The French invention of “Paris Plage” 200 kilometres from the sea has prompted me to propose “Dun Laoghaire Plage" as a possible local solution.
This involves the construction of a new breakwater linking the baths to the back of the East Pier - possibly at the location of the “geographical pointer” there. The breakwater would require some type of sluice gate and/or pumping mechanism to both maintain a desired water level inside the breakwater and the ability to refresh the water periodically to maintain water quality.
The newly enclosed area would now be filled with a beach, made of imported sand, and a relatively shallow lagoon. The enclosed nature of the construction means that the area of beach available to the public will be constant as it is not subject to tidal fluctuations. Also the depth and expanse of enclosed water will also be constant. This should provide a greater degree of safety for users.
The orientation and layout of the artificial beach are important considerations: that section of sea-front backing onto Queens Road is effectively north-facing and thus the least attractive from a sun-bathing perspective. (This problem also impacts on the amenity attractiveness of the baths) The artificial beach backing onto the new breakwater will be south-facing and get the most exposure to direct sun, while the section backing onto the East Pier is east-facing and will get good morning sun, but no evening sun.
The proposed Plage should provide at least twice the maximum area of beach available at Sandycove, without the periodic tidal incursions. The breakwater could be constructed so as to facilitate sea swimming from the seaward side of the construction.
It should be relatively straightforward to create café, shop & toilet facilities to the rear of the East Pier (there are currently fenced off shelters there), perhaps augmented by a Liffey-style boardwalk. More sophisticated dining and leisure facilities could be provided in the old baths premises, the objective being to provide an integrated leisure complex which can accommodate all the family, and families of varying means.
The addition of a beach and a safe swimming/paddling area would significantly increase the attractiveness of the overall amenity. The use/function of the old swimming pools and premises would need to be reviewed in light of the expanded adjoining swimming facility.
Maintenance of the area - both in terms of cleanliness, facilities and ambience (e.g. no public drinking, loud music etc.) will be critical to the success of the complex. The Council might consider imposing a modest entry charge which would pay for cleaning, security & maintenance staff, while hopefully discouraging undesirable elements. This income would also be supplemented from rents from concession holders within the complex.
Paris Plage only operates for the summer months and there’s no reason why DLRCoCo might not consider operating Dun Laoghaire Plage on, say a six-monthly basis - April to September at least in the initial years. Allowing the area to “flood” while closed would ensure that it didn’t become an eyesore during that period.
Demand for the beach element will be largely driven by weather considerations and winter storms might well make it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain the artificial beach on a year-round basis. In addition, it would be desirable to provide some form of covered shelter to cater for our sometimes unpredictable summer weather.
Role of the Harbour Company?
Clearly this particular “Plage” proposal involves use of a section of the East Pier so could not progress without the approval and involvement of the Harbour Company.
Dun Laoghaire Harbour is the major landmark for the town and probably it’s most used public amenity. People come from a wide catchment area “to walk the pier”. The amenities - café, shops etc provided for the Plage could also be used by pier walkers, thus materially enhancing that amenity.
The Harbour Police could be used to provide security on the Plage, thus maintaining the high standard of the facility.
If the Plage was to be developed in conjunction with the Carlisle Pier proposals, it might well help to deflect some of the public objections to that particular development. Particularly if part-funding of the Plage development and/or its ongoing maintenance were linked to the revenue streams from the Carlisle Pier development.
Benefits to Dun Laoghaire
The proximity of the proposed Plage to the town centre should be beneficial to trade there.
Existing beaches at Sandycove and Seapoint are too far removed from the commercial centre, and the former is too small, to be of material benefit. The numbers using Sandycove on sunny days would suggest a significant demand for such a facility, particularly for young families.
The provision of this amenity should revive some of the tourist trade in the town. There was a time when there were several small hotels on the seafront, though current property values suggest that a return to that situation is highly unlikely.
I am not is a position to cost this proposal, but the breakwater and artificial beach elements seem like a “modest proposal”.
The actual construction cost should not be too great and the ongoing maintenance would probably pose the biggest financial challenge to the local council. Partnering with the Harbour Company would obviously make financial sense if that was feasible.
The renovation/conversion of the old baths complex is likely to require a greater investment and might be left to a "phase 2" period of the overall development until the "Plage" has proven it's drawing power.
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