Moving Dublin Port to free up 650 acres for development

PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT: The 650 acres of prime development land that makes up Dublin Port is significantly undervalued in…

PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT:The 650 acres of prime development land that makes up Dublin Port is significantly undervalued in its current use and the Government can no longer ignore its potential.

DUBLIN PORT IS undoubtedly one of Ireland's most valuable pieces of real estate, involving approximately 263 hectares (650 acres) of prime development land that is significantly undervalued in its current use. The potential of the port cannot be overstated and can no longer be ignored.

It is anticipated that Dublin Port will have reached operational capacity by 2008. This leaves the Government with mainly two possible options: reclamation of some 21 hectares (52 acres) amounting to 0.04 per cent of Dublin Bay; or relocate the port.

Reclaiming the land may give rise to a number of damaging issues, such as increasing the risk of flooding in city centre areas and ecological threats. Furthermore, this option can only be seen as a short term solution to a long term problem.

Should the Government choose to relocate the port, they would be freeing up one of its high net value assets. Relocating the port and releasing up to 650 acres of city centre lands may enable rezoning to mixed uses. Under the Dublin City Development Plan 2005-2011 the majority of the port lands are zoned "Objective Z7", providing for mainly industrial use.

On appraising the potential relocation of the port, you would have to take into account the significant potential that Bremore Port has to offer. Located just north of Balbriggan, Bremore is a deep water port with room for expansion as it has an existing land bank of up to 1,000 acres.

Castle Market Holdings, a subsidiary of Treasury Holdings, was successfully selected by Drogheda Port as partners for a joint venture that will see Bremore transformed into a modern state-of-the-art deepwater facility. Drogheda Port will control a 51 per cent stake in the development while Castle Market Holdings will hold the remaining 49 per cent.

Bremore appears to tick all the boxes as a suitable relocation for facilities at Dublin Port with the process of preparing a port masterplan for Bremore already underway with Bremore expected to be fully operational by 2012.

In September 2007, Dublin City Council carried out a study - Dublin Bay - An Integrated Economic Cultural and Social Vision for Sustainable Development - which is seen as the initial step in preparing a strategic framework plan for the Dublin Bay area, including Dublin Port.

The study identifies seven options for Dublin Port which can be narrowed down to four and sorted into three realistic scenarios.

The first scenario is to re-develop about 51 hectares (126 acres) of the port lands, to accommodate at least 12,000 residents.

The second is to re-develop about 50 per cent of port lands, to accommodate about 32,000 residents.

The final option is to re-develop and relocate the entire port to create accommodation for about 55,000 people.

Opting to relocate the port would undoubtedly be met with stiff opposition as about 10,000 people work in and around the port, and relocating the port would require significant capital expenditure on the upgrade of infrastructure in the new location. Further difficulties may also be faced in securing planning permission in the chosen location.

Having said that, relocating port facilities would allow for strategic and proactive planning, to enable the successful development of modern purpose-built facilities to cater for future needs.

Also, the direct effects that accompany construction work is somewhat lower when choosing to relocate rather than upgrade existing facilities.

Upgrading existing facilities would have considerable impact on the day-to-day lives of locals and workers in the area, with a problem of increased traffic.

Under the National Development Plan 2007-2013, around €481 million of investment in transport is to be allocated for ports facilities.

In Budget 2008, the Minister for Finance Brian Cowen announced significant expenditure in the upgrade of transport facilities.

A budget of €3,837 million was allocated with a number of key improvements which are to be delivered in 2008 and over subsequent years. However, investment in ports did not figure on the list which could lead to the conclusion that Dublin Port is not high on the Government's list of transport priorities.

The relocation of a significant port facility is not unheard of. In Finland they have opted to relocate the north and west harbours of the Port of Helsinki to Vuasaari Harbour.

Vuasaari is north-east of Helsinki's port. Initial construction works began in 2003 with the new port due to start operating at the end of 2008.

In order to facilitate the successful and efficient operation of the new harbour there has been significant capital expenditure to improve the infrastructure in the area surrounding Vuasaari, include the construction of a new motorway and the upgrade of rail services.

Closer to home, there are plans to relocate trading activities from Cork's City Quays to alternative facilities in the Ringaskiddy area of Cork Harbour.

The relocation of the facilities will allow for the significant re-development of Cork's docklands.

Through a joint venture between the Cork Port Company and Howard Holdings, an application was lodged to Cork City Council for a €1 billion development of Cork's docklands to include two hotels, office accommodation and residential units and a landmark building.

A new metro system is also planned to service the area and Cork City Council is seeking tax incentives from the Government for designated areas within the docklands.

Preparations for the development of Ringaskiddy appear to be taking shape as in November 2007 the Port of Cork Company lodged a planning application for the development of a new container terminal at Oyster Bank in Ringaskiddy.

In light of the recent media coverage surrounding the purchase of shares in ICG, the Dublin Port Authority has come strongly to the fore playing down the development potential and value of the 33-acre ICG site. The ICG site and port lands have undoubtedly got development potential and, while the Dublin Port Authority may choose to disregard this potential, the Government can no longer overlook the high value alternative use that Dublin Port can offer.

Surely it's a contradiction to underutilise such a strategically placed asset when strong emphasis is placed on energy efficiency and sustainability.

Mairead Furey works in the development land division at DTZ Sherry FitzGerald