SUPPORTERS of a new cycleway and promenade between Sandycove and Sutton have strongly disputed the contention of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council that the scheme is not feasible for environmental reasons.
Those backing the 22-kilometre route along the coast of Dublin Bay claim the council is refusing to explore alternatives to surmount environmental obstacles at one problematic stretch between Merrion Gates and Seapoint.
A report drafted by consultancy firm Scott Wilson on behalf of the council in 2010 estimated that an eight-kilometre section of the cycleway between Sean Moore Park in Sandymount and the east pier at Dun Laoghaire Harbour would cost e74 million.
The report notes that part of this eight-kilometre stretch includes Booterstown Marsh, an important and protected habitat for birds.
“Mitigation for loss of habitat and disturbance to birds may require the provision of compensatory habitat and appropriate screening,” the report states.
The study ultimately found that the proposed scheme was “feasible”. It stated that although a number of ecological issues needed to be addressed, it added “it should be possible to provide acceptable measures to mitigate these issues and allow the project to proceed”.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has recommended against pursuing the proposed Merrion to Seapoint route because they maintain it could contravene the EU Habitats Directive, which is designed to protect birds and other wildlife.
In addition, Owen Keegan, the County Manager of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, wrote to the Department of the Environment in March 2011 to outline the local authority’s belief that the project could not be carried out.
The letter states: “Council officials have long had doubts regarding the feasibility of the section of the S2S between Merrion Gates and Booterstown. These doubts do not reflect any lack of enthusiasm for the project on the part of the staff concerned. Instead they reflect a belief that environmental constraints may prove insurmountable.”
Michael Collins is an architect from Blackrock who originally came up with the idea for the S2S.
He disputes the contention of the council and the NPWS that the difficulties posed by the environmentally sensitive nature of the area could not be surmounted. He has also called on the council to carry out another study to conclusively determine whether the project could go ahead in a way that complies with the EU Habitats Directive.
“This needs to have an appropriate assessment done in order to decide whether or not it complies with the requirement of the directive,” he said. “That has not been done.”
Cllr Barry Ward (FG) maintains that the entire S2S project could be completed for around e25 million. He also believes that the potential return from the project would be hugely beneficial for Dublin in terms of tourism and the provision of a viable commuter route.
He has called on the council to carry out a further study to determine whether the project is feasible.
“I think we need another study to assess the feasibility of providing alternative habitats along the route,” he said.
A spokesperson for the council said: “An appropriate assessment was carried out as part of the Scott Wilson Report which clearly flagged the environmental obstacles to the project.”