Dáil Éireann - Volume 387 - 14 February, 1989

Adjournment Debate. - Dún Laoghaire Marina Proposal.

[233] Mr. Andrews: I am very grateful to you, Sir, for your courtesy in allowing me to raise this matter. I realise that there are many demands to raise matters on the Adjournment and you have to take each request on its merit. Therefore, it is all the more appreciated.

My main concern in raising this issue is that having discussed it both publicly and privately in the past number of months, Dún Laoghaire may lose the prospects of a marina or marinas. The danger as I see it is that people who will be making proposals will be talked out of Dún Laoghaire and will consider elsewhere. I understand that in areas like Skerries, Malahide and Greystones people are very anxious, and quite properly so, to seek to improve the seafront and seashore environment and, for that reason, they would see Dún Laoghaire's lost opportunity as their gain. As I have said, I do not begrudge these areas marinas; quite the contrary. Nor do I begrudge them any type of development that would better their communities. What I am trying to do is to establish once and for all Dún Laoghaire's right to a marina, arising from the report of the planning review group. I am asking the Minister and his very able deputy, the Minister of State, to implement the recommendations of the report of that review group as a matter of some urgency.

One of the prerequisites to the setting up of a marina is the setting up of a harbour authority. The review group envisages a harbour authority as comprising a chairman and six people who know what they are talking about in the context of marina and harbour development; no more and no less. I ask the Minister urgently to set up that authority, tomorrow if possible. The authority would then see it as their function to implement the main recommendations of [234] the report. The review group who produced this report was chaired by Professor Dermot McAleese, Professor of Political Economy at Trinity College, Dublin. I would like to congratulate him and his colleagues for the excellent report, the manner in which they reported so quickly and the very succinct, pithy and direct recommendations set out in it. This group of people met with many people and considered many proposals and submissions. Seventy-four submissions were made to them by individuals, including myself. In addition, they met people with proposals for marinas.

It is these organisations that I am concerned about. If Dún Laoghaire and the groups in Dún Laoghaire who are against the development of a marina or marinas continue to put pressure on organisations of this nature they will go elsewhere and that is the danger. I see the development of a marina in Dún Laoghaire, in the Coal Quay harbour in the first instance, the inner quay harbour, the first phase development proposed by Marina Developments (Ireland) Ltd., as the key element to the development of Dún Laoghaire. At present people are complaining about the lack of activity in the centre of Dún Laoghaire. If the marina is built in the first instance on the Coal Quay harbour the ripple effect for the building of other marinas will be immediate. The general area of the seafront, the derelict pavilion site opposite the Town Hall, the Salthill Hotel site and the Dún Laoghaire market site are all right for development. If the proposals for a structured and ordered development of the marinas in Dún Laoghaire are taken on board then these other developments will automatically fall into place to the inestimable advantage of the community in Dún Laoghaire.

There are about 7,000 unemployed people in Dún Laoghaire at present. When I knock on the doors at the next general election, in Sallynoggin, Ballybrack, the heart of Dún Laoghaire, Loughlinstown and Shankhill, I will be [235] asked why I did not support developments in Dún Laoghaire. I will be told that by not doing so I am not helping to create work for our young people who have to emigrate.

This is a marvellous opportunity to begin the ordered and proper development of Dún Laoghaire and the offer of a number of organisations should be accepted in relation to the development of marinas in Dún Laoghaire. I am talking about proposals from Marina Developments (Ireland) Ltd., a private organisation which I would imagine will be looking for regional funding, and the most recent proposal by Carlisle Leisure Development, a proposal for the development of the Carlisle pier area of Dún Laoghaire harbour, prepared by the National Yacht Club and the Royal St. George Yacht Club. That is a wonderful proposal. If the Government would make an immediate decision in relation to the harbour authority and let them get on with the proper and structured development of Dún Laoghaire harbour it would be of great advantage to the community there.

