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Residents fear being left 'homeless' as council warns them not to erect barriers against coastal erosion

Residents say they risk losing their homes in the coming years if they don’t take action immediately.

Residents claim the barrier erected by Fingal County Council is ineffective to combat coastal erosion.
Residents claim the barrier erected by Fingal County Council is ineffective to combat coastal erosion.

A LOCAL COUNCIL in Dublin has asked coastal residents in Portrane to avoid erecting barriers along the shore despite concerns that coastal erosion will wash away their homes in the coming years. 

Fingal County Council in North Dublin issued a notice to residents in Portrane warning them to “cease placing material on the Burrow beach and on the seaward side of their properties after recent storm activity caused further coastal erosion in the area”.

The local authority said, “this is wholly inappropriate and counterproductive and has the potential to exacerbate erosion along sections of the already vulnerable coastline”.

The council has erected concrete barriers in the shape of a honeycomb, known as ‘sea bees’ to prevent further coastal erosion but residents say this has not had any impact and with one resident losing his home to erosion last year, they want immediate action to combat the issue.

Fingal County Council has a consultation process underway and is meeting with residents virtually and at its offices in Swords to address concerns. 

Residents, however, feel the consultation process and any material measures could take years and have continued to erect their own barriers to save their properties. 

David Shevlin, who lives along the coast in Portrane with his wife and two children explained how he was advised his property will be “unviable” within five years or less, at which point he will be homeless. 

“We live in the midsection of the beach and our property has lost upwards of about 20 metres of established garden since 2018. This is in the presence of the protection measures by consultants on behalf of Fingal County Council,” Shevlin told TheJournal.ie.

“It’s an extreme amount to lose in such a short period of time and we were identified by the council as one of the most vulnerable properties and were informed our home would become unviable in five years time. 

“At the current rate of erosion, our garden was 30 metres and it’s gone to 20 metres in two years so it doesn’t take much to calculate that we don’t have very long. We have asked the council will they put additional measures in and their answer is they are relying on specialists in the field and they follow their guidance.”

After erecting his own protective structures at the rear end of the property which was built in 2002, the council issued a notice that they must be removed, as well as telling him he will have to remove all built structures on his property in anticipation of further erosion. 

“We’re looking at losing our home by maybe Christmas depending on storm events… the sea bees are at the back of our house, installed in March 2018, and since then we have suffered aggressive erosion.

“Basically it will come to a point where the council will ask me to remove my own home at my own cost, so we will be financially ruined and we will be homeless and for what? For complying with the council’s rules.”

Another resident in Portrane described how coastal erosion has gotten increasingly worse in recent years but highlighted it has been an ongoing issue for decades. 

“From the early 2000s it has got progressively worse and people are saying it’s global warming and extreme weather we’re experiencing with high storms… and in the last five years it has exacerbated beyond anyone’s prediction,” Cathy O’Connor told TheJournal.ie.

“There has been at least one house fallen into the sea and taken away by the council. Then the council decided they would take concrete steps of protection along the sand dunes and put in what are called sea bees.

“People feel like they were wrongly installed and people feel if they were in Skerries or Malahide, other more affluent areas, they would be addressed differently. 

“And in the last ten years, and you can see if you walk the shoreline, that we have seen a loss of at least 10 metres, at least, and you can see where there was an old anchor from a ship which sunk, a sister ship to the Titanic which sunk off Lambay, the anchor was mounted and displayed 20 years ago. 

“Well that concrete plinth has collapsed now. It was at least 10 or 20 metres from the shoreline.”

In a photo provided by Fingal County Council, it shows the sea bees breaking the force of the sea as it rolls towards the shore. 

However, in photos from residents in the area, they have documented the three rows of sea bees almost submerged during stormy weather. 

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Screen Shot 2020-09-03 at 13.38.48 Sea bees submerged during stormy weather in Portrane. Source: TheJournal.ie

Fingal County Council said: “In response to ongoing serious coastal erosion problems at The Burrow Beach, Portrane, three lines of concrete sea bee units have placed along the Beach to help protect more than 800 metres of the coastline which is vulnerable to erosion during storms and high tides. 

“These measures have been very carefully planned, designed and implemented to reduce the wave impact along the coastline affected and to delay the process of erosion while at the same time avoiding damage to adjoining sections of coastline.”

It added: “Specialist engineers appointed by Fingal County Council have prepared a plan to address long-term Coastal Change in the Rogerstown Outer Estuary including the Rush coastline. ”

Yesterday, the National Coastal Change Management Strategy Steering Group met for the first time to discuss coastal erosion and other issues around Ireland’s shores. 

The Housing and Planning Minister Darragh O’Brien recognised the challenges facing the community of Portrane due to coastal erosion. 

“Coming from a constituency which has been, and continues to be greatly impacted by coastal erosion, I understand the grave challenges this presents and the importance of the work to be carried out by this group” he said. 

“The group will examine how Ireland can best manage our coastline and mitigate the risks from rising sea levels and more frequent extreme sea events.”

He added: “For those living in coastal communities, such as Portrane in North Co. Dublin, coastal erosion is already having a profound impact.

“Around Ireland, it’s projected that by 2050, the impact of coastal erosion could potentially affect up to 2 million people who live within 5km of the coast, all the major cities, and much of the country’s industry and infrastructure and utilities, including transport, electricity and water supplies.”

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