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Dublin: 21 °C Thursday 16 July, 2020
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Residents hit out at 'disingenuous' council over lowering of Clontarf sea wall

The figures have been disputed.

Rough seas near Clontarf.
Rough seas near Clontarf.
Image: Sam Boal

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

CLONTARF RESIDENTS HAVE accused Dublin City Council of “spinning” the reduction of the town’s sea wall.

The issue became national news last week when councillors voted to reduce the wall from 4.25 metres to 3.95 metres along a stretch of road between Mount Prospect Avenue and Causeway Road at a reported cost of €230,000.

The plan was approved at the council’s North Central Area committee meeting in December, where councillors recommended the reduction. The plan was then passed at Monday’s meeting.

Much was made of the fact that the mention in the report that motorists had made representations, complaining that their view of the lagoon out to Bull Island had been obscured.

However, residents are angered with what they see as the council shifting responsibility after building the wall higher than agreed.

Deirdre Nichol of the Clontarf Residents Association told TheJournal.ie that the lower wall had been requested for a stretch of road around St Anne’s Park to allow park users, particularly those in wheelchairs, have a view of the sea.

The wall as currently built is already at the 4.25 metre height, which is the maximum allowed in the planning permission and has no capping stone. If they add the capping stone, then it will be over the maximum allowed, so it has to be reduced anyway.

“On foot of Dr Jimmy Murphy’s report, Dublin City Council proposed lowering the wall by 300mm and we agreed to their proposal. This was back in 2016 when contractors were still on site. But they failed to get planning permission until mid-2017.

“Now there are extra costs involved in bringing back the contractor on site.”

That 2016 proposal was made to residents by the council’s Director of Traffic Declan Wallace. In a 2016 email, seen by TheJournal.ie, he says:

“Please see attached details of proposal made at our meeting on 11 March, which includes the breakdown of the components included in the 3.95 metre flood defence.”

Nichol added that the council was “trying to muddle” the cost of lowering the wall with cladding the wall. That cost is a previously agreed €300,000 and is a condition of the wall’s planning permission. Dublin City Council will have to pay for cladding and, by extension, pay for the set-up of the site for works.

Nichol accused city manager Owen Keegan of being “disingenuous” on the issue and says that the issue could have been avoided.

“This is a great story to point at Clontarf residents and distract them from what’s going on in the council.”

Local independent councillor Damian O’Farrell spoke in favour of the reduction last week and told TheJournal.ie that Keegan had “reneged” on the March 2016 agreement.

The council retained an eminent flood expert and he spoke about the “receiving area” and the council put an agreement forward based on this. They looked for the height decrease and we had an agreement. They then broke that agreement.

O’Farrell added that the figures presented by the council – particularly the €230,000 number – were wrong.

I thought there was some misinformation put out there (by the council). They put it all on local councillors and the community. I was very disappointed, but not a bit surprised. It seems to be how they do business.

“The cladding and capping, as well as the site set up, have to be done anyway. The actual reduction of the wall is costed at €60,000. Also, the residents argued that cladding should only go in front of the park, not the full two kilometre stretch, saving €750,000.”

Solidarity councillor Michael O’Brien voted against the reduction. He says that the view isn’t fundamentally altered and says the money would be better spent elsewhere. He says that the biggest issue is continuing extreme weather.

“There are national guidelines on flood protection. I’m aware of flood works that remain to be done around the country. We’ve seen the increased frequency of extreme weather events resulting in flooding in Galway, Cork and Athlone, where people are fighting for flood protection, rightly. They’re looking askance at us reducing a wall below national guidelines.”

O’Brien says that the priority of view puts Ireland’s attitude to climate change into perspective.

“This government is not serious about climate change and climate change protection.

The government don’t feel political pressure from society at large. When you see people not fully taking on board what climate change means to sea level rises, you can see why.

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O’Brien went on to argue that a one-in-100-year flood event, which the wall is set up to protect against, could come at any point, not just in 100 years.

He added that the view of the lagoon isn’t changed by the current height of the wall while driving.

However, both O’Farrell and Nichol agree that the view motorists is a red herring.

“It’s not about motorists – motorists should be looking at the road – it’s about the buffer zone between this beautiful park and the nature reserve on Bull Island,” says O’Farrell.

A council statement said:

“Dublin City Council established that reducing the wall to a height of 3.95m above sea level (OD Malin) would result in the entire wall along the frontage of St Anne’s Park being below the standard driver eye height. Keeping the wall height below driver eye height was deemed an acceptable compromise by the local community representatives.

“The estimated cost breakdown was shared with local elected representatives. The wall cutting is the main contributor to the preliminary costs due to anticipated cutting methodology. The amounts given to elected representatives exclude VAT. This figure cannot be released as it is commercially sensitive.

“The Chief Executive’s Report outlined that reducing the flood wall to a height that would be acceptable to local community representatives would result in increased flood risk while providing a marginal visual amenity improvement. It was a matter for the elected representatives to debate the substantive issues of whether the wall should or should not be lowered.”

Work on the wall is due to start in April.

Read: Dublin City Council to spend €230,000 lowering Clontarf sea wall to ‘improve view for motorists

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