My concern is that Dún Laoghaire will lose these development offers. If you go to any part of England or the Continent and look at the seafronts they are packed with marinas, with consequent huge economic advantages to these areas. I am not talking simply about a marina park for 300 boats. There are huge spin-offs such as chandlers, boat builders, ship suppliers and all sorts of additional ancillary matters which lend themselves to being part of a marina.

Dún Laoghaire must be one of the finest harbours in Europe, if not in the world. It certainly is one of the most under-developed harbours and for that reason I would like to see its proper development. As far as many people are concerned, it is a place to pass through on the way to somewhere else and that is unfortunate because Dún Laoghaire is quite a beautiful place and could be made [236] more beautiful in an ordered and structured fashion. There is a first-class hotel there, the Royal Marine Hotel which was recently renovated and which is a great credit to the people who carried out the work. There is the Fitzpatrick hotel and the Court Hotel in Killiney, marvellous and very well used hotels. There are also guesthouses and so on. If Dún Laoghaire harbour was developed the benefits and advantages to those guesthouses and hotels would be immense.

If the marina or marinas are developed all the existing facilities can be retained. The yacht clubs will remain relatively untouched. The Motor Yacht Club have a very genuine and legitimate concern about the inner harbour, or Coal Quay development, which they consider might affect them. I understand from the developers that they would have access to their club and to a great extent they would remain untouched by whatever developments would be considered. Of course, the needs and desires of the local people would have to be taken into account. It is unbelievable to hear people talking about the deprivations they will suffer in the context of bird watching or of walking, of being in some way deprived of these amenities because a marina or marinas will be set up in Dún Laoghaire. The reality of the proposals I have outlined is that the east pier and the west pier will remain untouched and will continue to be used as pedestrian ways. Of course, they should remain untouched. At present the west pier is covered by grass, it is underutilised and unwalked on to a great degree. The east pier is probably the most walked on pier in the country. What facilities are available in the harbour which is underutilised? What are the facilities for these walkers on both piers? None, there is not even a restaurant on the seafront available to the gnáth duine who goes out there on a Saturday or Sunday to walk during these fine winter mornings and afternoons. Apart from a person selling ice cream at the end of the east pier there is no facility [237] available there to the thousands of people using that pier. This is nothing short of scandalous. There is a disgraceful lack of facilities in the area of the departure of the boat to England.

These are some of the reasons I believe a marina will attract people into the area. As a spin-off there will be additional facilities for the ordinary person for whom so much concern has been expressed in the past number of months. I am as concerned for those people as anybody else but I have an obligation and a duty to judge what I consider to be what is right for Dún Laoghaire in its future economic development. I am entitled — and I do not think this is being denied me — to the right to express my views as to how Dún Laoghaire should develop. It should be developed by taking this report, not in any piecemeal fashion because the piecemeal development of Dún Laoghaire harbour would be a disaster, but seriatim, and applied accordingly. It is a marvellous report. It represents effectively the philosophy for the future development of Dún Laoghaire. Everybody has had a say. We know exactly what people think and now the time has come to judge the merits and get all these thoughts together, shake them about, and come up with a decision. I believe an immediate decision is essential for this development. If we do not proceed with this development as a matter of urgency, we will wave goodbye to what is on offer.

The Minister for Finance announced recently that there was to be £23.5 million from the Regional Fund for Ireland, including a figure of £1.78 million for a marina in Kilrush, County Clare. Good luck to Kilrush. I hope they have a marvellous marina and that it is of great benefit to the people there. At the time the Kilrush marina proposal was announced, the Dún Laoghaire proposal was announced also and we are still talking about it while the people of Kilrush are getting on with it. That sort of regional aid is also available for Dún [238] Laoghaire because, as we know regional aid applies to the whole of Ireland and not just to any particular corner of it. The advantages of having this sort of development are immense.

