New deepwater port may be moved north to avoid tombs
Port developers anxious to avoid ‘very significant’ neolithic complex, writes FRANK MACDONALD, Environment Editor
A PROPOSED deepwater container port at Bremore in north Co Dublin may be moved farther north to Gormanston, Co Meath, to avoid encroaching on a neolithic complex of passage tombs.
A spokesman for Treasury Holdings, which is planning to develop the new facility in partnership with Drogheda Port, confirmed yesterday that one of the options now being considered was to “shift it off Bremore headland” for archaeological reasons.
He said it had become clear at an early stage that the neolithic complex at Bremore was “very significant”, and the developers would be anxious to avoid it by examining alternative locations, such as Gormanston.
However, no final decision has been taken.
One of the constraints is that the Gormanston site is partly covered by an EU-designated special protection area (SPA) for wild birds.
It is also believed to contain another archaeological complex, though this is not thought to be as significant as the one located at Bremore.
“We’ve done a significant amount of preliminary work, including archaeological investigations by Margaret Gowen and Company,” the spokesman said, adding that Treasury would now be taking on an environmental specialist to assess the Gormanston option.
Treasury acquired options to purchase several landholdings at Bremore before entering into partnership with Drogheda Port, but it is understood the company holds none for Gormanston.
Land in the area would be cheaper to acquire now due to the property crash.
“We now have to work through the environmental issues as well as the cultural heritage and archaeological issues,” the spokesman said.
He added that Treasury and its partners would be consulting with “all the various interests”, such as An Taisce, which it has met already.
It is likely to be autumn before a firmer proposal will be put out for consultation.
“Ireland needs a deepwater port; the IDA (Industrial Development Authority) is conscious that we are losing projects because we don’t have one,” according to the spokesman.
An Taisce’s monuments and antiquities committee has warned that any port development at Bremore would “completely obliterate a passage tomb cemetery of neolithic date with affinities to Newgrange and a mid-16th century historic harbour site”.
Commenting on the possibility that it could be relocated to Gormanston, committee chairman Dr Mark Clinton said it would be likely to affect a sandy beach “most beloved in the locality” and shoreline that forms part of the river Nanny SPA.
Any such plan would require a full assessment of its environmental effects to be prepared and placed before the public prior to being approved.
“It would appear that the exact opposite of these legal requirements is in motion,” Dr Clinton said.
He also queried the need for a new port, noting that throughput at Drogheda Port had fallen by 50 per cent in 2008, according to its most recent set of accounts, while business at Dublin Port was down by 10 per cent.
“There is no need for a new deepwater port,” he said.