herbert simms

'It's terrible': Criticism of council decision to demolish historical Bull Island structure

The shelter, constructed in the 1930s, had been used by people taking drugs in recent times, the council said.

bull-island picturesbyJOE picturesbyJOE

LOCAL REPRESENTATIVES ON Dublin’s northside have slammed Dublin City Council for its decision to demolish a historical structure on Clontarf’s Bull Island.

The lifeguard shelter, nestled in the dunes of the island, was levelled in recent days. The council has cited anti-social behaviour as the reason.

The Bull Island bathing shelters are notable because they were designed by a team headed by architect Herbert Simms. His team also designed a series of structures in the Clontarf area, including the lifeguard shelters.

Simms was a hugely important figure in the history of Dublin’s built heritage. Born in England, he moved to Ireland to work with Dublin Corporation, where he held the post of housing architect from 1932 until his tragic death in 1948. His work had a massive impact on the city.

At the time that Simms began working with the Corporation, living conditions for Dublin city’s poorest inhabitants were often uninhabitable, and the council embarked on a programme to rehouse people living in slums. This meant not just removing the slums themselves, but constructing new buildings capable of housing large numbers of people. 

Simms led the large-scale rebuilding programme, and his work still stands in the form of the Pearse House flats and Chancery Place, for example. His designs were influenced by the Amsterdam School, which can be seen in the rounded roof and sides of the lifeguard shelters. 

Fianna Fáil TD Seán Haughey said he couldn’t understand why the council destroyed the lifeguard hut structure, which was constructed in 1934. 

The building had become a hotspot for anti-social behaviour, Dublin City Council said. It said drug paraphernalia, as well as human excrement, were regularly found at the shelter and that council staff were left to clear it up.

Haughey told The Journal: “I think it’s terrible what they have done – I also think the council should engage in consultation with the local stakeholders if they are going to do anything like that. 

“I think that the council shouldn’t just give in to anti-social behaviour by a small minority of people and they should try to enhance the facilities and protect them rather than getting rid of them.”

Local Green Party councillor Donna Cooney said that there was no official correspondence with councillors recently about the matter and said the council would have been better off finding a way to protect the site rather than tearing it down. 

“People might have been congregating around it, you know, antisocial behaviour or whatever, but I mean maybe you could find a way of protecting it rather than just demolishing it.

It happened literally overnight and there’s a lot of people that are very shocked that they weren’t aware that it was going to happen, and even the method of doing this with no notice being offered. If there were one, somebody would have brought it to my attention. I am on Bull Island every day. 

The site was not on Dublin City Council’s protected structure list. However, locals were upset that the heavy machinery used to demolish the structure also did damage to the dunes, which are part of a national nature reserve.

The attitude from the council is that “the dunes will recover”, according to Cooney. 

Bull Island began to grow 200 years ago when the North Bull Wall was constructed. It continues to grow seaward, at around five feet per year. It is now 5km in length and 1km wide – stretching from Clontarf in the south, down to Sutton Cross. 

198773414_10160195294292871_3847901856382714929_n Before and after the demolition whcih has upset locals. Bull Island Action Group Bull Island Action Group

214248299_10160272247562871_4344339420956055740_n Bull Island Action Group Bull Island Action Group

The shelter which was demolished would have stood a lot closer to the beach when it was initially constructed – the growth of Bull Island means it is no longer near the beach, and is hasn’t been used as a lifeguard shelter for decades. 

A spokeswoman for Dublin City Council said:

“The shelter was removed because it was a focus for nighttime congregation in the nature reserve and persistent littering of bottles, cans, broken glass, human excrement and drug paraphernalia.”

Meanwhile, the Office of Public Works (OPW) and the National Monuments Service yesterday launched a new campaign entitled Protect Our Past, highlighting the need for visitors to Ireland’s heritage sites and monuments to be mindful of their actions over the summer.

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