Monday 30 November 2009

'No option' over infill decision

An Bord Pleanala has no option but to refuse planning permission for a 52-acre infill in Dublin Bay, a planning hearing was told this afternoon.

In a legal submission on behalf of Dublin Baywatch and the Clontarf residents’ Association barrister Donal O’Laoire submitted the infill was contrary to the requirements of the EU Birds Directive, the EU Habitats Directive, the directive on Environmental Impact Assessments, as well as proper planning and development.

Dublin Port company is seeking permission to develop the 52-acre infill in the north port to cater for larger cargo ships requiring deep water berths. The company claims the facility is of strategic national importance and vital for economic development.

But Mr O’Laoire told the hearing “the primary submission of Dublin Bay Watch and of the Clontarf residents is that this application falls to be considered under the strict regulatory regime of the Birds Directive, without amendment”.

He insisted “the planning permission must fail as it offends against the requirements of the Birds Directive”.

But he added that “even if this is not accepted by An Bord Pleanala, the application equally fails under the requirements of the Habitats and Environmental Impact Assessment directives, and because it does not constitute proper planning and sustainable development”.

Liam O Dwyer of Dublin Bay Watch accused the port company of using its rail links to the national network as a smokescreen. He described the proportion of rail cargo at the port as a “tiny 1.75 per cent share” and added that most of this was accounted for by Tara Mines, one customer.

Mr O’Dwyer also argued an already present risk of flooding in Clontarf, Sandymount and Ringsend would be exacerbated by the infill plans.

Citing a range of expert opinions including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 2003 report entitled “Climate Change, Scenarios and Impacts for Ireland” Mr O’Dwyer said the planting of 52 acres of “hard material” in Dublin Bay represented a “considerable flooding risk” in addition to that posed by climate change and rising sea levels.

He told senior inspector Brendan Wyse the range of expertise arrayed against the Port Company’s plan was extensive. He cited from research carried out by the EPA, UCC in collaboration with the Hydraulics and Marine Research Centre, as well as the intergovernmental panel on climate change, to emphasise the risk of more intense storm events occurring more frequently.

Dublin, he said was cited in a number of studies as being a low lying coastal area which was he said, “very seriously at risk” from flooding.

Detailing that risk fellow Baywatch member Peter Bailey said the EPA report had concluded the impacts of “sea level rise will be most apparent in the major cities of Cork, Limerick, Dublin and Galway” and that this was a serious problem where strategic infrastructure was located.

“It is unthinkable that such a massive infill could be counternanced in close proximity to low lying residential areas which have suffered severe flooding in recent years, Clontarf, East Wall, Sandymount and Ringsend…and the banks of the Tolka and the Dodder rivers.”

He said “the fact that Dublin city council manned the shore last year putting in sandbags and keeping a 24 hour watch on the bay during the spring tide season testifies to the threat posed by the sea….”

Irish Times

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