.

Minister Dempsey said - "These projects are ideal in that they provide safe routes suitable for commuters that can also be used for leisure. We already know that, nationally, over 200,000 people drive less than 4km to work every day. Investing in safe, attractive cycling and walking facilities will help to encourage more people out of their cars, particularly for short journeys.

"This announcement follows the recent success of National Bike Week in June and the announcement of €1.2m in funding for a new walking and cycling network for Carriagline, Co. Cork."

The Minister added - "I am determined to make funding available for good sustainable travel projects such as these right around the country. When you provide safe cycling and walking routes for commuters, they will use them. Investment in cycling and walking infrastructure makes good sense and I plan to announce more funding for other quality sustainable transport projects nationwide in the near future.

"By continuing our investment in high quality public transport and cycling and walking infrastructure, we can make real progress in moving Ireland from our culture of high car dependency."

The new route in Cork will deliver a high-quality cycling connection serving the town of Passage West with a direct cycle link to the city centre, Mahon and Togher employment zones. As this new route will be within the proposed National Heritage Area, it has significant potential as a cycling/walking amenity route. There are a number of primary and post primary schools at either end of the route and the delivery of this path has the potential to encourage more children to walk or cycle to school.

The project in Limerick will serve recreational cyclists (as it completes an existing loop of cycle tracks) and will improve access to the University of Limerick. The new track will give Limerick County Council and local businesses along the proposed route the opportunity to pilot some innovative sustainable travel solutions and to improve the current low cycling levels among the business community in Plassey Park.

The Passage West to Rochestown proposed route will be along a disused rail line that is already in the ownership of the local authority. It has seven different access points and is in an area where cycling and walking for both leisure and commuting will be possible. Depending on how popular this route turns out to be, there is the potential to extend the route to Douglas at a later stage.

30kph limit on quays - if you agree

Dubliners have been asked to comment on a radical proposal to reduce traffic on the quays to a crawl.

The city council wants to impose a 30km/h speed limit on both the north and south quays - which currently have 50km/h limits.

The change would also apply to other city centre routes - including O'Connell Street, D'Olier Street, College Street, College Green, Westmoreland Street and Dame Street.

Authority chiefs say they want to make the centre safer for cyclists and pedestrians. They have already lowered speed limits around most of the shopping and central business areas to 30km/h in 2006. However, they were unable to reduce the speeds on streets that are classified national primary roads, which fall under the control of the National Roads Authority (NRA).

However, legislative amendments made by Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey TD mean that local authorities can now introduce special speed limits on sections of national roads, once the NRA has consented.

City Hall is asking members of the public to make submissions by the end of August on draft speed limit bye-laws, which are currently on display at its road and traffic department on Wood Quay.

Submissions must be made in writing to the Executive Manager, Roads and Traffic Department, Block 2, Floor 6, Civic Offices, Wood Quay, Dublin 8 - before 4.30pm on the 31st of August 2009.

The changes would mean that the entire city area - from the northside's Parnell Street to St Stephen's Green on the southside - would have a maximum limit of 30km/h. The zone would stretch as far as Church Street in the west and Gardiner Street in the east.

Council bosses maintain the change would lead to a significant reduction in road fatalities and serious injuries.

The move comes just as the council brought in a measure to increase the journey times of taxis and buses through the city. Since July 27, only buses and taxis are allowed pass through College Green on weekdays from 7-10am and 4-7pm. Private cars have been banned from the zone in front of Trinity College.

Dublin Bus argued that the so-called 'bus gate' was vital for cutting public transport journey times through the city. Councillors voted 15 to 12 in favour of the bus gate, as part of a €2.1m transport plan aimed at reducing journey times for buses through the capital.

Underwater tunnel highway set to open for traffic next year

The massive tunnel highway being built under the Shannon near Limerick city is ahead of schedule and likely to be open for traffic by September 2010.

It will cut travelling times for thousands of commuters every day - connecting all the main routes along the western corridor between the west, the south and the south west. It will bypass Limerick city.

The tunnel is a key element of Limerick’s new Southern Ring Road, a 9.7km four-lane highway. The tunnel will run for 900m, of which 675m will be under the Shannon.

The tunnel connects the southern side of the Shannon near the cement factory in Mungret, to the northern riverside near the Radisson Hotel on the Ennis Road.

The then transport minister Martin Cullen TD turned the first sod on the tunnel site on October 26, 2006.

Mayor of Limerick Cllr Kevin Kiely, following a visit to the tunnel site, said - "Such is the rate of progress being made, there is a good chance the tunnel will be open ahead of schedule as early as September 2010."

The construction of the tunnel is one of the biggest engineering projects of its kind ever undertaken in Ireland. The road network on either side of the tunnel will include the provision of 11 new access bridges, six underpasses and four interchanges.

The tunnel itself consists of five precast concrete tubes which were made by Austrian specialists, Strabag. They were floated out on to the river and lowered onto foundations which were set on the river bed.

To lay the tunnel foundations, 800,000 tonnes of silt had to be dredged from the river and six million tons of rock placed along the line of the tunnel to stabilise the soft river bed. This work was completed last July and the road builders, Direct Route, have confirmed that mechanical and electrical contractors have been engaged now to start fitting out the tunnel. The work is scheduled to commence immediately.

When open, the tunnel road will be tolled at rates equivalent to other toll routes - with a car rate of around €1.90 and lorries at approximately €4.50.

As well as cutting travel times between the south and south-west to the west and north-west, it is also expected to boost business in the mid-west and help attract more travel business to Shannon.

