Links on the left bring new visitors to each page on the site in logical sequence: links on the right bring regular visitors to pages in order of latest update, and to new pages. Coming events and news items below...
Bord Pleanala's decision unbelievable
- the hugely destructive floods of late last year in Ireland, many of them acknowledged to be directly attributable to building on floodplains,
- the disastrous consequences for our economy of what has now been accepted as wildly irresponsible over-building,
- and following an Bord Pleanala's own chairman's warnings regarding granting planning permission on clearly inappropriately zoned land,
an Bord Pleanala has granted permission to build what Pizarro has long vaunted as a 2.2 billion euro development on the Dargle floodplain downriver from our mainly elderly and very vulnerable community. The open space safely above the proposed development will continue to be open space.
Two things are clear. One is that we haven't really learned anything at all from the utter mess into which our country has descended, mainly through irresponsible developments. The second is that this fight is not over, by any means. We intend to protect our community and we will now take our fight beyond an Bord Pleanala to do so.
Bord Pleanala has made its decision
Yesterday an Bord Pleanala finally made its decision regarding Pizarro's second application to build on the floodplain downriver from our community, on the old Bray Golf Club lands.
Letters announcing the decision were sent out to all appellants today, so the decision will not be released by phone or on their website until Tuesday, to allow time for the letters to be delivered.
Is it possible we've finally reached the end of this madness?
Today drilling has commenced in Bray People's Park. we've been told that it's the beginning of the promised flood protection works - and that 'the OPW is committed to carrying out these works, whether or not Pizarro get permission to build on the floodplain'. This is in line with what we have been told all along - that these two projects are entirely separate.
Oddly enough, when we rang an Bord Pleanala today to enquire about the status of Pizarro's application to build on the flood plain, we were told that the Inspector has now submitted his recommendation (but not, of course, what that recommendation has been), and that the Board is now studying it and we should have a decision very soon, perhaps in the next few days. Co-incidence...?
We hope so.
With floodings around Ireland last year obviously caused by building on floodplains, with a clear warning from An Bord Pleanala's Chairman that some lands may have to be 'dezoned', with a nation in chaos because of the total disrespect for sustainable and community oriented building over the last decades, it's surely time for a clear decision to stop this madness once and for all.
Bord Pleanala's Chairman, as always, talks sense...
It's just over a year now since An Bord Pleanala decided that there was no need for an Oral Hearing into Pizarro's second application for extremely high density building on the Dargle flood plain, but no decision has been made yet. The Board has, in fairness, had a lot of applications to deal with: now that the building lunacy that took place in Ireland over the last years has eased, perhaps we will have a decision reasonably soon.
One would think it would be an easy decision now, following the horrors of flooding that took place late last year all over Ireland, mostly attributable to building on flood plains. And following the economic nightmare caused by 'greedy' development, for which more than the bankers and developers are now paying the price.
Many local people have remarked to members of SWAP that we must be very happy because there's "no way now this building could go ahead".
Unfortunately, until the zoning is changed on this land, there is every possibility that the kind of building that caused havoc even in communities that have never been flooded before all over Ireland could still get permission. The councillors in Bray who zoned this land - a cosy trinity of Labour, Fianna Fail, and Fine Gael - have a lot to answer for...
We had hoped that, while we have a Green Minister for the Environment, and the Green Party sharing power, that this zoning might be overturned. It hasn't happened, despite our putting our case to Minister Gormley very early on in his brief, and it's interesting to learn that today Deirdre deBurca, one of the Green councillors who supported us throughout our fight, has resigned her Senate seat and her membership of the Green Party Parliamentary Party because she feels that the Greens have not lived up to their promises while in Government.
According to a last October, the chairman of An Bord Pleanala, John O'Connor, stated in his annual report that "some development land may have to be ‘dezoned’ in order to return to realistic planning and development and to restore a sustainable market". A man who speaks a great deal of sense in his annual reports, Mr. O'Connor said that “excessive and unsustainable zoning of land” had been a contributor to the property bubble and its aftermath, and that there could be “no expectation” that proper planning standards would not be applied to development proposals, even where the land was linked to “distressed loans”.
That's every bit as clear a message to politicians - and to his own Board - as the OPW's recommendations against building on flood plains. Will politicians, and An Bord Pleanala, act on it - soon?
Moves at OPW
Mr. Tom Sherlock of the OPW, who was responsible for flood defences around the country, has retired, but we have been informed by Bray Town Clerk, Christine Flood, that his last official act was to approve funding for the next stage of the proposed flood defences for the Dargle River, i.e.:-
- The appointment of Halcrow Barry as Client Representative to prepare the contract documents;
- Commencement of land acquisition /procurement of valuers to handle this;
- Site investigation works contract.
We would like to wish Tom well in his retirement. We found him an honourable and decent man to deal with - as we are sure his successor, Ms. Yvonne Jackson will prove to be - and we hope that our politicians, both local and national, will ensure that the work Tom Sherlock set in train will continue, without compromise to Pizarro.
We’re still waiting for a decision from An Bord Pleanala, who circulated the submission we made in April to all interested parties. Despite the economic down-turn, we remain extremely vigilant, because Pizarro have invested too much money in this fight to date to stop now.
But our community will fund-raise again, and go on fighting, until the high density building planned for the flood plain is moved back to the adjacent high ground.
They rocked for Justice - and An Bord Pleanala?
This week we received a letter from An Bord Pleanala, enclosing a copy of the report on the proposed flood defences, along with a letter from Bray Town Council to the Board, asking for an decision on Pizarro's second application to build on the floodplain, so that the Council and the OPW can make a decision about the flood defences. Throughout this campaign we have been consistently told, on record, that these two projects were completely separate...
Now An Bord Pleanala has invited us to make a further submission "in the interests of justice" before they make their decision on Pizarro's application.
It seems our SWAP fund-raiser was just in time, and it proved to be a spectacular success, raising a total of almost €4,000 between entrance tickets and raffle for our campaign to save Little Bray from flooding.
You can check out for yourself the performers who raised our bank balance - and our hearts! - with a spectacular night of Blues & Rock by clicking on their names - , , and , who just dropped in to play his guitar on the night!
All of them performed free of charge, and all of them proved that music - and musicians - are still at the heart of real protest in the fight for justice. We are extremely grateful to them!
