Sunday 16 October 2011

Councillors move to halt Clontarf flood defence plan as locals fear loss of sea views

DUBLIN CITY councillors representing Clontarf are moving to block the signing of any contract for the construction of flood defences along the promenade that would rise to a height of 2.75m (more than 9ft).

This follows an outcry from local residents and business people who fear sea views along much of Clontarf Road would be blocked by the proposed earthen embankments and walls, which would extend 3km from Alfie Byrne Road to the Bull Wall.

But neither Clontarf Residents’ Association nor Clontarf Business Association exercised their right to appeal to An Bord Pleanála before the scheme was approved in July 2008. “Details of the heights of the mound and the wall only emerged last week,” the associations said.

The scheme was designed to prevent further flood damage to homes and businesses along the seafront, and to carry a new arterial water main. The area was badly hit by an “extreme tidal event” in February 2002 and a less severe one in October 2004.

Several weak points in the existing flood defences allowed a “deluge of water” onto Clontarf Road and flooded a number of properties. As a result, Dublin City Council decided that flood alleviation measures were required to protect this important stretch of coastline.

The council’s engineering department is assessing tenders for the project, which is estimated to cost €9.7 million – of which €4.3 million would be for the flood defence works. “Final contract award will follow when this process has been completed,” a spokeswoman said.

Although a 325-page environmental impact statement (EIS) on the project was published by the council in December 2007, it contained no photomontages showing what the proposed berms and walls would look like, compared to the existing situation.

With work expected to start early next year, the residents and business associations said in a joint statement that Clontarf would lose its view of Dublin Bay, and called for the project to be deferred pending further consultations on its visual impacts.

“The sea view when driving along the Clontarf Road will be eliminated,” they said. “If this plan is implemented, pedestrians or joggers using the pathway close to the sea will not be able to see the road. Equally importantly, they will not be visible from the road . . .

“Cyclists using the cycle path will not have a view of the sea. Householders who currently have a sea view at ground level will no longer be able to see any part of the sea,” the statement said, adding that there would only be limited access points along the route. Some 300 complaints have been logged on the Clontarf Residents’ Association website, with locals describing the scheme as “crazy”, “drastic” and “horrifying”.

Some said they would be prepared to put up with occasional flooding to preserve the sea view.

When the plan was mooted in 2005, one option was to install the water main on Clontarf Road, but this proposal was dropped – because of fears that it would disrupt traffic for up to two years – in favour of combining it with new flood defences on the seafront.

“Protecting our homes and businesses from flooding is vital,” the two associations said. But they “were under the impression that the height [of the flood defences] would be under one metre” (3.3ft) – and this was also what most local public representatives believed.

A large public meeting was held on Monday night, at which people expressed strong opposition to the plans and Cllr Damian O’Farrell (Ind) pledged to table a Section 140 motion to prevent Dublin city manager John Tierney or his officials from signing the contract.

“Clearly, the chance to engage fully with this process from the beginning was lost, and the community are now fighting a rearguard action,” said local Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin.

“The lack of a visualisation of the project in the EIS may have added to the confusion.”

As a result of the residents’ and business association’s recent intervention, a special meeting of councillors representing the city’s north central area has been called for today, which both associations plan to attend and monitor closely.

Dublin City Council said the scheme had been submitted to An Bord Pleanála in December 2007.

“Apart from the statutorily required press notice, letters were issued to a number of local representative groups, including the Clontarf Residents’ Association.”

These letters had alerted them that an EIS was about to be published and advised that they had an opportunity to make observations to An Bord Pleanála, but no such observations or submissions were received by the appeals board within the statutory period.

Frank McDonald
Irish Times

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