Saturday 8 August 2009

Shifting port out of Dublin 'not justified'

THE COSTS of closing Dublin Port and relocating its operations out of the city would not be justified, a report commissioned by Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey has found.

The report, which has been welcomed by the Dublin Port Company, comes just weeks before the Bord Pleanála hearing on the company’s plans to infill 52 acres of Dublin Bay for the expansion of the port.

An Bord Pleanála has received more than 100 objections to the plans, including a submission from Dublin City Council which stated that the application was “premature”, without adequate justification, and could cause flooding.

However, the new report from economic consultants Indecon found that the expansion of the port would benefit the economy.

Indecon was commissioned by Mr Dempsey last year to examine the future of the port, concentrating on the costs and benefits of relocation, expansion, or keeping Dublin port at its current size and locating new port development out of the city.

Its report found that while there was a decline in port activity due to the recession, there would be a need to develop additional capacity within the next 20 years. Indecon’s analysis said the expansion proposal was the best economic option, with the retention of the current port combined with a new port outside the city following a close second.

The least economically beneficial option would be the closure and relocation the port, it said. This conclusion is in direct conflict with a city council report, the Dublin Bay study, which recommended the port be moved out of the city and the lands be used to develop a new “city quarter”.

Indecon agrees that the closure would have “city-wide sustainability benefits” in stemming urban sprawl. However, this would not justify the cost involved in developing a sufficiently large new port, disrupting existing port businesses, and increasing transport and distribution distances.

It also states that the residential development value of the land is now much lower than judged by the council and it would take several decades before it would be absorbed by the market.

The report also rates highly plans, promoted by Treasury Holdings and the Drogheda Port Company, to develop Bremore port near Balbriggan in north Dublin, as a provider of the necessary additional capacity if the port was not expanded.

It notes that both developments were subject to “uncertainties” such as the planning process, but said that if neither proceeded or if equivalent capacity was not found, it would “result in significant damage to the Irish economy”. It recommends against putting any Government policy in place that would block either development.

Dublin Bay Watch, which opposes the expansion plans, said it was a “strange coincidence” the report was issued just weeks before the planning hearing and added that the infill would result in large environmental fines.

In a statement yesterday the port company said the report confirmed the strategic importance of the port and that the “real value of Dublin Port is as a vital piece of infrastructure driving Irish trade rather than a property play”.

The Bord Pleanála hearing begins on August 31st and is likely to last several weeks.

Irish Times

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