Other generous supporters were:- , who not only gave us the function room free, but donated a one year couple membership of their newly refurbished for our raffle. Atlas Print produced all our posters and tickets free. Stage lighting was sponsored by . , Total Interiors Cleaning Services, Studio 54, and Ann O’Brien Psychic all gave us vouchers, and we received T-shirts from Outlaws Munster, and several bottles of wine and champagne from other donors, who wish to remain anonymous.
They rocked for justice. Will An Bord Pleanala do the same?
SWAP Fundraiser - Blues & Rock Night
On Friday, 17th April, SWAP is holding a fundraising Blues & Rock night, starring Brian Meakin & Band, with guest, Bree Harris, in the Royal Hotel starting at 8pm. Tickets are €10.
Our gig is advertised on , where you'll find directions to the Royal Hotel in Bray, as well as a link to a YouTube video of Brian Meakin in action. It's good!
Brian and Bree are both performing free-of-charge, the Royal Hotel is providing the venue free-of-charge, and all posters and tickets have been printed by Atlas Printing free-of-charge to raise funds for our fight against flooding in Little Bray. We are very grateful to all of them!
Tickets are available from Gerry in Castle Shoe Repairs, 21 St. Cronan’s Road (near the junction with Castle Street), or at the door on the night.
Despite the interesting news development of the past week, when the biggest shareholder in the Pizarro consortium, Paddy Kelly, announced that he is considering filing for bankruptcy, we still have a fight on our hands.
- Firstly, we're still waiting for a decision from An Bord Pleanala on Pizarro's second application to build on the floodplain.
Secondly, Pizarro submitted a further application - an extension to that submission - which is also before An Bord Pleanala now.
Thirdly, we're fighting to ensure that the promised flood defences are put in place.
Until all of these are completed - and the crazy decision to put high density zoning in place on the floodplain by Fianna Fail, Labour, and Fine Gael councillors is reversed - our fight will go on.
Help us to build up our war-chest! 'See you on Friday, 17th April, at the Royal Hotel in Bray for a night of such great Rock & Blues with Brian Meakin and Bree Harris that we're fully expecting Pizarro to attend as well... They've attended every other public meeting we've held.
Good News - and Weird News
The first piece of really good news is that the physical modelling of the Dargle Flood Defences is underway.
Bray Town Council contacted SWAP before Christmas to ask if we would like to send two representatives to view the 30m Physical Model of the Proposed Dargle Flood Defences which is now operational in Wallingford in Oxfordshire, England. We said we'd be much happier if Kenneth Barr, the hydrologist who represented us at the Oral Hearing into these defences, could go instead on our behalf. The Council, and the OPW, agreed, and the OPW funded Kenneth's trip, instead of ours, plus his expenses, and we are very grateful for this. Kenneth is presently preparing a report, which we'll publish on this website.
'Second piece of nice news is that Bray Town Council is making a presentation of awards to the new Flood Defence Community Volunteers in the Town Hall on Tuesday, January 27. We believe these generous volunteers should be recognised, but we also hope that the Council will very soon present the promised flood emergency 'kit' to each household in the flood risk area, explaining what exactly will be the procedure when the next flood alert happens. We really need to know this - before another flood emergency occurs such as the one in early September when no local knew what the Council was proposing to do.
Weird news appeared, again just before Christmas, when Pizarro put up site notices for yet another application - this time to build a short single carriage road (59m long) to connect one of the already proposed roads on the high ground with the low land below St. John of God's, on which Pizarro “note that it is intended to develop a psychiatric facility or an intellectual disability service at some future date” (on a floodplain!), “although there are no current development proposals for the ‘lower lands’ at the St. John of God complex”. In other words, they have applied to build an access road from a road which doesn’t have permission to a site on which no application to build has yet been made…
Even weirder, consistent rumours on the streets are connecting our strange story of developers wanting to build on the floodplain downriver from our community - and eight of Bray's councillors happily agreeing to it - with the strange story that has emerged from Anglo Irish Bank.
If it seems odd that SWAP is writing about an Irish bank that has just been nationalised because of the damage done to its reputation by what the Minister for Finance described as by its former chairman, Sean FitzPatrick, then we can only say that this campaign has been a fight against 'unacceptable practices' all along.
Pizarro and Bray Town Council's behaviour in attempting to build on a floodplain is, of course, absolutely different from that of Sean FitzPatrick - if equally unacceptable. Where the connection lies between the stories is that Anglo Irish bank's former success - and the seeds of its final destruction - was built on loaning money, apparently too much money for wildly ambitious schemes, to developers. Whether those loans included huge sums of money for high density construction on floodplains is something we simply don't know, despite persistent stories around our town.
If loans were made for this purpose, however, and the cost of building were to include contributions of any size towards flood defences promised in return, the nationalisation of Anglo Irish Bank yesterday evening would now mean that our Government has rescued a bank with taxpayers' money that could surely not now be allowed to loan even more taxpayers' money to developers, who would then give back some of that money to the Government to build flood defences. Especially if, in return, they were allowed to build on a floodplain that would turn a reported 90 million land deal into a 2.2 billion development.
It would be ironic if the Government’s rescue of Anglo Irish – about which the indignant ‘opposition’ has had so much to say – rescued also a plan to build on a floodplain, which has been enabled by the zoning at local level of Government and Opposition parties alike.
No Oral Hearing into Pizarro's latest application
An Bord Pleanala has decided that no Oral Hearing will be held on Pizarro's latest application to build on the floodplain at the old Bray Golf Course. The letter of notification states that:- "The Board has concluded that the appeal can be dealt with adequately through written procedures."
We are hopeful that the Board will continue to see the sense of refusing to allow high density building on a floodplain, with a park and playing pitch on high ground above it. So far they have put vulnerable community above the god of money.
However, we are determined never again to be caught off guard, as we were when our Labour, Fianna Fail, and Fine Gael councillors zoned this floodplain for high density building on 12th April, 2005, so we are already setting up a fund-raising concert for the New Year. Dates are being agreed with our guest artists, and details will be published on this web-site.
Bord Pleanala approve Flood Defence Scheme,
and Flood Emergency Plan is tested:
Three important developments in our campaign took place over the summer months:-
- On July 18, - again - to Pizarro to build on the floodplain: we have - again - lodged an appeal against this increasingly outrageous decision, in view of more and more flooding, with An Bord Pleanala;
- On August 15, , subject to eight conditions, one of which was flagged as extremely important by our own hydrologist at the Oral Hearing into the Defence Works;
- On September 5, our riverside communities were warned by loud hailer of a possible need for evacuation: this was the first time the
Bray Town Council Grant Permission Again:
See update .
