Tuesday 25 October 2016

Concern over planning permission for cruise ships as deadline nears

Richard Boyd Barrett
Richard Boyd Barrett

A MULTI-MILLION bid to develop one of the country's main ports is due to lodged with An Bord Pleanala in the next ten days.

The controversial Dun Laoghaire planning application, which has been met with opposition from residents and several local political representatives, is being submitted by Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company.

The harbour company is seeking permission for an €18m cruise berth facility to cater for jumbo cruise ships, which would mean passengers will be able to walk on to the port.

The company hopes the cruise berth will be a boost for the local economy, as predicted in studies carried out so far.

Three cruise visits to Dun Laoghaire had to be cancelled last month due to problems with high tides and passengers not wanting to be ferried from their ship on to shore, resulting with them berthing at Dublin Port.

Local Fianna Fail councillor Cormac Devlin explained there is a certain amount of anticipation about the plans, given the loss of Stena Line ferries operating from the port.

"The submission will finally give answers to the way the port will be developed," he said.

"It's a fact that not only Dun Laoghaire port, but others around the country, have to look to the leisure industry to survive. It's an area of massive growth," he added.

"It this plan doesn't happen then it is difficult to say how the port will survive."

However, deputy Richard Boyd Barrett, of People Before Profit warned that the recent cancellations confirms what "a dangerous and foolhardy financial gamble the cruise berth plan is".

"Borrowing €18m to build this giant cruise berth could potentially bankrupt the harbour and be the first step to its privatisation," he said.

Meanwhile documents released to the Sunday Business Post show that both Leo Varadkar and Paschal Donohoe have raised concerns about the corporate governance of the harbour company, in their capacities as Minister for Tourism and Sport.

A letter written while Mr Varadkar held the ministerial post, highlighted concerns about the financial viability of the plan for the harbour - which includes the cruise berth.

A spokesperson for the harbour company told the Herald that the board recently has a "very positive and constructive meeting with Minister Donohoe and that the company is in regular contact with the department about the plan".

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