Friday, February 22, 2008

Dun Laoghaire Plage - might actually float!

From today's Irish Times

Two rival designs for development of Dún Laoghaire unveiled

A multimillion-euro plan to transform Dún Laoghaire's coastline into a "world-class" tourist attraction was unveiled yesterday.
Two designs for the site along the East Pier to Sandycove were presented to councillors at a private local authority meeting.
"Concept A", which would cost €129 million, envisages a lagoon beach and a pedestrian bridge adjacent to the East Pier. An aquatic play area is intended for the old public baths site, alongside a civic space comprising a restaurant and spa. An underground car park with up to 500 spaces would be provided for visitors.
"Concept B" would cost €92 million and involves provision of a new promenade and sandy beach from the East Pier to the Newtownsmith section. The works entail construction of offshore and shore-connected breakwaters approximately 250m (820ft) out to sea. A new water sports centre in a revamped Sandycove Park would feature.
Either concept would be a massive undertaking and necessitate reclaiming one and a half acres of land from the sea. Councillors decided both should be presented for public consultation.
Public interest is sure to focus on the future use of the derelict public baths - a controversial project in 2005 was the catalyst for the latest designs.
Local conservation groups mobilised against a public-private, high-rise apartment proposal for the site. A petition of 15,000 signatures and several street demonstrations successfully called for the plan to be dropped.
In June 2006, the council adopted a framework for the baths site, setting out a publicly owned amenity that excludes high-rise residential development.
Royal Haskoning Engineers, an international maritime civil engineering group, was asked to produce a feasibility study and preliminary design for the coast from the East Pier to Sandycove, including the public baths.
Management at Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council now faces the challenge of raising finance for the project.
Both design concepts accommodate the proposed Sutton to Sandycove promenade and cycleway. It is thought this will be beneficial when a likely appeal for EU funding is made.
"The public said before they didn't want a private or residential development of the site and we listened," said Fine Gael councillor Mary Mitchell O'Connor. "Our big job now is to find the money for the imaginative and inventive plans."
If either of these plans resembles my "Dun Laoghaire Plage" proposal, posted here 25th August 2006, then I presume I can expect an appropriate fee from DLRCoCo. LOL.

I also emailed it to Owen Keegan, the County Manager, at that time and it didn't even merit an acknowledgement. (I attached a "read receipt" which confirmed that the email had been opened.)

Footnote: Concept A - Dun Laoghaire Lagoon is very similar in concept to my "Plage" proposal, though the orientation of the beach is slightly different.

Bertie's explanations all greek

The Taoiseach is to address the joint Houses of Congress in Washington on 30th April and doubtless his scriptwriting team is already working hard to finalise his speech. Presumably this is the same team which scripted his very well received Westminster speech to the joint Houses of Parliament. That speech drew on Greek mythology for an appropriate analogy for the Northern peace process, likening it to the toils of Sisyphus, who was condemned to eternally push a rock uphill, only for it to roll back down each time.

Did the speechwriters, or Bertie Ahern, ever suspect that Sisyphus would also provide a perfect analogy for the ongoing efforts of the Taoiseach to explain his financial dealings in the 1990’s at the Mahon Tribunal?

So I’m awaiting with interest the further mythological references which will undoubtedly appear in the Washington speech. Pandora’s Box, perhaps?

Footnote: Published as a letter in The Irish Times.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Greens - right questions, wrong targets?

From The Green Party Website
“The Government will set a target for this administration of a reduction of 3% per year on average in our greenhouse gas emissions.”

The net result should be a 15% reduction in emissions by the end of this Govt’s term of office in mid-2012, a little over 4 years away.

So what are the green Party Initiatives to achieve this reduction?

1. New Housing regulations.
With a projected 50-60k new housing units per annum, compared to an existing housing stock of 2m+, the impact of this will be minimal in the next 4 years.

2. Changes in VRT & Motor Tax, taxing emissions rather than engine size.
Up to 70% of 2008 registered cars will be purchased by 1st July (and probably 100% of SUVs etc) so any impact in the second half of 2008 will be minimal.
With the size of the 2nd-hand car market in Ireland, it will actually take about 10 years to turnover the national fleet.
The majority of cars purchased in Ireland are already relatively small-engined Fords, Toyotas, Nissans, Fiats etc..
Given the combined impact of the above 3 points, the net effect of the tax changes, within the life of the current Govt, will probably be relatively small in terms of emissions reduction.

3. Light Bulb ban.
This ban comes into effect on Jan 1 2009. Presumably most existing householders will only change when their existing bulbs burn-out, so it will probably be mid-2009 before the full beneficial effect is achieved. While welcome, this will make a very small contribution to the overall 15% target.

4. Renewable Energy Sources
Frequently raised by Minister Eamon Ryan as the solution, he talks about the abundance of free wind, wave and tidal power and our capacity to grow bio-fuels.
Now, the bio-fuel debate has changed significantly, with recent studies showing that they are even more injurious to the environment than the fossil fuels they are supposed to replace.
Wave & tidal power are only at the experimental/prototype stage. Even if approval was given in the morning, there would not be a single wave or tidal installation producing electricity on a commercial basis by the time this Govt has to leave office in 2012.

5. Transport
Minister Ryan has advocated “carbon-free methods of transport”, by which he means walking and cycling. How feasible is this for many commuters, given the urban sprawl we live in?
Major infrastructural investment in public transport, such as Dublin’s proposed metro, extension of Luas, rail connection to Navan, Western Rail Corridor etc. will all take years to deliver, any emissions-reduction impact by mid-2012 will be minimal.

It’s clear that none of the above, while all broadly welcome as long-term initiatives, has the capacity to seriously contribute to the 15% emissions reduction target during the life of this Govt..
So where is the detailed programme of initiatives which will achieve this particular target from the Programme for Govt?
I suspect that the only way the Greens can achieve this objective is through very punitive measures, banning activities they see as wasteful or at least taxing them to the point where they become unviable, except for the most well-off and, of course, elected officials.
Wouldn’t it be good to see leadership from the top on this - with the Govt imposing restrictions on both itself and the public services, before imposing them on the rest of us?
In any event, we urgently need to see the detailed integrated plan to show how the national 15% target will be achieved by mid-2012.