Approval for Flood Defence Scheme:
To our great relief, on August 15, An Bord Pleanala approved the Dargle River Flood Protection Scheme: now we need to lobby our politicians – and the OPW – to have it put in place as soon as possible.
We fought hard last year to ensure the scheme chosen would be the best possible option for our community, including employing our own independent hydrologist, Mr. Kenneth Barr, whose views are quoted in the Inspector's Report. The following conditions were attached to the grant of permission, and the importance of physical modelling (no. 4) - to verify the size of the escape route needed through the golf club lands - was particularly emphasised by Kenneth Barr, who was not happy that this was sufficient for safety.
The conditions imposed are:-
- All studies commissioned by or on behalf of the local authority relating to the
surface water and foul sewerage systems in the study area since 2000 for the
area between Bray Harbour and the N11 bridge on the River Dargle shall be
collated and made available for inspection at the offices of Bray Town
- Bray Town Council shall employ a suitably qualified project ecologist for the
construction phase of the scheme. The ecologist shall monitor the riverside
planting and shall prepare a report on the planting and the impacts on
terrestrial flora and fauna which shall be made available for public inspection
at the offices of the local authority.
- A project liaison officer shall be appointed with specific responsibility for
keeping the public informed of elements of the construction works which can
be expected to cause significant noise impacts with particular reference to
- The results of the running of a physical model of the Flood Defence Scheme
shall be made available at the offices of Bray Town Council for inspection by
the public prior to the appointment of contractors for the main works.
- An examination of potential groundwater movements adjacent to the river
arising from lowering of the river bed and installation of sheet pile walls shall
be carried out as part of the detailed design.
- A detailed design for the treatment of the County Brook, in the vicinity of its
confluence with the River Dargle, shall be agreed between Bray Town Council
and the Eastern Regional Fisheries Board.
- An environmental monitoring committee shall be established by Bray Town
Council for the construction period, comprising representation from the
Membership shall be restricted to 8 persons plus an independent chairperson
and include two members from Bray Town Council, two members of the local
community and one member from each of the other listed bodies.
- Bray Town Council;
- Members of the local community along the relevant section of the River
- Eastern Regional Fisheries Board;
- Department of Environment Heritage and Local Government (National
Parks and Wildlife);
- Office of Public Works;
- Local angling interests.
- Bray Town Council shall employ a suitably qualified archaeologist to monitor
all pre-development wading and metal detecting surveys and the removal of
the top 500 mm of excavated material from the river bed. A report of the
monitoring shall be prepared and a copy of the report shall be made available
for public inspection at the offices of the local authority.
Part of the Inspector's report (2.8), submitted to An Bord Pleanala, noted that: "The Scheme is proposed by Bray Town Council as a stand-alone scheme, not
dependent on any other development proposals. [The emphasis is ours.] The Inspector also noted that: "Reference was made at the
Oral Hearing to the make–up of the EIS team and many of the submissions
made referred to the implications arising from the possible future
development of the Golf Club Lands."
Flood Emergency Plan:
Bray Town Council’s proposed Emergency Flood Plan was tested unexpectedly on Friday, 5th September, when a possible evacuation was announced by Council workers, using loudspeakers, as they cruised our area.
Local people complained afterwards that a) they could not hear what was being said through the hailers; b) they didn't know what was expected of them following the announcement; and c) sandbags were only available from the Council depot on the Boghall Road (at the other end of the town), so people who did not have cars, or who weren't physically capable of lifting sandbags were left without any protection. In addition, no announcement was made to reassure people, especially elderly people who could not check for themselves, when the danger was over.
SWAP representatives attended a meeting with Bray Town Council and representatives of the Civil Defence about this Plan on 17th September.
The Council acknowledged that communications were a problem on that day, but said they had a local bus company on stand-by ready to evacuate vulnerable people, if necessary, and that an evacuation centre in Fassaroe was ready. Nobody within the community knew this.
They pointed out that they had not expected to have to put the Emergency Plan into action yet (!), and announced that information packs will be distributed to residents informing them of procedures in the event of another flood emergency. Volunteer wardens are also to be trained to help out, whether only as a means of liaison with the community before any emergency occurs - which SWAP is supporting - or whether during an emergency was not clear.
The Council agreed that they would look again at SWAP's request for a siren system to warn residents of the possibility of flooding: on hearing the siren residents would switch on their local radio station to be updated on events as they occurred.
The issue of the non-availability of sandbags in the area - except through the community support of a local firm, Bray Home Improvements - was brought up, and the Council's response was that sandbags are of little use in flooding, and that they were concentrating instead on saving lives.
All of these issues will be discussed at a Community Meeting which is being held by SWAP in St. Peter’s Hall on Monday, 13th October, at 8pm, for all residents of Little Bray who are affected by the danger of flooding from the Dargle River.
BTC Grant Permission Again:
Although we are still awaiting a decision from An Bord Pleanala on the proposed flood protection works, Bray Town Council granted permission for the second time on 18th July for Pizzaro Developments to build on the floodplain at the old Bray Golf Club lands. As they, and Pizarro, must surely realise by now, we will fight it again, and will continue to fight it until the high density building planned for the flood plain is 'swapped' with the park and playing field proposed for the high ground, in accordance with all flood prevention advice and with simple common sense.
85 conditions were attached to the grant of permission, one of them being that the flood protection works must be in place before building begins. Other conditions include penalty clauses if building does not begin within one year of permission being granted, and finish within three years of commencement. It seems the Council has learned some lessons from the debacle of Ballymore Homes latest announcement that they are not going to go ahead "in the present economic climate" with developing the much vaunted Florentine Centre which has festered in the real Bray town centre now for over ten years.
Grant of permission to Pizarro is not yet up on Bray Town Council's web site, and media reaction has been surprisingly muted.
SWAP has also received an invitation from Eoin Heslin, Executive Engineer with Bray Town Council, to attend a meeting to discuss the latest draft of the Bray Emergency Flood Plan on September 2.
Disappointingly, we are still awaiting news on all fronts - although, again, we have been told that decisions are imminent.
