Waterways Ireland is drawing up plans to sell the heritage, “graving docks”, part of the Grand Canal Docks in Dublin, on the open market.
Graving docks are effectively dry docks into which ships can be sailed before the water is removed, allowing work on parts of ships that would have been inaccessible when the vessel was afloat.
Opened in 1796 on the completion of the Grand Canal from the Shannon to the Liffey, there were originally three graving docks built parallel to each other at the eastern end of the Grand Canal Dock, but one was filled in and in recent years has been home to the Viking Splash Tours base.
A second graving dock is home to the former passenger ship the Naomh Éanna, which belonged to CIE, a former owner of the waterway.
The graving docks are now part of the Docklands Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) where they are known as “City Block 19” and represent one of the last parcels of land in the area which has not been redeveloped.
Under the SDZ masterplan the triangular-shaped parcel containing the graving docks is to be used for residential, commercial and community use.
Waterways Ireland which is the current owner of waterways infrastructure had put forward a number of redevelopment proposals including a Danish-inspired housing development on stilts over the docks, in a parkland setting.
However at a recent meeting of the The Docklands Oversight and Consultative Forum, a representative of Waterways Ireland said it was now planning to “dispose” of the property.
Waterways Ireland subsequently confirmed plans were being drawn up to sell the site “on the open market”.
While the authority said it was “currently considering a range of options”, it said: “One option being explored is sale on the open market. This option would enable the achievement of the vision for Grand Canal Dock within a shorter timeframe and would remove any additional burden on the public exchequer”.
Waterways Ireland said the site “in its present derelict state, detracts considerably from the regeneration in the area and limits the potential of Dublin Docklands and Grand Canal Dock”.
The authority said it was “keen to see the appropriate and much needed development” in a way which celebrates and reflects the significant social, historical and cultural value of the site for the local community and for Dublin.
It said its plans would “further allow for the proceeds to be invested back into the delivery of a shared vision for the Docklands”.
However Michael Ingle who represents the Grand Canal Dock Residents Association on the statutory Docklands Consultative and Oversight Forum, said he was “outraged”. He said the land needed to be in public ownership “to get the community gain from docklands redevelopment schemes that we have been promised for the last 25 years”.
Reg McCabe of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland which was formed in the 1950s to campaign for the preservation of waterways infrastructure, said the waterways community was “greatly saddened and disappointed that the State entity responsible for this unique industrial heritage asset has reneged on previous assurances regarding its restoration as a community benefit. We are calling on the Government to give an undertaking that the site will be retained on public ownership”.
The graving docks were State owned through a number of entities over the years and were transferred to Waterways Ireland, one of the North-South bodies established under the Good Friday Agreement in 1999.