Thursday 2 June 2011

Move to reopen Greystones harbour

A DEVELOPMENT company is to be asked to take down hoardings and grass over areas of the incomplete Greystones harbour development in Co Wicklow.

The request is to be proposed tonight at a meeting of Greystones Town Council as development consortium Sispar makes a scheduled briefing to councillors on the stalled project.

Attempts to enter dialogue with the developers on reopening part of the harbour by July 1st come as major land-side engineering work at the harbour has been put on hold and existing loans for the project transferred to Nama.

New campaign group Give Us Back Our Harbour (Guboh) said it had been encouraged by the response of local politicians to the prospect of reopening part of the harbour in advance of a resolution of outstanding issues.

While the major marine engineering works are complete – at a cost to Sispar of about €80 million – there is uncertainty about the timing of the provision of five new clubhouses for harbour users, a Coast Guard station, completion of a 270-berth marina, commercial space, a public park and a new town square.

Sispar is understood to be considering the proposals to reopen some areas and cover them in grass, as well as landscaping, pending a final timescale for completion of the project.

However, Sispar is understood to have concerns about the cost of the landscaping, and about potential issues of health and safety, including Wicklow County Council’s position as the holder of public liability.

A number of politicians have supported calls for the reopening and removal of at least some of the hoardings. Local Fine Gael councillor Derek Mitchell said the council held a bond of at least €5 million to ensure completion of the project. “This is more than enough to provide the public square and five free clubhouses for anglers, sailors, rowers, Sea Scouts and divers,” he said.

However, he acknowledged the bond was not exercisable until 2014.

Chairman of Wicklow County Council Tom Fortune said tonight’s meeting was expected to see Sispar and the councillors agree to set up a committee to discuss the issues raised by reopening the harbour. “That is what we want to see come about anyway.”

A number of other councillors are understood to be preparing proposals on the reopening at tonight’s meeting.

Attempts to redesign the project to include more housing and so ensure greater funding have drawn sharp criticism from An Bord Pleanála, which has accused the council of being less than frank with the public about what the project involved.

The council, which is a partner in the development, had hoped to allow Sispar increase the number of new homes in the development. But in a determination that increasing the number of new homes would require a new Environmental Impact Assessment, an An Bord Pleanála inspector said: “I declare a concern about the level of inconsistency and ambiguity on the exact quantum of commercial and residential development proposed on the overall Greystones harbour site. I consider it unreasonable to expect the board to comprehensively assess a proposal which has not been satisfactorily presented to the board. In addition, I consider that these possible inaccuracies may provide a misleading account to the public.”

However, Guboh spokesman Basil Miller said the issue now was to get the hoardings down and reopen at least part of the harbour by July 1st. “We have had a great show of support from the politicians in the area and with goodwill from all sides this can be done.”

Irish Times

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