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Wednesday 22 January 2020

Business group's fears over €230m expansion project plan for port

The development will include the creation of a heritage zone
The development will include the creation of a heritage zone

A business group in Dublin's Docklands has questioned whether a €320m project by Dublin Port Company (DPC) to double its capacity is in the interest of businesses and residents.

The Docklands Business Forum is expected to raise concerns about the proposed major development of port infrastructure at an oral hearing of An Bord Pleanala today into an application by DPC for planning permission for the second phase of its Masterplan 2040.

The MP2 project seeks a 15-year permission for phased development works on a 165- hectare site, including a new roll-on roll-off jetty that can cater for vessels up to 240 metres in length and the redevelopment of a little-used oil berth for a deep-water container berth.

Heritage

Other elements include a consolidation of passenger terminal buildings and the creation of a "heritage zone" at the east end of the port which will include a new viewing structure and small amphitheatre accessible from a new 4km greenway.

DPC said its plan provides for Dublin Port reaching capacity by 2040 without the need for any further infill of Dublin Bay.

However, the Docklands Business Forum - which has more than 100 members, representing 35,000 employees - said the continued location of the port in the city centre is an unresolved issue for many.

In a written submission to An Bord Pleanala, the organisation's chief executive, Alan Robinson, said the board needed to consider the wider consequences for the city's sustainability as an inviting urban centre for business and residents.

Mr Robinson said it was a stated objective of Dublin City Council to promote residential development and attract residents back into the city centre, including families.

"This objective seems incompatible with the strain on urban infrastructure that the development will cause," said Mr Robinson.

He pointed out that several other cities including Barcelona, Bremen, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Oslo, London and Cape Town had all moved their ports in the past two decades to "liberate" land to create beautiful new living spaces.

"It seems out of step of international best practice for a port so closely located to the city centre to not only refuse to seriously consider moving to a more appropriate location but to seek, as the Dublin Port Company does with this application, to double its capacity," said Mr Robinson.

He claimed the project, if approved, would protect DPC's dominance in the export market where it already ready holds 89pc of the ro-ro sector and 73pc of container traffic.

"If a private company possessed such market power, there would almost certainly be calls for it to be curtailed or broken up," said Mr Robinson.

He claimed there was much evidence to suggest Dublin Port was no longer fit for purpose, such as the projection that it will reach its maximum capacity by 2040 and its needs to acquire 44 hectares of land near Dublin Airport for its "inland port".

Mr Robinson noted DPC has had to cut the number of cruise ship visits to Dublin by half to facilitate the space it needed for freight traffic. He said that was "unfortunate" as many of his members had initiated and invested heavily in building up the city's cruise ship business.

Investment

However, the Docklands Business Forum welcomed DPC's plans for a heritage zone and its establishment of two €1m trust funds to develop a city farm and support St Joseph's co-ed primary school in East Wall.

At the same time, Mr Robinson questioned if such heavy investment in a heritage zone would receive the necessary footfall to make it a success.

Concerns will also be raised by local Green Party councillor Donna Cooney and the Clontarf Residents' Association.

DPC said the MP2 project was necessary to maintain competitiveness and operational efficiencies.

"It is fundamental to meeting capacity projections up to 2040 and will ensure the port has the necessary infrastructure to meet developments in shipping internationally where larger ships are becoming the industry norm" the DPC said.

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