Sustainable Transport Bridge design ‘catastrophic’ for Bray’s swan population, expert says

Swan at Bray Harbour. Photo: Leigh Anderson.

Eimear DoddBray People

The suspension style design for a proposed bridge near Bray Harbour could have a “catastrophic” impact on the swan population, an expert has warned.

Graham Prole is a licenced ringer and the coordinator of the Dublin Kildare Mute Swan Project.

An Bord Pleanala has deemed that additional environment impact assessments are not necessary for the proposed Bray Sustainable Transport Bridge.

Mr Prole has called on Wicklow County Council to re-consider the design of the proposed bridge, due to the risk posed to the mute swan population.

Mr Prole monitors and tracks the movement and survival of swans. He is licenced by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

“In a few years you won’t have swans in Bray,” he said.

The suspension bridge would have cables which Mr Prole says the birds will not see due to their peripheral vision. Swans could swim up the Dargle at high tide, then fly back potentially into the cables.

Mr Prole said a suspension bridge design is not appropriate for the Dargle as it is a swan flight path.

There are currently 50 swans in Bray, mainly juveniles. The number of swans can rise to 127, which makes Bray a “nationally important site” for swans, Mr Prole said.

“We all need infrastructure, I’m not against infrastructure. But the design of the bridge is not suitable for the location.”

Bray Harbour is one of two important sites for juvenile swans on the east coast. Juveniles remain in Bray while breeding pairs travel to breeding sites during the breeding season.  Anything that impacts juvenile swan numbers could have a detrimental impact on future generations.

“When their survival rate goes down, there are not enough to repopulate other areas.”

Mr Prole said bridge strikes involving swans have been recorded at the Samuel Beckett Bridge in Dublin, which is a similar design and on a traditional swan flight path. Each recorded incident is reported to NPWS and a swan monitoring project in the UK.

Mr Prole highlights that Bray is famous for its swan population.

“I’ve no expert on whether or not a bridge is needed, but the current design would be catastrophic for the swan population in Bray and this would have a knock-on effect on the swan population in Wicklow and Dublin.”

The part eight process for the bridge was suspended while the Bord reviewed the matter. This process is expected to continue with officials making a recommendation to local councillors about the proposed bridge. This would then be subject to a vote by all 32 elected members of Wicklow County Council.