Councillors call for greater assessment of the plan’s impact on local wildlife
Local councillors have expressed concerns that the estimated costs of the Bray Harbour regeneration scheme could rise due to increasing construction costs.
Elected members received an update on proposals to regenerate the Bray Harbour area during their January meeting. Over €7 million in URDF funding was allocated to the project in March 2021. However, consultants told councillors that the initial estimate of €7 million may have to be reviewed due to higher construction costs.
During the discussion, some local councillors called for more assessment of the project’s impact on local wildlife.
Kristopher Calder of RPS told councillors that meetings had taken place with stakeholders in the harbour area.
In his presentation, Mr Calder outlined several issues faced by the harbour, including its vulnerability during easterly and north-easterly storms. The water depth is unreliable except in the area of the mouth of the Dargle River. He said this creates navigational restrictions, which limits commercial and leisure activities at the harbour. Around 1,000 m3 of sediment are deposited in the harbour annually.
Mr Calder said dredging, additional rock groynes at the North Pier to reduce the depositing of sediment and an extension to the southern breakwater are being considered. Coastal protections would also be installed while the extended southern breakwater could have the depth to allow for a deep water ferry terminal to be created.
The estimated cost of the project is around €7 million, of which €2.6 million would go towards additional rock armour and €2.9 million to extend the southern pier.
Mr Calder cautioned that these estimates were calculated before the Covid-19 pandemic and do not include detailed design costs or other assessments. He told councillors that market fluctuations may mean that the costs of the project have to be revised.
Stuart Anderson of RPS then gave an outline of the proposals to rejuvenate the public realm space at the harbour. Analysis had suggested that the harbour is an under-used area which could be enhanced for the community and visitors alike.
This review also looked at the possible development of the Bray Sustainable Transport Bridge and proposed strategic housing developments on nearby sites. It also identified the potential to improve derelict buildings and underused spaces within the area.
Mr Anderson told councillors it is proposed that the Bray Harbour Trading Company would remain at its current location. Storage used by Bray Sailing Club would remain in place, but be improved. Bray Anglers Club could be relocated to a new purpose built facility. There is also potential for new recreational facilities in the harbour area and improvements for pedestrians and cyclists.
New street lights, signage and street furniture would be installed. Footpaths and cycle links in the area would also be improved. Mr Calder acknowledged that these changes would affect the availability of car parking in the area.
A cantilevered timber boardwalk is being considered to link the harbour and Bray beach. A link to the Dargle Riverwalk is also under consideration as are improvements to slipways and facilities for harbour users. A small kiosk space could be installed and used by summer traders or as a civic space.
Cllr Anne Ferris (Lab) welcomed progress on the proposals but expressed concerns that the ideas “may be too ambitious”. She asked if the consultants had met with residents of Martello Terrace.
Mr Calder said the consultants had not yet met with residents, but would do so as part of a wider public consultation.
Cllr Ferris noted that there are strong local objections to the transport bridge, due to its possible impact on the swan population. She argued that further discussion is needed about the proposals, which have the potential to open up the harbour and the Dargle Riverwalk area.
Cllr Erika Doyle (Green) said many constituents who spoke to her about the project said “don’t do a Greystones”. She added that many people are unaware that lands across the bridge are outside the control of the district. She welcomed the idea that areas of the harbour could be opened up to pedestrians and cyclists.
Cllr Doyle suggested that a kiosk should not be operated by traders who would compete with local businesses selling similar products.
She also suggested that the project team should consider the type of street lighting proposed to ensure it creates a safe space for people without negatively affecting the wildlife which is “so important to everyone in Bray”.
She called on the consultants to speak with residents to ensure they are supportive of the proposals.
Cllr Melanie Corrigan (FG) also highlighted the importance of consultation with residents and of the harbour’s swan population. She said she had concerns about a reduction in car parking. People are being encouraged to come, but there is limited car parking available. Cllr Corrigan asked if a parking area could be created on the former Bray Golf Club lands and visitors encouraged to walk to the beach, reducing congestion in the town.
Mr Calder said a full assessment of the possible impact of the project on the swan population had not been carried out. He noted that the project did not meet the threshold for an Environmental Impact Assessment, however, the consultants would recommend assessments are carried out. He suggested a kiosk did not have to be a commercial space, but could be used to provide tourism information. The nearby railway lines limited the potential to extend the bridge.
Mr Anderson said links for pedestrians and cyclists on the bridge are being considered. Other options for street lighting could be considered, but the aim is to make the area more attractive for residents and visitors.
Bray area engineer Liam Bourke said tentative discussions had taken place with Ballymore, the developer of the former Bray Golf Club lands, about creating a parking area adjacent to the underpass. He said there are currently no proposals for a route between the golf club lands and the harbour, though visitors could use the Schools Road to access this parking area.
Cllr Grace McManus (SF) said the area is significant for wildlife and biodiversity, suggesting that further assessments are needed. She also backed calls by her fellow councillors for wider public consultation.
She asked if the costs of the project would be reviewed and if match funding provided by Wicklow County Council would be sufficient to make up any shortfall.
Cllr McManus also highlighted that the stretch of road by the railway bridge is quite narrow and can pose dangers to pedestrians at times.
Cllr Aoife Flynn-Kennedy (FG) suggested the proposals created a vision for the area, which could be used to obtain the view of the community.
She also stressed “how much we adore our swan population in Bray”.
District Manager Lorraine Gallagher said the local authority is aware of the swans and biodiversity. She confirmed conversations had taken place with property owners in the harbour area, and the next steps would include the development of a masterplan ahead of a pre-statutory public consultation.
Ms Gallagher acknowledged that rising costs are a concern, but this would become clearer during the tender process.
Mr Calder said costs are difficult to predict due to the dynamic market situation and more information would become available during the detailed design phase.