Yesterday, June 12, An Bord Pleanala said that the a decision on the flood defences is now down for June 25, as the Inspector’s report, containing further information, is now with the Board. A decision, we were told, is "imminent".
At the end of May, new site notices appeared around the golf club lands announcing that further information regarding Pizarro's new application to build on the floodplain had been submitted to Bray Town Council, and that submissions would be accepted up to June 25 - a fateful date, it seems. SWAP members went up to Bray Council Planning offices to study the changes, and have prepared a submission, with input from our hydrologist, Kenneth Barr.
Perhaps most disappointingly of all, despite promises made to arrange a meeting with the Flood Emergency Plan people (the Principle Response Agencies) at a Council meeting on April Fools' Day, we have heard nothing further on this except that a new engineer has been appointed to the Council and is 'settling in' before meeting us. It's particularly disappointing because to treat an 'emergency' plan with this lack of urgency erodes trust that was only beginning to be built up in our community again.
Tomorrow this site will be three years old - let's hope An Bord Pleanala make it a great birthday, and that Bray Town Council do their part in giving our community reason to celebrate.
Draft Proposals for Flood Emergency Plan:
Tonight, as promised by Cathaoirleach, Brid Collins, Bray Town Council discussed the Flood Emergency Plan proposed by the county emergency services, and the OPW. A deputation from Little Bray attended to listen to the councillors' contributions.
First, Town Clerk, Christine Flood, who has worked closely with both the Principal Response Agencies (PRAs) and the Cathaoirleach on the plan, explained that it has been prepared in accordance with new Dept. of the Environment guidelines, and will be submitted to them for approval when finalised. The PRAs are Co. Wicklow Civil Defence and Co. Wicklow Fire Service, with the support of the Office of Public Works (responsible for flood defences), the Gardai, and the Health Service Executive.
She went on to say that over 1,200 homes are considered at risk from flooding along the river, and these homes were targeted with questionnaires to identify where the most vulnerable people live. Just over 30% of the local residents have returned the completed questionnaires so far.
Now the Council are sending out people to 'knock on doors' to try to collect the remainder of the questionnaires: it's hoped this will be completed next week. The survey has been advertised on local radio.
Evacuation centres have been identified, in case of emergency. (Traditionally, the Sisters of Charity opened nearby Ravenswell Primary School to flood evacuees, but the convent there has now closed. The Legion of Mary's Fatima House was another 'safe house' at that time, but the building is no longer open to the public because of insurance reasons, we understand.)
The Town Clerk also reiterated a promise given by the Cathaoirleach at the beginning of the meeting that SWAP representatives will be invited to meet with the PRAs to discuss some reservations we have about the proposed plan, principally regarding an early warning system and the use of 'community volunteers'.
Some of the councillors thought that the idea of using 'community volunteers' is an excellent one, while others, including Cllrs. John Brady and Stephen Matthews expressed reservations in this regard. We have grave reservations about this, despite the Town Clerk's assurance that such people would mostly be used for communication purposes, to reassure people who may be frightened to answer the door to strangers, for instance.
That sounds like a great idea in theory, but anyone who has seen the speed and strength with which a spate river floods will know that to encourage volunteers - even trained volunteers - to leave the safety of their own homes to knock on neighbours' doors, when the flood waters are imminent, is to put those people into a very high risk situation. ...And to ask them to phone neighbours from the safety of their own houses is to presume that the telephone lines will still be working, which is a big presumption to make in those circumstances. Trained people who go into the area in teams, without the worry of saving their own families and homes, are a much safer alternative. Local people will always do what they can for their neighbours, particularly vulnerable neighbours (we always have), but accepting official responsibility for neighbours should not be asked of us, we believe.
Both Cllrs. Matthews and Brady also raised our community's expressed preference for an early warning system, set off automatically when the river reaches a dangerously high level. This would definitely 'help us to help ourselves and each other'. The Cathaoirleach has consistently supported this idea, and the Town Clerk says will remain on the agenda for discussion with the PRAs, who seem to be resisting it "in case it will frighten people, especially if it's a false alarm". Our view is that if everyone in the community knows that such an early warning simply means 'turn on your radio and listen for updates' then at least we won't be frightened every time there is very heavy rain and high tides, as we are at present.
Other contributions from councillors included:-
Cllr. John Byrne pointing out that we have always had a County Emergency Plan anway (he doesn't seem to know that the last one didn't mention the word 'flood' at all), and that the best plan is to put the flood defences in place quickly, as they have been proposing - ever since they agreed to rezone the floodplain for high density building. He doesn't seem to realise either that our community has been fighting for flood defences for a lot longer than that.
Cllr. Pat Vance agreed, adding that the community should be encouraged to look at the proposals for the flood defences, especially as they had been designed by one of the top hydrologists in Ireland. Cllr. Vance was obviously busy during the Oral Hearing into the flood defences last December and didn't realise that not only had the community taken a good look at the proposed flood defences, but had brought another expert hydrologist - Kenneth Barr - over to Ireland to look at them with Dr. John O'Sullivan, and had supported the flood defence works, on his advice, but with the caveat that the floodplain should remain open - also on his advice, and in accordance with OPW guidelines.
Cllr. Michael Lawlor agreed with his Fianna Fail colleague - Cllr. Vance - and Cllr. Byrne, Labour.
The same councillors, with others who have been a long time on Bray Council, harked back to the controversy surrounding the flood protection works on Bray beach, and said they had insisted on putting them in despite opposition, and now they work wonderfully. Interestingly, there was never any local opposition to flood protection on the beach: it was to the particular scheme pushed through by the majority of councillors - local opposition favoured a more aesthetic scheme while we had the chance to do it with EU help. Memory is a strange thing, particularly the memory of politicians...
Winding up her report, the Town Clerk said that once the Flood Emergency Plan is finalised it will be circulated among the community. ...And we are very pleased that the scheme is moving along, and particularly pleased with the councillors - and the Town Clerk - who are trying to get it going in a way that our community will be happy with.
As for the minority of councillors who still don't know what a floodplain is, don't seem to care what our community thinks, and still seem determined to push through a development on the floodplain so that a developer will contribute an unknown sum towards flood defences 'that will stop Bray ever being flooded again', sure if they can't remember what happened about the beach then how can you expect them to imagine what might happen with the river?
April 29 new date for decision on Flood Defence Proposals:
The latest date for a decision on the proposed Flood Defence Works has been given by as April 29.
