Monday 22 January 2018

Minister quizzed in Seanad on Burrow

Residents of the Burrow Portrane are worried about ongoing coastal erosion in the area
Residents of the Burrow Portrane are worried about ongoing coastal erosion in the area

John Manning

The Minister for State for the OPW who has responsibility for tackling coastal erosion, has said his office is prepared to support Fingal County Council to intervene to address the continuing erosion at the Burrow in Portrane, provided the measures taken are intervention 'economically justified on cost-benefit grounds and are environmentally sound'.

But those two criteria are precisely the reasons given recently by Fingal County Council to explain why it was unable to draw down funds from the Minister for States's department to tackle the ongoing coastal crisis at the Burrow

Asked recently by local councillors, why it did not progress a €200,000 scheme to defend the area, the local authority reported: 'The coastal protection measures that were assessed and recommended in the Portrane Coastal Erosion Risk Management study could not be implemented due to a combination of negative cost benefit ratio analysis and environmental constraints.'

The council has now agreed to carry out a new study of the area following further dramatic erosion events in recent weeks that saw further large chunks of coastline disappear into the sea, threatening this community 'living on the edge'.

The plight of the community was raised by Senator James Reilly in the Seanad where he quizzed Minister for State for the OPW, Sean Canney, who recently visited the Burrow, on what his department was doing to address the problem.

He thanked the Minister of State for the site visit and for what he called 'the practical advice offered by the Minister of State and his stated commitment on camera to fund works at this location under the minor works programme'.

Senator Reilly added: 'The local residents are extremely worried, frustrated and angry that no action has been taken to deal with their plight, namely, the real risk to their homes from flooding by the nearby sea.'

He added: 'I regret to say the only wall that cannot seem to be breached at The Burrow in Portrane is the wall of red tape stopping local residents from getting fair treatment and works to protect their homes.'

Senator Reilly encouraged the Minister of State to write to the council CEO, Paul Reid, and ask Fingal County Council to 'produce a plan for consideration by his officials within four weeks'.

Minister Canney said the council was 'working hard to identify viable solutions to the erosion problem at Portrane'.

He added: 'I look forward to receiving proposals from the council in due course. The OPW operates the minor flood mitigation works and coastal protection scheme, under which applications for funding from local authorities are considered for measures costing up to €500,000 in each instance. Funding for coastal erosion risk management studies may also be applied for under this scheme.

'Funding of up to 90% of the cost is available for projects which meet the eligibility criteria, including a requirement that the proposed measures are cost beneficial.'

He added: 'The primary objective of Government policy on coastal protection is to ensure that in areas identified as being at greatest risk of damage or loss of economic assets through coastal erosion or flooding, appropriate and sustainable measures are identified by local authorities to protect those assets and, where such measures are economically justified on cost-benefit grounds and compatible with all required environmental and other statutory requirements, they are implemented subject to the availability of resources.'

He concluded: 'Our door is open. When I came into office, I wrote to all the chief executives in the local authorities to invite them to make applications for minor works schemes.

'We have money and we want to be able to spend it on works that we can get done as quickly as possible, as in the case of this particular issue.

'I have seen the damage to the walkway and the debris strewn around the beach. It is not the way things should be left. The Office of Public Works will work closely with the Fingal County Council in that regard,' he added.

Fingal Independent

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