A row over the location of a Traveller halting site in north Dublin is threatening to delay the construction of an urgently-needed new runway at Dublin airport.
The extended McAleer family has lived in a halting site at Collinstown, on land owned by the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA), for 30 years. Fingal County Council, the McAleers' landlord, has leased the site from the DAA since 1988, but the authority now needs it back.
The site is in the exclusion zone for the airport’s new north runway, construction of which starts in January 2019.
The McAleers have agreed to move to a council-owned site 12km north of the airport at Coolquay – a village of about 100 people.
Detailed plans for a 10-bay halting site, with an amenity-building in each bay, parking spaces and associated services, have been drawn up, and are now going through the planning process.
Locals however, are adamant the 1.7 hectare site is “highly unsuitable” for a halting site, and have mounted a strong campaign against it. Posters have been displayed around the village, saying the field is a flood plain and calling on the council not to “flood our homes”.
Over 600 “observations” have been submitted to the planning office from people in the area,and across north Dublin and Co Meath. Fingal councillors vote on the proposal on Monday.
Residents argue Coolquay, with its population of about 100, does not have the facilities to accommodate a population increase of about 50. “More importantly” they say the field for the proposed halting site is a flood plain for the area.
Alvean Finnegan and her husband Joe, who have lived in Coolquay for seven years, show photographs of flooded gardens and sheds from 2001, 2004 and 2014. They say the water table beneath the field is high and drainage bad.
"This field takes a lot of run-off water from surrounding streams and a tributary to the river Ward in the event of flooding. If the council covers over it they are taking away our flood plain.
“It would that be very bad for our homes and properties, but it would be terrible for anyone living there.”
it is claimed 50 new residents would produce over 7,000 litres of waste water a day.
“Coolquay is not connected to the waste-water mains. We have septic tanks,” says Ms Finnegan, explaining their households’ waste water is not piped away as in urban areas, but cleaned in septic tanks that ultimately return it to the soil.
“All water eventually goes back into the ground. So when there is flooding there is nowhere for that water to go either.”
The council says a “comprehensive” flood-risk assessment was carried out, though residents say repeated “percolation tests” in the field have failed.
“The council say there will be no problems, but please come and talk to us, reassure us,” says Ms Finnegan. “We don’t feel reassured because they won’t come and talk to us. We don’t feel we can trust them.”
The couple vehemently reject any suggestion that the local campaign arises from the type of accommodation planned. “There are several settled Traveller families in this area,” says Mr Finnegan. “This is not anti-Traveller. This is anti-bad planning,”
Brian Maughan, a Traveller who lives with his family in a council house beside the proposed site, says he is angry about the plan as he had understood his extended family would "live on that site one day".
The McAleer family did not want to speak publicly on the issue.
A spokeswoman for the DAA said "a new runway is required" to meet the growing demand for flights. " DAA is mandated by the Government under the National Aviation Policy to deliver a new runway."
Ahead of the vote on Monday, a spokeswoman for Fingal County Council said it was engaged in a statutory planning process in relation to the provision of an alternative site for a number of families who reside at Collinstown. "The various issues raised, including flooding concerns, have been considered."