We have also been in touch with the Chairperson of Bray Town Council, Brid Collins, who has been pushing the Emergency Flood Plan with her Council. The Emergency Flood Plan will come up for discussion at the next Council meeting on Tuesday, April 1.
Finally, we have written to Bray Town Council's Town Clerk, Christine Flood, in response to a proposal from H. R. Wallingford for a physical modelling of the proposed flood defence works - something which our hydrologist, Kenneth Barr, had insisted on at the Oral Hearing in December. We asked for clarification on the points raised by Kenneth.
In the same letter, we raised the issue of the finalisation of the Emergency Flood Plan, and asked for the opportunity, which we have raised before, to have community input into it, as we are the people it will directly affect.
Finally, we asked if it was possible to reassure us as to the object of drilling which took place on the low lands of the golf course around a week before the very high tides of 9th March.
We are awaiting a reply to all of these questions...
March 27 new date for decision on Flood Defence Proposals:
A decision on the proposed Flood Defence Works by has been deferred again until March 27 - the Thursday after Easter.
February 28 new date for decision on Flood Defence Proposals:
Developments on this took a rather strange turn on our last phone call to An Bord Pleanala - around 7th February - when we were informed that the inspector's report had not yet been submitted to the Board.
This in itself was not strange. There's a huge amount of work to trawl through for the Inspector to come to a good decision, even when all parties are agreed that flood defences are needed NOW, but one side is insisting that it would help enormously to build a huge development on the flood plain at the same time, and the other side is saying that building on the floodplain at all is sheer lunacy.
What was strange was that the various people within An Bord Pleanala who answered our queries up to then had kept telling us that a decision could even be made later that same evening... And they are normally very efficient.
However, a few days later their website reflected this, so the new date given for a decision on the proposed Flood Defence Works by
has been deferred now until February 28.
February 5 new date for decision on Flood Defence Proposals:
A decision on the proposed Flood Defence Works by An Bord Pleanala has been deferred again until February 5 - tomorrow.
Decision Deferred again till February 1:
A decision on the proposed Flood Defence Works by An Bord Pleanala has been deferred again until February 1 - tomorrow.
Decision on Proposed Flood Defence Works Deferred:
A decision on the proposed Flood Defence Works by An Bord Pleanala has been deferred until January 30th - next Wednesday. Because of the backlog of cases with An Bord Pleanala, however, it may be deferred again.
We are also still awaiting the completion of a Flood Emergency Plan by Bray Town Council...
Meanwhile, Pizarro's second application to build on the floodplain, at present with Bray Town Council, has been held up since December 19th because 'further information' is required.
Oral Hearing into proposed Flood Protection Works -
December 13-15 inclusive: (update 20/01/2008)
Apologies to anyone who follows our campaign regularly on this site for the delay in updating it, due to one of the most extreme patches of illness/career moves/exams for SWAP core group members and/or their families that we've experienced for a long time.
Our energy went, instead, into fighting the Oral Hearing into the proposed flood defence works from December 13-15, inclusive.
Mr. Kenneth Barr, the independent hydrologist employed by SWAP to inspect the proposals, attended for best part of the first two days. He questioned Bray Town Council's 'independent experts', Dr. John O'Sullivan and Mr. Paul Healy, regarding the survey carried out, and how they had arrived at the flood defence model finally chosen.
He expressed disappointment that physical modelling of the option chosen had not been carried out before applying for permission for the flood defence works, as he said he was not happy with the measurements allowed for the 'escape route' culvert should the defences fail, nor was he happy with the disappearance from the proposals of the dam and culvert upstream from Bray.
Reassurances were given by the flood defence designers that physical modelling would be carried out, and Mr. Tim Joyce from the O.P.W. assured him that the dam and culvert upstream were being prepared as a separate project, and that he himself was in charge of this. The only reason it was not part of the present proposals, Mr. Joyce said, was because the Dargle is in such a dangerous state that the delay involved in waiting for the dam and culvert design to be ready could mean loss of life in Little Bray.
Kenneth also queried the logic behind putting flood defence works between the river and the - empty - golf club lands. He was told that this was because the land is zoned for development, and it was as well to put all the flood defence works in place at the same time - just in case.
The proposed flood defence works, it was pointed out, could be 'adapted' for change...
Seapoint Court's barrister, Ms. Emer Woodful, expressed considerable surprise and annoyance that no Bray Town Council employee could be found to answer her questions regarding the scheme. Throughout the Hearing, apart from Bray Town Council's barrister and various witnesses, all questions regarding the flood defence works were fielded by Dr. John O'Sullivan and Mr. Paul Healy, with occasional help from Mr. Tim Joyce of the OPW.
Ms. Woodful asked both Dr. O'Sullivan and Mr. Healy if they had worked for Pizarro in developing their failed application to build on the floodplain. They both agreed that they had. She then asked if they would both be working for Pizarro regarding their new application. Dr. O'Sullivan said that he would not, but Mr. Healy said he would indeed be working for Pizarro again.
Bray Town Council part-time manager, Mr. Des O'Brien, made a brief appearance at the Hearing to give evidence as a Wicklow County planner - but refused to answer Ms. Woodful's questions to him as the Town Manager, as he maintained he wasn't there as the Town Manager! He then joined Mr. George McGarry, the public face of Pizarro in Bray, in the body of the hall: there were no shortage of chairs.
Ms. Woodful also asked both Dr. O'Sullivan and Mr. Healy if the flood protection works had been designed with 'empty space' on the floodplain. They both agreed this was so.
Imagine our surprise then, when, on the evening of the second day, after Mr. Kenneth Barr's departure, Pizarro asked if they might make a submission.
Their two page submission, made the following morning, suggested that it would be much more convenient for everyone if they were allowed to build their development on the floodplain at the same time as the flood defence works were put in place. This would allow them to help out by taking some of the soil that will be removed from the river, and other such useful measures, they pointed out. Their submission was accompanied by a cunning little drawing showing how the 'escape route culvert' (in case the defences fail) could pass through the carpark basement of their proposed development, at the cost to them, they pointed out, of a lot of car parking spaces.
We, unsportingly, pointed out that this had changed the entire flood defence proposal that we had all - including Kenneth Barr - discussed over the past two days, and even more unsportingly rang the said Kenneth Barr for his reaction to this proposal.
