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Government rejected council's request for €6.6m to fund white-water rafting project in Dublin City

More than half of the €22.8m funding for the project was expected to come from grants.

Visual of what the facility would look like Visual of the amenity alongside the CHQ building at George's Dock.

A GRANT APPLICATION to the value of €6.6 million from Dublin City Council to fund the white-water rafting project in the city centre was refused by Government. 

The council, which last year announced plans to develop the controversial facility, faced much criticism over the €22.8 million bill to develop the project in the midst of a housing and homeless crisis. 

It pacified those concerns by insisting that more than half of funding for the project – €13 million – would be covered through Government grants, with a further €4.9 million covered through development levies, and another €4 million coming from capital reserves. has learned that the local authority applied for €6.6 million under scheme 1 of the Large Scale Sports Infrastructure Fund (LSSIF) in 2019 but the Department of Transport Tourism and Sport, which administers the fund, said it “did not score highly enough” and rejected the application. 

The grant application was made before a majority of two-thirds of councillors in Dublin City Council green lit the project at a meeting in December. The decision to refuse it was made in January 2020, a short time after the widespread debate on whether the project was appropriate. 

That LSSIF is designed to “increase participation and interest in sport, to improve standards of performance and to develop sports facilities at national, regional and local level”. 

It awarded grants including €8 million to the regional aquatic and fitness centre in Galway and €1.25 million to a regional athletics hub in Limerick. 

The Sports Infrastructure Fund was not the only grant which was refused at Government level for the white-water rafting project. understands an application was made by the council to the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund in 2018, which is administered by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, but this was also refused. 

Dublin City Council confirmed it has submitted another application to this fund and is currently awaiting an outcome of that application. 

Asked if the project was in doubt following multiple refusals of grant application to Government, a spokesperson said “it is envisaged that funding in the sum of €13m will be secured for the Swift Water Rescue and Tourism elements of the project”. 

wwr rafting

However, the council spokesperson confirmed that it has not yet made any applications for this funding. “To date, no formal applications have been made to funding bodies with responsibility for either element,” it said. 

“This [LSSIF] funding was not considered at the time to be the primary funding mechanism for the project but would have been a welcome funding addition if successful,” the council said. 

“The application was made due to the fact that the facility would be utilised by a Minority Sport Governing Body for Elite Athlete training (i.e. Canoeing Ireland) and they supported the application.”

Councillors have expressed their concern at the project’s failure to secure funds for the project through sports and urban development schemes, and suggested the entire project should be reconsidered. 

“I was initially against this and I think a white-water rafting facility in the middle of the docklands was a waste of money,” said Fianna Fáil councillor Daithí de Roiste.

“I think councillors at the time were pacified by the fact that this was cost neutral. That they would raise money and it would self-sufficient through the numbers coming through the doors
If they are struggling to draw down grants and other people aren’t looking at this, and this was in a pre-Covid world… so in a post-Covid world we need to ask can we afford to be wasting money like that? I don’t think so. 

“So I would think the council should relook at this project in the sense that if it can’t get the grant funding then it can’t go ahead.”

Labour Party councillor Kevin Donoghue also suggested that if €13 million could not be secured in grant funding for the project, a new proposal would need to be submitted to councillors for approval. 

“In my view there’s no mandate for the council to pursue this… I voted against it and those who voted for it voted for it to be funded in a particular way and if that doesn’t materialise the council would have to come back to us, they couldn’t just plow ahead,” he said. 

“I had a number of problems with [the facility] both in terms of the cost, the focus, there are people within ten minutes walk of that site who are two or three generations living in a two-bedroom house, and I thought that the focus of it was totally inappropriate.

“I don’t see how the executive could pursue this without coming back to the council to hear our concerns about it and that would be September, I’d say, before that would happen now.”

When initially proposed, it was thought construction of the project might begin during the second half of 2020 but Dublin City Council confirmed that the first stage in the procurement process began three weeks ago on the 22 June. 

That stage allows for expressions of interest to be submitted for the provision of a waste water treatment plant, a raft conveyor and gates for the facility. The advertisement of the main works contract will go out to tender in the final quarter of this year with construction beginning in 2021. 

Sea Pool 

Last week a new proposal was also put forward by the Dockland’s Development Office, the same office behind the white-water rafting proposal, to develop a €15m sea pool on the River Liffey near the rafting facility.

The proposal, according to Dublin City Council, stems from interest expressed in developing an outdoor heated pool during the discussions around the rafting facility. 

If approved by councillors on Dublin City Council, that facility would see an outdoor swimming pool around 50 metres long and up to 15 metres wide on a floating platform on the river at Custom’s House Quay. 

pool dublin Proposed sea pool at Custom's House Quay Dublin City Council Dublin City Council

It would also include an adjoining building which would host changing rooms, a cafe, yoga rooms, and general meeting rooms. 

In its feasibility report, the council pointed to a similar facility in Helsinki, Finland developed in 2014 and which the Dublin council determined to be a “social and economic success”. reporter Conor McCrave, Green Party TD Patrick Costello, and kayak slalom champion Samuel Curtis discussed the ins and outs of the white-water rafting project in December – what the facility itself would consist of, its main benefits, how the scope for developing the site in other ways is somewhat limited, as well as the main criticisms it has faced.

The Explainer / SoundCloud

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