€230m Dún Laoghaire harbour plan announced

 

A €230 million development project which includes a “world-class” diaspora centre; berthing for large cruisers; marine service companies; food and beverage outlets; and 300 new homes has been proposed by the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company.

The plan, on which company officials and Dún Laoghaire traders briefed Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar yesterday, will go on public display this weekend, with comments invited on it.

The promoters say the project would create 1,000 jobs in areas including services and tourism.

The harbour company said it needs to spend €5 million a year on the harbour and that to date almost 70 per cent of its income has come from one client, Stena Line, which operates the fast ferry service to Holyhead. A recently signed contract with Stena for the next two years will see the ferry service reduced to just one sailing per day, with a drop in harbour company revenue from €7.2 million to an average of €1.8 million a year.

The plan aims to position Dún Laoghaire as “a marine, leisure and tourism destination of international calibre” with a diaspora centre on a par with the Jewish Museum in Berlin.

The centre, which will have a target of attracting one million visitors annually, is to be located on the Carlisle Pier. The ferry terminal building is to be demolished as part of the development, freeing space for residential, commercial and leisure use.

The plan claims the development would bring about “a huge increase in public access to the waterfront, new slipways for the general public to use, and a new public marina”.

Harbour company chief executive Gerry Dunne told Mr Varadkar many comparable harbours elsewhere had become commercially successful, such as Albert Dock in Liverpool, HafenCity in Hamburg and Darling Harbour in Sydney. He said finance for the project could come from commercial sources and philanthropic organisations, particularly those interested in the diaspora centre.

He said he believed the prospect of 1,000 jobs and a “new reality” would influence the public in favour of the scheme, even if there was some initial resistance to 300 new homes proposed as part of the project.

The company estimates its investment assets are worth €8.4 million and the harbour estate is worth more than €50 million. The company said it believes the development is realisable “even in the current constrained market . . . the waterfront will sell well”.

The company noted that the 300 new homes were “absolutely critical, both from a financial and operational perspective”.

Mr Varadkar asked about the possibility of local opposition to the project but said he welcomed the initiative.

“This is in line with international best practice and with measures to improve integrated transport planning more generally. I know there is very keen local interest in the future development of the harbour and I would encourage all the local stakeholders to participate positively in the process,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said in addition to being a successful commercial port, the harbour is the State’s largest marine leisure amenity, an important maritime heritage site and location of what is reputed to be the State’s most popular walk.

The plan will be on display tomorrow and Sunday from noon to 6pm at the terminal building in the harbour.