In his very quiet Glaswegian accent, Mr. Barr got quite excited about this proposal, and pointed out quite forcefully that he wasn't happy in the first place that the measurements for the culvert, proposed in the flood defences submission and faithfully reproduced by Pizarro, were accurate, and that these measurements were crucial to the scheme. He was emphatic that until physical modelling was carried out to check the measurements nothing should be built on the floodplain, and, following the physical modelling, these measurements should again be the subject of an Oral Hearing, as the floodplain as escape route in case of flooding is vital. We read his comments onto the An Bord Pleanala record of the Hearing.
The Hearing also addressed the issue of Compulsory Purchase Orders along the river to acquire land for the flood protection scheme. Every neighbour made basically the same submission - they were more than willing to accommodate flood defence measures, but they felt more land was being CPO'd than was required (something some of them suspected, they said, was to facilitate a proposed river walk, not flood defence works), and - when they enquired of Bray Town Council - they were referred on to An Bord Pleanala. Their solicitors, at the Hearing, elicited that extra land was being acquired 'just in case', and one lady had the temerity to suggest that perhaps they should CPO their homes also "to be sure, to be sure!"
SWAP has asked that the flood defence works, as proposed, should be passed as we urgently need protection and cannot afford to turn any scheme down, but that the empty floodplain be made part of the overall flood protection scheme. We also asked that the OPW's assurance that the dam and culvert upstream would be built as soon as possible should be built into this report.
An Bord Pleanala's website gives January 22 (next Tuesday) as the date for their decision, but the Inspector (who was extremely helpful and courteous to the 'ordinary people' there, like us, as was the Inspector at the last Oral Hearing) said there is a huge backlog of cases and he couldn't guarantee when a decision would be made. Watch this space...
Oral Hearing announced into Flood Protection Works
An Bord Pleanala has announced that an Oral Hearing into the proposed flood protection works will begin on Tuesday, 11th December, at 11am. in the Ramada Hotel in Bray.
Obviously, the decision on these flood protection works will have an enormous impact on the further decision whether or not to allow Pizarro to build on the floodplain. SWAP will be fighting for the flood protection works to be put in place, but paid for by the Government so that the integrity of the floodplain is not compromised.
We will also be emphasising the importance of the proposed, and then postponed, culvert and dam upstream as an integral part of this flood protection scheme.
The independent expert we employed to look at this scheme emphasised these two points in his report - the importance of the dam to prevent flooding occurring downstream and the fact that higher walls along the river could actually make the situation more dangerous if the flood defences fail and the escape route to the sea is cut off by a huge development downstream. Flood waters will be prevented by the high walls from getting back into the river when the river subsides, and they will no longer be able to escape to the sea because of the development.
Meanwhile, the proposed flood emergency plan has reached the stage of sending out questionnaires to all households in our area. A lot of work is going into this plan by the Council and by the Civil Defence and fire officers, but we are anxious that it doesn't take much longer to put at least a warning system in place because we have learned, to our cost, that floods don't wait until we're all ready for them...
Meanwhile, also, we're putting together our objection to Pizarro's new - and even bigger - application to build because it seems they've learned nothing from the last round. They still propose to blockade the floodplain with the biggest part of their development, while putting parks and playing fields on the high ground.
In a rather cynical marketing exercise, they're emphasising the fact that the new plans include space for two schools. So could a plan that kept the schools and the rest of the development on the high ground, and kept the floodplain free...
Then the most vulnerable of Little Bray - the old, the young, and the disabled - would all be safe.
Let the Games Begin...
Once more it seems we begin our marathon: during the week site notices appeared around the old golf club lands announcing Pizzaro's intention to apply again for permission to build on the floodplain.
Once more we begin our battle for common sense - to have the high density construction take place on the high ground, away from the river, and the floods' escape route to the sea, across the floodplain, protected by reserving it for the playing pitches and park Pizarro want to put on the high ground.
Will they ever learn...? Despite Hurricane Katrina in 2005, despite England's devastation earlier this year by floods, they continue to insist on building on floodplains, even when there is a perfectly viable alternative some 500m away from the river.
Meanwhile, we have been in training. We employed an expert independent hydrologist from Glasgow, Kenneth Barr, to study the flood protection proposals that are at present with An Bord Pleanala. He came to Ireland to study them on the ground, and his report is now before the Board. A decision is expected, says the Board, towards the end of January.We've also been liaising with the Chairperson and the Town Clerk of Bray Town Council - Cllr. Brid Collins and Ms. Christine Flood, respectively - regarding the emergency flood plan that the Council is preparing. It's a great pleasure to be working with the Council on something, rather than fighting them, and we look forward to this plan being completed, with the elements (like a flood warning siren) included that we believe are important. This coming week questionnaires are being sent to all the houses within the flood area to gather information for this plan.
So we haven't, any of us, been idle, despite the lack of update on this site, partly caused by an unwillingness to show our hand too early.
Now we're ready - ready to put fund-raising plans into effect again, ready to fight for flood protection proposals that will really protect our community not just a proposed development, ready to work with the Council so that we all know what to do to save lives the next time our river breaks, and ready to take on Pizarro again.
Let the games begin...
from 'A Drink from Broderick's Well' by Colbert Martin, published by Imageprint, 1980.
dedicated by Colbert to 'the friends of my youth who lived by the banks of the Dargle River that runs through the Valley of Diamonds'
January 1906. "Worthington, an Englishman, who had just completed the Dargan Street housing scheme the previous year, had started on the building of Auburn Villas. He was not to finish this contract and it was left to John Plunkett, one of the biggest building contractors in the town, to finish the scheme. Plunkett, a member of Bray Urban District Council, had sought at one time to build houses in the People's Park, but was prevented from doing so by the Earl of Meath's solicitors."
March, 1906. "The Chairman and Members of Bray Urban District Council received a letter from some residents and property owners in the Little Bray Ward of the Township. This letter was protesting against the removal of shrubs from the People's Park for transplanting on the Esplanade and called for the cessation of this practice and the return of the shrubs already removed.... At a meeting of B.U.D.C. on March 20th, it was agreed that this practice should cease and the shrubs already removed to be returned.