A spokesman for the National Roads Authority said - "This project is a catalyst for Limerick city and county, Shannon airport and Co Clare - to continue their collective regional growth."

Minister announces the closing of the Sale of Marathon's Corrib Gas Field Shareholding

Mr. Conor Lenihan, TD, Minister of State for Natural Resources has welcomed the entry of a new company into the Irish petroleum market following the sale of Marathon Petroleum Hibernia Limited’s 18.5% interest in the Corrib Gas Field to Vermilion Energy Trust.

Vermillion Energy Trust is a Canadian-based international energy producer with operations in Canada, Europe (France and the Netherlands) and Australia. The companies closed the transaction on Thursday 30 July, 2009.

Minister Lenihan said that the final sale proceeds will range between $235 million and $400 million, subject to the timing of first commercial gas from the Corrib Gas Field.

The Operator - Shell E & P Ireland Ltd - expects first gas to occur during the period between late 2010 and early 2011.

Based on existing published data in relation to the potential size of the Corrib Gas Field and taking current gas prices, it is estimated that Corrib could result in a tax take for the State in the order of €1.7bn.

Wind farms generate record power output

A record was set for the amount of energy generated by Ireland’s wind farms as the percentage of power from wind hit almost 40% during the weekend of 2nd August.

Figures released by EirGrid show that high levels of wind power were recorded on Friday and Saturday, with the output of Ireland’s wind farms peaking at 999MW on Friday (31 July). This was enough to supply over 650,000 homes.

At times over the weekend the amount of power coming from wind farms met 39% of national demand. The figures were recorded at the EirGrid National Control Centre.

Ireland now has over 1,085 Megawatts of installed wind capacity. EirGrid will be upgrading the national grid shortly, which will increase the capacity of the transmission system and enable further large increases in renewable energy.

The company is also developing an interconnector to Britain which will mean that Ireland could become a significant exporter of renewable energy.

"The progress that has been made in connecting wind energy is crucial in meeting national targets for renewable energy, reducing Ireland’s CO2 emissions and reducing our dependency on imported fossil fuels" - an EirGrid spokesman said.

The Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) said Ireland can be a world leader in wind energy which would be worth up to €14 billion to the economy.

Report on the role of Dublin Port and its future published

Minister Noel Dempsey TD has published a study on the future role of Dublin Port.

The study was conducted under the National Development Plan 2007-2013 and contains important conclusions in relation to Dublin Port and the wider port sector.

Speaking on the publication of the report, Minister Dempsey said - “The future of Dublin Port has been the subject of much discussion in recent years. The future of this port is not just a local or regional matter - it is of major strategic importance to the country as a whole. The National Development Plan recognised this fact by providing for this study.

"As a trade dependent island nation we are reliant upon our ports to facilitate economic growth. Notwithstanding the current downturn and its associated effects in terms of decreased traffic volumes, the ports sector is one that demands long-term forward planning and analysis.

"This report is an important analysis - not just of the future of Dublin Port, but also provides a useful insight into the capacity challenges that face the sector as a whole.”

The study highlights the strategic importance of Dublin Port to the economy. Over 40% of national tonnage passes through the port and it plays a particularly important role in terms of fast-moving high value cargos. The port has a 75% market share for roll-on-roll-off trucks (RoRo) and 64% for lift-on-lift-off containers (LoLo). The port is also vital in terms of the State’s energy supply, handling 45% of national oil imports.

Highlights from the study include the following -

* A projection that national port throughput will continue to decline in 2009 and into 2010 and that traffic throughput will not return to 2007 levels until post 2011.
* Traffic projections have been formulated at a time of great uncertainty, but this does not impact on the key conclusions reached.
* There is a need to develop significant additional port capacity by 2025 - 2030 as a result of future capacity constraints in existing port facilities.
* There are two significant projects at different stages of the planning process at present. Dublin Port’s proposed expansion is currently with An Bord Pleanála and the proposal for a new port at Bremore is at the pre-planning stage. The study identifies considerable uncertainties with regard to both projects. It concludes that nothing should be done at a policy level to hinder either.
* The cost benefit analysis of seven different future scenarios identifies potential benefits relating to the relocation or partial relocation of Dublin Port in terms of city sustainability issues arising out of increased urbanisation, greater usage of public transport and a related reduction in congestion.
However, the costs of such a relocation are very significant in terms of the capital costs of building alternative capacity, the inevitable business disruption caused by such a relocation and increased traffic movements.
* An important finding of the cost benefit analysis is in relation to the scale and value of the port estate, if it were to be redeveloped. The study concludes that such redevelopment would have to take place over a considerable length of time, which could realistically reach a century.
* The detailed cost benefit analysis of seven different scenarios concludes that retention of Dublin Port in its present location - together with onsite expansion - would deliver the highest net present value in cost benefit terms.

Minister Dempsey added - “The State ports played a vital role in facilitating the strong economic growth over the last decade, with tonnage increasing 50% over the ten years up to 2007. It was quite an achievement for the sector to accommodate such growth levels without any major disruption of trade and it is equally important that the sector is in a position to perform the same role when the economy returns to growth.”

The Ports Sub-Programme of the National Development Plan 2007 -2013 estimates port infrastructural expenditure of between €300 million and €600 million over the period of the programme. To-date, capital investment under the sub-programme is in line with this. Some €120 million has been invested in the first two years of the programme, with a further €75 million budgeted for 2009. This expenditure is being funded by the port companies themselves, without recourse to Exchequer funding.

The recently enacted Harbours (Amendment) Act 2009 contains a number of provisions designed to enhance the commercial ethos of the State-owned port companies and to facilitate their continued growth and development.