A proposal was made by Dún Laoghaire Corporation in 1983 to include the infill of the “gut” on the outside of the west pier. That was a very good proposal, one that should be viewed and considered in the overall development of the harbour and its marina or marines. I say marina or marinas because I would hope to see more than one marina, perhaps more than two, three marinas, may be. These should be developed taking account of the report of the planning review group on the one hand, the type of development proposed by Marina Developments (Ireland) Limited and on the other hand the type of development proposed by the Carlisle Leisure Development group, the two yacht clubs as I have already mentioned. There were other proposals by Dún Laoghaire Corporation. The Power Corporation group in association with Brent Walker suggested the infill of 100 to 150 acres of the 250 acre harbour. I think that was pie in the sky and I would not be in favour of it. At the same time a proposal of that nature — and it was a proposal to be funded by £100 million — should be looked at and the proposer given the courtesy of at least having the idea examined. Personally, I would be against it the suggestion of the group.

Dún Laoghaire Harbour is one of the prime and most important amenities in this State. We must recognise Dún Laoghaire as a port of national significance.

There was a report by McCarthy and Partners on behalf of the joint working party, the working party of the four yacht clubs. That report considered marinas for the middle harbour at the east pier, Carlisle pier area, the west bight area, the east bight, the old harbour and inner harbour and again that is worthy of consideration. I have already mentioned the Marina Developments (Ireland) Limited [239] proposal for the Coal Quay or old quay or inner city or whatever one wishes to call it. We also have the Carlisle leisure development to which I have also referred. There has also been an input from Sealink Car Ferries. The Dún Laoghaire Borough Council have made their views known. The report of the planning review group was made known to the Minister in November or December of last year.

We have been speaking in the Dún Laoghaire area about the question of a unified car ferry terminal. I see no reason why a unified car ferry terminal could not be seen side by side with the marina development. I can see all these interests being attended to in whatever marina development starts first. Sail training would go on apace, public access and amenities would be uninterrupted, the sacred east and west piers would continue.

There is some suggestion that if the area on the “gut” side of the west pier were developed, in some way the west pier might have to be breached. If it was to be breached it would be done in the best interests of Dun Laoghaire harbour. That is why I would ask the Minister to urge his colleagues in Government to implement the proposals of the report of the planning review group.

Minister of State at the Department of the Marine (Mr. P. Gallagher): Tá áthas orm an deis seo a fháil freagra a thabhairt don Teachta David Andrews maidir le forbairt Dhún Laoghaire.

In 1987, a company called Marina Developments Ireland Limited — MDIL — was formed with a view to establishing marina facilities at Dún Laoghaire using private funds. The MDIL submitted a proposal to the Department of the Marine and the Office of Public Works for a two phase project which would provide marina facilities in the inner harbour and in the old harbour.

On the 8 April 1988, the Government [240] announced that approval had been granted to MDIL to proceed with their plans for the marina. From the time that the details of MDIL's proposals became public, concern was expressed about the development over such issues as access to the harbour, environmental considerations, traffic and car parking facilities and the impact of the development on the mooring facilities already available in the harbour. Particular concern was expressed about the lack of information available to the public regarding the proposed development.

On 27 April 1988 at a one day conference organised by Dún Laoghaire Borough Council to discuss the future development of Dún Laoghaire Harbour, the Minister for the Marine announced the establishment of a planning review group to examine overall harbour policy. On 23 June 1988, the planning review group, comprising two officials from the Department of the Marine, two from the Office of Public Works and two from Dún Laoghaire Corporation under the chairmanship of Professor Dermot McAleese of Trinity College, was formerly appointed.

I have listened to Deputy Andrews, but prior to his contribution tonight, I was well aware of his concern and his commitment to the development of Dún Laoghaire Harbour. It is gratifying to hear him reaffirm this, if that is at all necessary. I appreciate his concern that this development should take place and that it be carried out in an orderly manner, as he has said, and that the views and concerns of all should be taken into account. I expect that Deputy Andrews will fully acknowledge that every effort was made to ensure that the views and concerns of the people of Dún Laoghaire were taken into account by the planning review group. I appreciate his kind comments on the planning review group under the chairmanship of Professor McAleese. There is no intention of carrying out any development, whatever the Government may decide, in a piecemeal [241] fashion. The development must be planned and not take place on an ad hoc basis. I believe that anything other than a planned development would prove unsuccessful.

