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Council hits out at 'hostile' commentary around white-water rafting facility

The Council has written to elected members to explain the benefits of the controversial project.

download Source: Dublin City Council

DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL has hit out at “hostile” commentary surrounding plans for a controversial white-water rafting facility at George’s Dock. 

The cost of the project has grown from an initial estimate of €12 million to €25 million, contract tenders issued by the Council last week reveal. 

The Council is seeking expressions of interest from construction firms to complete the development, which the Council estimates will take 18 months to build. The anticipated start date on works is this autumn.

The Council plans to fund the white-water rafting facility through a number of streams including funding from under sports capital grants and development levies. 

The proposed facility has been met with considerable opposition, despite Councillors approving the plans in 2019. Senator Michael McDowell over the weekend said the development of the facility was a “political obscenity” and a “grotesque vanity project”. 

The Council has since written to elected members saying that the progression of the project “has sparked further commentary in the media, some of which has been especially hostile.”

Council representative Derek Kelly said the decision to seek expressions of interest to build the facility was “to get a more realistic cost estimate.”

The Council is currently examining a number of funding streams for the project, said Kelly, who told Councillors that “no additional Council funding can be allocated to the project and no additional borrowing undertaken without the approval of [Councillors].”

Kelly went on to explain the various benefits of the project, which will include a swift water rescue training centre, a white-water rafting course for rafting and canoeing, a flat-water training facility and two new buildings to facilitate these activities. 

The ‘Swift Water Rescue Training Centre’ will be based around a “floodable street with a mock rescue village,” he said. 

It will be used by Dublin Fire Brigade, other emergency services and Local Authority staff, he said. 

“It is essential, given the increase in severe weather flooding events that Local Authority and other emergency services staff can train for these events in controlled conditions with no water quality issues.”

Source: Smart Docklands/YouTube

The white-water rafting course, Kelly said, “is expected to be a major tourist attraction as well as catering for members of the public.”

The flat-water training facility will also be open to schools as well as local youth and community groups.

‘Priorities’

Some local Councillors have reacted negatively to the progression of the project, saying that Covid-19 and the challenges posed by the pandemic to future Council projects call into question the suitability of building the white-water rafting facility. 

Independent Councillor Christy Burke said the rising costs of the development “is something that cannot be accepted” given the current Covid-19 “crisis”. 

“I think at this stage to put up such a project at such a huge cost…it just has to be rescinded. That’s the bottom line,” said Burke. 

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Fine Gael Councillor Ray McAdam said he would like to see a number of other local projects progressed before the facility is built. These include the Parnell Square City Library, the Fruit & Vegetable Market on Mary’s Lane and public realm improvements. 

“We’re in a very different set of circumstances now with Covid-19,” said McAdam. “Effectively [the Council] is being bailed out by Government due to a drop in commercial rates.”

“Is it high up my list of priorities? No,” said McAdam.  

McAdam, however, said that the area at George’s Dock where the facility will be built has remained unused for a number of years and that this was one of the reasons he voted in favour of the development back in 2019. 

George’s Dock is currently vacant. The planned facility will be located beside the CHQ Building in the area where for many years Oktoberfest – a food and drink festival – took place as well as a number of Christmas markets. 

90407640 George's Dock pictured last year. Source: RollingNews.ie

In his letter to Councillors, Kelly said the white-water rafting facility will play “a key role” in community development of the North-East inner city.

The area, Kelly said, “is still experiencing significant levels of deprivation with certain groups lacking soft skills, such as confidence, leadership, teamwork, self-esteem.”

Kelly said the facility has “the potential to help address the skills deficit of certain vulnerable groups in the community, help them gain social confidence and integrate better into the workplace and wider society.”

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