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Empty site in the Dublin Docklands George's Dock Lido Campaign

Development at 'white water rafting' site at stalemate as council 'in limbo'

The space had previously been earmarked for a controversial white water rafting facility.

PLANS FOR A new development on George’s Dock have ground to a halt, as Dublin City Council struggles to decide on how the site should be used.

The space had previously been earmarked for a controversial white water rafting facility, which was quickly shot down by the public and politicians.

Other mooted developments included a public lido and then a general water sports facility. 

However, the council is at a “stalemate” with how to progress, according to south east inner city councillor Danny Byrne.

In January, a campaign group presented its proposal for a “non-elitist” public lido, inspired by those of London, Berlin and Barcelona.

The plans, designed by Chris Romer-Lee of Studio Octopi, included a 50-metre, all-season heated pool, a smaller learning pool, diving boards, saunas, water gardens with public seating, performance areas, community function rooms, a restaurant, café, and viewing gallery.

Patrick Earls, a co-founder of the campaign, says the group is now working to pare back the plans, and hopes to present a “more realistic” proposal to city management later this year.

“From a funding perspective, it really does tick a lot of boxes,” he told The Journal.

“It’s inclusive, it could have public health benefits, it could transform a part of the city to some degree, which has a lot of complex social issues.

“Creating a landmark inclusive facility could help regenerate the area and provide something for local communities, but also the wider population.”

AERIAL SHOT ZOOM Original proposal for the lido

The group’s revised proposal is being shaped by volunteers who are experts in their fields. Swim Ireland has come on board to help with demand analysis and consultants from major firms are advising on the construction. All this, Earls says, will make the proposal one that “couldn’t be refused”.

The campaign has started a GoFundMe to help accelerate the process.

Cllr Byrne, who did not support the white water rafting centre, also has reservations about a lido.

Carbon emissions from the development, a lack of parking space and high construction costs are roadblocks to continuing with any plan, he said.

Byrne had asked for a public consultation to determine how the space would be best used, but he says his calls “fell on deaf ears”.

Nearly two million euro had been spent on the white water rafting idea before it was shelved due to considerable backlash.

“It wasn’t a good experience for the council,” Byrne said.

“To be spending all this money at a time of a homelessness crisis just didn’t sit well with me.”

‘In limbo’

North inner city councillor Joe Costello, who is a member of the docklands oversight and consultative forum, says the development of the site is “in a limbo situation”.

“It’s going nowhere at the moment,” he said.

“It’s the obvious area for a major centre for the docklands in terms of this new quarter that’s being created.”

In his view, any new development must draw on the area’s industrial and marine heritage, while serving both locals and tourists.

The area has seen lots of individual developments, such as the 3 Arena, the convention centre and the EPIC museum, but Costello says the council must “bring it all together”.

“That’s what’s missing at the moment,” he said.

“There’s no focus. There’s no coordination.

Costello is “disappointed” by the direction the area has gone in, prioritising vast office blocks vacant after 5.30pm, while there is “not nearly enough housing”.

“I would’ve liked to see all boats being raised, not sort of major development on the one side and lack of development on the other,” he said.

“We should have integrated old and new to a better degree than has taken place.”

“Under siege”

The rapid development of the Docklands has not yet solved the social issues that plagued it since long before regeneration, and the area continues to be shackled by links to criminal activity and anti-social behaviour.

“So much could’ve been done for the young people growing up in the area than looking over the boundary and seeing all these massive developments that they couldn’t aspire to,” Costello said.

According to local councilor Mannix Flynn, the site is an opportunity to build community-minded infrastructure that helps soften the polarities of the city centre.

The amenities currently available are “under siege” by crime and violence, but a cleaner, safer waterway could be transformational.

“We have a most-desired Dublin Bay area which is basically unused in many respects,” said Flynn.

“Would they clean the Liffey out of the muck that’s in it and stop the dirt and filth being put into it on a daily basis?”

The focus, Flynn says, should not be on expensive facilities, because “we don’t have a lido crisis”.

“On grand canal dock, we’ve had to deal with serious criminality in the last number of weeks,” he said.

“No one goes down to the docklands area in the evening times. The workers that are there leave fairly fast.”

Flynn is pessimistic about the government and the council’s ability to make the site useful.

“The city council can’t even build a house, nevermind a lido, so with all due respect I wouldn’t be holding my breath.”

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