The terms of reference of the planning review group require the group to consult with the Harbour liaison committee, a committee originally set up under the auspices of the Minister of State at the Department of Finance and reconstitued for this purpose. The committee met for the first time on 4 August 1988 and made a submission to the planning review group on 9 September 1988. This submission, which is reproduced in full as an appendix to the planning review group report, was taken into account by the group in their conclusions. The review group report published on 8 December 1988 was welcomed by the Minister for the Marine. He considered it a comprehensive, considered and professional blueprint for Dún Laoghaire Harbour. The group's recommendations constitute an outline management plan for Dún Laoghaire Harbour and Deputy Andrews has referred to this.

The planning review group recommend that the management and development of the harbour should be entrusted to an authority consisting of a chairman and six ordinary members to be appointed by the Minister for the Marine on the basis of their competence to contribute to the running of the harbour. All the recommendations have been taken into consideration. There was general agreement that some sort of harbour development is necessary and indeed desirable. However the planning review group felt that any new development in the harbour should respect its essential characteristics and the high quality of the existing environment.

There is a strong case for maintaining the spread of activities that have traditionally been carried on in the harbour. The planning review group's report considers the commercial use of the harbour, [242] the future development of the ferry terminal, the use of the harbour for leisure and amenity purposes and marina development in the harbour. The report concluded that the ferry teminal plays a key role in formulating a plan for the harbour.

The planning review group examined possible options for the future of the terminal. They felt that Dún Laoghaire is uniquely placed for marina related leisure activities. However, the present system of swinging moorings in the harbour has a number of serious drawbacks. A marina would boost the local economy of the area and for these reasons the planning review group favoured the principle of marina development in Dún Laoghaire and set down criteria for such development. They evaluated possible marina locations within the harbour. The group considered the proposals from MDIL for the provision of a marina at Dún Laoghaire and examined the objections raised to the development. They concluded that the balance of public good lies with allowing the first phase of the MDIL project to go ahead, subject to certain safeguards.

The development of the area known as the “gut” — and referred to by Deputy Andrews — west of the West Pier is discussed in the report. A comprehensive plan for the harbour and all is facets must include provision for this area. Its importance derives from its role in providing potential development land in the harbour area. The group recommend, inter alia, that land is needed to accommodate marina related commercial and leisure development, particularly support services for marine development within the harbour. Given the scarcity of land within the harbour, the obvious location is on existing and now reclaimed land behind the West Pier.

The proposed construction of a marina will certainly lead to job creation. Wherever marinas are built, jobs are created in its construction and, of course, there are long-term benefits as a result of a [243] marina along our coast as it provides full-time and part-time employment. The Deputy has referred to the importance of the ancillary industries which are linked to any marina development. We would be most anxious that in any development, jobs would be created as a result. There is a knock-on effect and indirect benefits can be derived from a marina development. I concur totally with Deputy Andrews' comments on the importance of a marina to Dún Laoghaire.

The planning review group's report considers the options for the future management of the harbour and sets down criteria for the management of it. As I have stated earlier, the recommendation is that there should be a harbour authority. I fully appreciate Deputy Andrews concern that Dún Laoghaire may lose the prospect of the development of a marina and that if there is considerable talk we may talk ourselves out of the development. I assure the Deputy that this will not happen. The discussion will not go on for very much longer. The Government and the Minister for the Marine will not waste time reaching a decision.

[244] The planning review group's report has been considered by the Minister for the Marine and also examined by officials from the Department of the Marine. As a result, the Minister has already formulated proposals which will shortly be put to Government. The Minister confirmed this in the House some few days ago in answer to a parliamentary question. I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that it would be inappropriate for me to make any announcement in advance of the Government's consideration of the proposals.

Let me repeat that the Minister will not be making an announcement until the Government have had time to consider the proposals. I will bring to the attention of the Minister the concerns expressed in the House by Deputy Andrews. I can assure him that the Government have not wasted any time over the past 12 months, and will not waste any time over the next few weeks, in reaching a decision on the future development of the harbour.

The Dáil adjourned at 11 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 15 February 1989.