Dublin Port’s decision to open a consultation process on its future will no doubt reignite the debate about the best use of its vast property holdings in the capital’s docklands. The idea of relocating the facility to a bigger site, somewhere else on the east coast, has been mooted for more than a decade. Advocates say the existing facility is fast reaching maximum capacity and needs additional acreage anyway. They also point to the mass of lorries and knock-on congestion that would be removed from the city centre if the port was relocated.
However, it’s the prospect of unlocking hectares of prime real estate for housing and commercial development that’s held up as the great prize.
Proponents say up to 40,000 housing units could be delivered with an additional 220 acres for offices, retail, museums, sports facilities, parks, cafes, bars and clubs.
Moving Dublin Port is not, however, in the Government's latest National Development Plan (NDP) and doesn't seem to be on the Government's agenda. The Dublin Port Company has always been adamantly against the idea. On Monday it poured more cold water on the notion, saying it would cost a significant €8.3 billion, while insisting it was also unlikely to get planning permission "because of environmental impacts".
People who want to keep the port in situ also fear that a prime State asset would simply be flogged to private interests if the port moves.
Dublin Port Company's preferred option is to build an additional port, to run alongside the existing facility, either at Bremore in Balbriggan, Co Dublin or in Arklow, Co Wicklow at a cost of €3.9-€4.2 billion. It needs signficant State backing for such an enterprise but insists it will be running close to capacity in 10 or 20 years.
That’s of course if Brexit doesn’t put pay to its expansion plans. Cargo from Britain has already halved since Brexit but it’s unclear if this is permanent and/or partly related to the pandemic.