€300m harbour work 'paused'

Mon, Feb 22, 2010, 00:00

WORK IS to be “paused” on public facilities in the €300 million Greystones Harbour redevelopment project in north Co Wicklow, its backers have confirmed.

With an estimated €40 million already spent on construction of the project – mostly on the creation of the outer harbour walls – the Sispar Consortium has yet to build new facilities for five local clubs, 341 apartments and houses, a new public square, slipways, a 230-berth marina, commercial facilities including marine-related shops and offices, an associated beach and a public park.

The project also includes anti-erosion measures at the existing north beach that are scheduled to take place annually for 30 years.

However, Sispar has told a local harbour liaison committee that given the changed economic situation, once the outer walls and two slipways are completed by about next October – by which time they will be about six months’ late – a pause will be put on much of the “landside” aspects of the project, including the clubhouses and the marina.

Sispar told the February meeting of the local harbour liaison committee that it was in talks to bring forward some of the commercial elements of the project, notably a block “D” that would be located roughly in front of the existing sailing club premises.

This would allow most hoardings around the harbour to come down, and a number of areas to open to the public, although they may have temporary surfaces, by September 2011.

However the next phase – the construction of clubhouses for sea scouts, divers, sailors and rowers – will be delayed and the timescale for their delivery will depend on market conditions for new homes and commercial property elsewhere in the development.

A Sispar video timescale for the development that was originally posted on the project website shows the sea walls having being completed and substantial progress on landside buildings, including the clubhouses, by month 24, which is February 2010.

This video has since become inaccessible on the project website but is still available on YouTube.

According to local councillor Derek Mitchell (Fine Gael), who as chairman of Wicklow County Council signed the contracts with Sispar for the public-private partnership, the town had been “trying to get the harbour sorted out for over 100 years and it is good news that the marine works are nearly finished”.

“The next phase – construction of public facilities, including the public square and clubhouses for the sea scouts, divers, anglers, sailors and rowers – will most likely be paused for a bit,” he told The Irish Times.

County council spokesman Sean Quirke said that future timescale was “dependent on where the market goes”. But he pointed out costings for the project were based on 2004 values, so recent falls in property values were not as damaging as many people thought.

He said the project had still some years to run.

However, Labour councillor Tom Fortune, who is also a member of the harbour liaison committee, said the local community had been brought on board by promises of “community gain , particularly in relation to the development of new club houses”.

“The carrot here was the clubs and the public facilities, the marina and the public square which were all to be delivered first, but it now seems they will only be done, at best, in tandem with 341 new homes.

“It as a Celtic Tiger project in every sense of the word. People argued strongly at the time that it was too greedy: we could have rebuilt the harbour walls and financed it by selling housing land elsewhere in the town in council ownership,” he said.