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€20m plan to transform Balbriggan into 'envy of the country'

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An artist’s impression of the revamped RNLI boathouse

An artist’s impression of the revamped RNLI boathouse

An artist’s impression of the revamped RNLI boathouse

A new harbour is set to be part of an ambitious €20m investment to turn a seaside Dublin town into the "envy of the country".

Plans are afoot for a major rejuvenation project in Balbriggan to give it a long-overdue economic and social facelift.

The north Co Dublin town - which already boasts a sizeable beach - is regularly bypassed on the tourist trail for more attractive towns on the east coast of the country.

Balbriggan is the youngest town in Ireland, according to the 2016 Census, and has seen population growth of 94pc in the past 25 years.

This is significantly higher than the rest of the country, with the national population only growing by 35pc in the same period.

Tourists

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General view of Balbriggan harbour rail bridge. Photo: Caroline Quinn

General view of Balbriggan harbour rail bridge. Photo: Caroline Quinn

General view of Balbriggan harbour rail bridge. Photo: Caroline Quinn

The project - which is led by Fingal County Council (FCC) and the Balbriggan Leadership Group - intends to future-proof the area for further growth in the coming years, according to FCC chief executive Paul Reid.

Mr Reid said the experience for tourists needed to be improved as a means of attracting them to Balbriggan, as opposed to other seaside towns such as Skerries.

He said that the transformation of Westport, Co Mayo, in recent years stood as an example and Balbriggan residents were going to be at the forefront of the project.

"In addition to the €10m allocated for the implementation of the Balbriggan Strategy, an additional capital sum - in excess of €10m - has also been allocated for the completion of the Balbriggan to Skerries Greenway, development of Bremore Castle into a premier visitor destination, development of Bremore Regional Amenity Park and upgrades to cycleways and connectivity in the town," Mr Reid said.

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Plans for Railway Street

Plans for Railway Street

Plans for Railway Street

"The total cost of all public realm activities is likely to exceed the amount available, so choices may have to be made and which activity, the timescale and likely budget will be directly influenced by the results of the survey.

"But the plan goes much deeper than public spaces and amenities.

"It will involve every area of local lives - employment, education, skills, local economy and enterprise, and community affairs and integration."

Mr Reid explained that with significant pressures nationally to develop housing, Balbriggan is being used for a large chunk of this.

"What we need to be very conscious of is, with the urge to continue to stimulate development, that we do it in a way that develops the town, that develops the communities out there, that puts the infrastructure in," he said.

Mr Reid acknowledged the antisocial element that has been an issue in recent years, and said it needed to be addressed.

He said FCC was anxious to include gardai, the HSE, social protection and business communities to get a rounded approach.

Feuds

"If you don't look at the growth of Balbriggan in a strategic way, you're leaving yourself wide open to the potential growth of drug gangs, new young drug gangs between various different communities, including non-Irish. That's an element of it," he said.

Mr Reid added that with such a diverse population in Balbriggan, integration is key in any such development, and a strategy for this is currently being worked on for Fingal as a whole.

DCU president Brian MacCraith, who is head of the leadership group for the development, said that the new public amenities that will come with this will be "the envy of the country".

"The transformation is already beginning, with free town centre Wi-Fi, a new skate park and a heritage trail just a few of the initiatives due to be unveiled in a short period of time," he said.

"Real money is being put behind a comprehensive rejuvenation scheme for the area - and the Our Balbriggan survey will allow the people of the town to have a say in prioritising a range of improvements.

"At the moment, this town is missing a heart - a properly functioning town centre.

"This whole initiative is about creating an ambitious and prosperous future for Balbriggan that builds on all of its strong points - the physical assets, its fabulous beach, its location and its diverse and rapidly-growing talent base."


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