January 1917. "Stanislaus T. McConry of Millview Cottage Dargle Road, wrote to the Town Clerk, Mr. D. Mullally, as follows:- 'Dear Sir, Permit me to bring under the notice of your Council the dangerous condition of the Park to the public safety, owing to an excavation several feet deep being made, I presume on the authority of the Urban Council of Bray. The Council are partly trustees for the public safety and as such are liable under the 'Commons Enclosure Act' to keep this trust in safe and proper condition for the use and enjoyment of the public who have a right to every inch of it. This right has been obstructed during the past five weeks in direct contravention of the Act of Parliament. Unless, therefore, this portion of the Park be repaired and left in its former condition for the safe and free use of the public the attention of the other trustees and Local Government will be petitioned. Yours faithfully, S. T. McConry'. The matter was dealt with by the General Purposes Committee of Bray Urban District Council and the said portion of the People's Park restored to its original state."
Presentation on Proposed Flood Protection Works:
Wednesday, 1st August, 2007
On July 25th, Bray Town Council announced that it had made Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) and published an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) to prepare the way for the submission of the proposed Flood Protection Works to An Bord Pleanala.
can be accessed through the Council's website - www.braytowncouncil.ie.
To co-incide with the CPO and EIS, the Council has announced that its team of consultants will make a presentation on the works proposed, on Wednesday, 1st August, at 7.30pm. in the Town Hall.
Already there are some worrying indications within the announcement which seem to contradict last March.
We were told at that time that, because of clear opposition across the community to options that involved the loss of the People's Park as an amenity, a scheme had been chosen that would infringe very little on the Park.
The Schedules contained within the Notice published by Bray Town Council in the Bray People, however, show CPOs of 2.568 acres of the People's Park, out of a total acreage of perhaps 6-8 acres? (We tried today to check the acreage of the Park with Bray Town Council and were told it was approximately 3,000 sq.m., but this translates to 0.7413 acres, which cannot possibly be right.) The Council announced also that "access to parts of the park will be restricted during the course of the works, which could take up to two years".
CPOs on Pizarro's land total 2.327 acres, out of a site total of 62 acres, and this will be taken from the 8.6 acres of floodplain...
Ownership of the People's Park is listed within the Schedule as Bray Town Council/Earl of Meath. When Bray Urban District Council wanted to put a bridge across the People's Park at the time the Maltings were being developed, legal ownership of the Park was proven to be invested in 'the people of Bray', not the Council: it was gifted to them by the Earl of Meath.
Another worrying discrepancy is the fact that no flood prevention measures are proposed above the bridge over the N11. Yet, one of the most impressive - and we felt safest - measures in the proposals put to us was the creation of a culvert in a practically deserted area near Powerscourt, which would create a dam in times of flood, dividing the waters off to boglands on either side and thus preventing a major spate flow down the mountains to our communities.
If Bray Town Council have got facts such as the ownership of the Park this badly wrong, it is worrying that they may, yet again, have come up with a planning proposal that cannot possibly be accepted. This could result in delaying the implementation of a vital scheme, as it resulted in the twelve year delay so far on the Florentine Centre, and the delay in enabling Pizarro to build on the high ground of the old Bray Golf Club lands. Nobody wins in bad planning situations, and in this case bad planning could result in loss of life.
It would be comforting to know that the driving force behind this design is to protect our community from further flooding. However, the fact that Bray Town Council's response to our request last week for a meeting to put in place a local Emergency Flood Plan was that they have started to map the area and the community "will be involved" tends to give the lie to such comfort.
Green Minister for the Environment Appointed - 14th June, 2007
The results of the General Election held on May 24th brought two disappointments for SWAP - two of our most stalwart supporters, local Cllrs. Deirdre deBurca of the Green Party and John Brady of Sinn Fein, failed in their respective bids to get elected to the Dail, this time. We believe that's a loss to our nation, but it does mean we retain two good friends on Bray Town Council, where we badly need them.
This week brought better news when the Green Party (6 seats), following extensive negotiations, voted to go into Government with Fianna Fail (78 seats) and the P.D.s (two seats). Yesterday, June 14, the Green's John Gormley was appointed as Minister for the Environment.
That's good news for our campaign, as the Green Party - along with Sinn Fein - has consistently supported our stance that building, particularly unnecessary building, on floodplains is environmental madness.
As we had also been in negotiation with ex-Minister Dick Roche in the last days leading up to the Election, we are hopeful that himself and his Party colleague, Deputy Joe Behan, will also lobby strongly for flood defence works to be paid for from public monies, while retaining the integrity of the floodplain.
For the various parties pre-Election stance on the floodplain, please click .
MAYDAY! MAYDAY! Election Special
Now that An Bord Pleanala has unanimously rejected all four of Pizarro Developments' applications, new plans for this land will have to be drawn up by the developers.
Two of the three reasons for the Board's refusal were:-
- "The proposed development is located in an area at risk of flooding, the granting of permission for which would be premature pending the approval of the Bray Flood Defence Scheme."
- "The Board is not satisfied that adequate provision has been made for active open space within the lands in the applicant’s ownership for the overall development proposed. The proposed development would, therefore, seriously injure the amenities of the area and of future residents and would be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area".
Both of these problems can be easily resolved, within a new plan, by moving the high density construction back from the floodplain, and putting in the extra active space required by the Board alongside the river. It makes sense - for Pizarro and for ourselves.
Now our politicians have the opportunity to get all of us out of the quagmire they landed us in by zoning a floodplain as Town Centre by making a Variation on the Development Plan that would return this land to its original safe Open Space zoning. This would give clear direction to Pizarro before they waste more money on another application that we will fight all over again.
We have written to our local representatives to this effect, and we have written to their Party leaders - Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour, Green Party, and Sinn Fein - and their respective Spokespersons for the Environment.
We've asked three simple questions:-
- Will you, Councillor, vote to rezone the floodplain now that you have a clear opportunity to do so?
- What is your Party's official position on building on floodplains?
- Will your Party give a firm commitment to funding the flood defence works (that the OPW says we urgently need) from public funds, if your Party gets into power in the next General Election?
We have explained that we will be publishing these questions, along with their answers, on May 1st - MayDay - the traditional appeal for rescue when there is danger of drowning, and the Day of the Worker, appropriate to our working class community.
Bearing in mind that the third ground on which An Bord Pleanala turned down Pizarro's four applications was , which is not so easily solved, waiting around for them to resolve this problem is adding danger to danger, with possibly lethal results.
It's time to make a new start...
