Ruling restricts size of cruise liners in Dún Laoghaire Harbour

An Bord Pleanála grants harbour redevelopment permission but cuts the size of ships

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Super-size cruise liners will not be docking in Dún Laoghaire Harbour following a Bord Pleanála decision that restricts the size of vessels allowed under the new harbour redevelopment scheme.

The planning board has granted permission to Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company for the €18 million redevelopment of the port, but has restricted the size of ships permitted to enter the harbour to 250m in length, more than a quarter smaller than the 340m limit sought by the company.

The decision means the largest ocean liners will only be permitted to dock in Dublin Port’s Alexandra Basin which is to undergo a €230 million redevelopment project due to start construction this month.

The 250m ship restriction is in line with the new Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Development Plan. Councillors last February voted to inset a provision into the plan to “preserve the integrity, natural beauty and historical significance of the harbour by protecting this central area from any cruise berth that would allow cruise ships longer than 250m to come directly into the harbour”.

Caption: The ship ‘Windsurf’ has regularly used Dun Laoghaire Harbour, while the new upper limit for ship length is 250m meaning a super-size ship such as the ‘Liberty of the Seas’ is prohibited

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council chief executive Philomena Poolehad opposed the councillors’ move because of the potential economic benefits of the cruise ship trade.

The change to the development plan came after what had originally been the expected decision date for the harbour redevelopment project.

Postponed

Bord Pleanála had been expected to announce its decision on the Harbour Company’s application by January 8th last, it revised that date to April 15th, but the decision was again postponed. It is understood that the length of the public hearing on the application, which lasted almost a month, and the large number of objections at more than 150, contributed to the delays.

The board is required to take into account formally adopted changes to development plans even where they are introduced in the middle of a planning adjudication. Although, while it must take them under consideration, it is not necessarily bound by their content.

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The board’s inspector who conducted the oral hearing had recommended permission be refused because of the potential detrimental effect on the environment, on historic post structures, and “a degree of uncertainty as to the ability of cruise ships to navigate safety through the harbour mouth to the berth”.

However, the board decided to allow the scheme subject to a number of conditions, chiefly the ship size restriction which will reduce the length of the new berth from 435m to 320m.

Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company welcomed the board’s decision which it said would still allow it accommodate up to 80 per cent of cruise ships that currently visit Dublin Bay.

“It is estimated that this new berth will attract circa 50 cruise calls a year (from May to September), an average of 2 a week, each with an average of 2,000 cruise visitors who will disembark to spend money in the area. The money generated from these visitors will, over a season, amount to €10m,” it said.

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