Dun Laoghaire harbour 'needs jumbo cruise ships to survive'
Dun Laoghaire harbour needs the proposed jumbo cruise berth to survive, according to the CEO of the Harbour Company.
"We wouldn't turn it back into an industrial harbour like Dublin Port but nor can it survive as purely a leisure harbour either - it must have commerce," Gerry Dunne, CEO of the Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company (DLHC), told the Herald.
Controversial plans have been lodged with An Bord Pleanala to develop an €18m cruise berth capable of accommodating the world's largest cruise ships in the harbour.
Reaction to the proposal has been divided in the seaside town, but Mr Dunne said they are confident that their application, which cost €100,000 to submit, will be upheld.
"In the cold light of day when people look at the quality and the depth of our submission, I think that they'll see there are very, very few people discommoded by our plans and that the upside there is a huge benefit for the national and the local economy," he said.
The DLHC suffered a blow last year when Stena Line ferries pulled out of the port. Plans are afoot to bring a ferry operator back to the town next summer.
Several yacht clubs are based along the seafront but Mr Dunne said that they do not contribute to the running of the harbour in any significant way. "The harbour is actually a working harbour and not a leisure harbour - it always has been and it always will be," he said.
Dublin Port Company has plans for a similar cruise facility but Mr Dunne dismissed fears that the two would be in competition with each other.
"Dublin port has very ambitious development plans for freight and we have very ambitious development plans for cruise ships Within Dublin Bay, there is ample opportunity for both ports to achieve their overall objectives," he said.
Previously he suggested that the collaboration between the two ports is the key, through promotion of both ports as a gateway to the capital.
The company is facing an oral hearing on the plans as one of the early submissions made to the planning authority has requested one. Independent councillor Victor Boyhan penned an objection to An Bord Pleanala on the plans.
In part it reads: "As part of an oral hearing I would request the board to seek reassurances as to the impact this project would have on the coastal environment, noise, water, and air pollution, during the construction phase and thereafter."
The Save Our Seafront campaign in the town is preparing a submission to the planning authority and will be backing calls for an oral hearing also.
Mr Dunne said the company would welcome such a hearing, which is common with significant infrastructure developments like this one. The public consultation process was a "healthy" one, he pointed out.
READ MORE: Cruise ship plan divides the locals
"We would encourage everyone who feels strongly about it one way or the other to make a submission," he said.
The reasons cited by opponents of the plans were ones that the company "had heard before", Mr Dunne said. Fears that the sight of the giant "next generation" cruise ships would ruin harbour views are not likely to be borne out among the general public, Mr Dunne said.
"We don't accept that the height of the cruise ships is a problem. It can actually be a very attractive component of the harbour landscape to the general public because they are very fine looking vessels."
Meanwhile, People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett, has said his fear is that the plans are the first step towards the privatisation of the harbour.
"This isn't about a cruise berth, this is about the development of private apartments, hotels and shops along St Michael's pier," he said. "To our mind, that's the real agenda."
Long-term plans for the harbour are detailed in the 2011 DLHC masterplan.
Mr Dunne dismissed this opinion as "narrow minded".
"It's a very important part of that plan that we utilise the space efficiently. It's also important that we enliven the harbour and attract people to live there."
Written submissions can be made to An Bord Pleanala until August 27 on the plans.
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