South Dublin locals object to Costa del Sol-style development

Bulloch Harbour residents say the planned buildings will overshadow their cottage


There is a painting of Bulloch Harbour in Monica Smyth’s living room. It could be considered an odd choice given that she lives there, and her house is in the picture, but others might see it as a reflection of just how tied in to the landscape she has become.

The Smyths have been renting fishing boats here for decades. On a summer’s morning Monica (80) is a regular fixture, sitting out in a deckchair from the moment the sun rises on the popular inlet near Dalkey, south Dublin.

Life as she has known it since moving into her blue cottage in 1958 is under threat, at least as she sees it, from a residential development proposed for the small harbour and surrounding her home.

“We will be completely overshadowed. I am not against development; I am against residential [development],” she says, sitting in her front room which overlooks a line of small, upturned boats on the pier outside.

“The height of it is unacceptable: it will be standing up looking right in at us.”

Bartra Capital Property Group, founded by developer Richard Barrett, has filed plans to replace a number of disused buildings with seven ground-floor commercial units and six three-storey terraced dwellings, plus three more houses to the rear.

Public meetings

It has been widely seen as an affront to the heritage of Bulloch and has, so far, prompted two public meetings.

The first, earlier this month, attracted about 475 people, according to the Bulloch Harbour Preservation Association, which organised it.

Bartra Capital has engaged with residents and says it intends to build something “both respectful and enhancing of the harbour and the local environment”.

For locals such as the Smyths, the plans are out of kilter. It has been compared to the buildings on the Costa del Sol and there are concerns that extreme weather will lead to flooding.

“Why build houses in there with that falling in on top of us?” says Smyth, pointing to photographs of huge waves breaking over the rocks.

Her daughter Dolores, who has spent years hauling lobster pots from the sea, adds: “Never has a house been put in behind us because of the flooding. It’s not even the Costa del Sol. The Costa del Sol has sun and we have wind and rain.”

Slates and windows in their home have been shattered by rocks whipped over by the waves, they say.

Last standing

The Smyths’ living room has shelves containing bottled ships and old maritime instruments. Monica’s son Donal produced a small book on the history of the harbour, with pictures of the long-demolished boat pilot cottages.

The Smyths’ house is the last standing in its original condition and its walls to the side and rear will border the new development.

Bulloch Harbour teems with tourists and fishermen in the summer and Monica and Dolores fear any substantial development will take its toll.

“I don’t know if [the proposed development] would impact on [activity] or not. The reason I am against residential development is because of the flooding,” Monica says.

“Three weeks before Christmas, Chris [a neighbour] had his boat on a trailer down there and the sea came up and the trailer started to wobble and move with an 18ft boat on it.”

Many objections to the proposals are expected to be lodged before Thursday’s deadline (January 19th).

A separate site clearance planning application has a later deadline. A decision on the development from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council planners could arrive as early as March, but it will almost certainly go to An Bord Pleanála.

“It’s really, really scary,” says Dolores. “We will have no light, we will have no privacy. We will have nothing except noise and a house rattling like a tin box, and these people don’t care.

“For the general public that come down to enjoy it, I think it’s going to have a dreadful impact.”