PLEASE HELP US TO HELP THE POLITICIANS SEE HOW IT CAN BE DONE BY JOINING IN OUR
Decision on http://www.pleanala.ie/DCT/217/S217906.DOC
An Bord Pleanala has refused permission to Pizarro Developments to put high density building on the Dargle floodplain.
Full details are on their website at
When we have had time to study the decision in full we'll post our comments. Meanwhile, thank God, for common sense, and thanks to all the people who have supported us all along in our fight for safety and justice.
Decision made by An Bord Pleanala
An Bord Pleanala has made its decision regarding our Appeal to revoke Bray Town Council's grant of permission to Pizarro Development's application to put high density building on the Dargle floodplain, while locating a park and playing field on the high ground.
The decision will not be released however until 24 hours after letters have been sent out in the post to all appellants. As today (Tuesday, 10th April), is a 'privilege day' in the Civil Service, there may not be enough staff in An Bord Pleanala's offices to send out the notices today.
We wait - and hope.
Decision imminent from An Bord Pleanala
It was deferred six weeks at a time, then a week at a time, and now it's a day at a time, so An Bord Pleanala's decision on Pizarro's application to build on the flood plain has to be imminent.
Because of the amount of appeals before them, the Planning Board are meeting late most evenings, and it's possible that the decision on our case may even have been made after close of business last night, Thursday, April 5. Because of the Easter weekend, though, no one will know until Tuesday, April 10, at the earliest.
Even then, we'll have to wait again...
Letters will be sent out, announcing the decision and any conditions attached, to all the parties who argued their case before the Oral Hearing last October, and no information will be released otherwise until 24 hours after those letters have been despatched. This is to allow all appellants to access the decision at the same time.
So the earliest date now on which we could possibly know the results of the Board's deliberations is Wednesday, April 11, even though no further deferral has been announced.
Meanwhile, warnings of the effect of global warming has become almost a daily news item...
Decision deferred till 4th April and Flood Defence option explained by OPW
An Bord Pleanala's decision on whether to allow Pizarro to build on the Dargle floodplain has been deferred again until Wednesday next, 4th April.
Meanwhile, the preferred option of the Flood Defence Study team was finally posted on Bray Town Council's web site on 27th March - the day before our meeting with Tom Sherlock and Tim Joyce of the OPW, who are overseeing the project. The option, which has been accepted by Bray Town Council, can be accessed from the panel at the right side of their home page - .
Tim Joyce explained, in general, lay-man's terms, the Flood Study team's preferred option, and then answered questions from the floor, with Tom Sherlock.
The main features of the option chosen consist of:-
- A storage area upstream of our communities, in the general Powerscourt area. A culvert (which is most simply described as a large pipe) would allow the river to flow through its normal channel when not in flood. When the river level rises above the pipe, due to heavy rain coming down from the Wicklow mountains, a dam above the pipe would deflect the extra water away to flat lands on either side of the channel, where it would soak into the ground instead of coming on down its normal path into our flood basin.
- Widening of the river at the Slang area, to slow the flow of the river at that point, and a debris trap to catch fallen trees, etc., so that they will not block the arches of Bray Bridge, further down.
- An extra arch in Bray Bridge to allow increased capacity in times of flood.
- Another culvert, which will start somewhere around the People's Park and follow on across Castle Street and Dwyer Park into the golf links, providing an escape route for overflow in times of flooding.
- A widening of the river upstream of the railway bridge so that the river will hit the bridge straight on, instead of at the skewed angle it does at present.
Many questions were asked from the floor, including the time-scale involved. Tim Joyce explained that the next step will be to 'model' the option chosen to ensure that it does behave according to theory. At this point, adjustments may well be made to the proposed defences. An Environmental Impact Study will also have to be prepared, before the final proposal is presented to An Bord Pleanala.
Tom Sherlock said that at this stage things should move quite quickly, as the foundation has been laid with the flood study, and that he hoped that the final scheme would be prepared by the end of this year. It is then a case of funding it.
Mr. Sherlock was asked, directly, if Pizarro's application to build on the floodplain is turned down, will we still get funding, and answered: 'Yes, the scheme will have to be done.' He said that Bray had been 'somewhere on a list of towns needing flood defence studies done until this study had been carried out. Now, they realise how dangerous the river is, and the vulnerability of the people who would be affected by another flood in its present state.
It's the best news we've had to date in this campaign...
Before closing the meeting SWAP's Adrian McKenna explained that we would still like a totally independent expert to examine the flood defence proposals on our behalf, despite the reassurance the monitoring by the OPW, and their consistent openness to discussion with our communities, has given us. These flood defence works have been designed for Bray Town Council using 'independent consultants' who designed Pizarro's scheme in the first place, whose services are being paid for ultimately by the developers, and the defences proposed still allow for high density building on the floodplain.
We have now sourced an expert in Scotland, Adrian added, and intend to ask the Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche, to fund him studying these defence works on our behalf. Our meeting with Minister Roche is scheduled for 16th April.
The two OPW representatives were warmly applauded at the end of the meeting, and we will continue to liaise with them.
28th March: decisions, decisions...
An Bord Pleanala have deferred their decision on Pizarro's application to build on the Dargle floodplain for another week - until Wednesday next, 28th March.
Co-incidentally, that same evening, Mr. Tim Joyce and Mr. Tom Sherlock from the OPW will explain to our community the flood defence proposals made by the Flood Study team appointed by Bray Town Council's Planning Department. These proposals are based on the assumption that the floodplain will be built on because, the OPW says, "that is what Bray Town councillors voted for" when they zoned the floodplain for high density construction.
This assumption makes our meeting with the OPW, and our understanding of the flood defences proposed, even more important.
The meeting will be held in the function room at the Royal Hotel at 7pm on Wednesday, 28th March, and we strongly encourage all members of the communities of Little Bray, Seapoint Court, the Maltings, and Killarney Glen to attend.
Bord Pleanala decision deferred again till March 21:
Once again, An Bord Pleanala have deferred their decision on the outcome of the Oral Hearing - this time for only one week, until Wednesday, 21st March.
Meanwhile, flood defence proposals were presented to Bray Town Council on Tuesday last, 13th March, and, yet again, the meeting ended up in chaos, as councillors shouted at each other, argued with the Town Manager (who maintained he didn't need their approval to push through these works), and some walked out of the Chamber. This is the Council which voted by a majority of eight to four to zone the floodplain for high density building, and whose Town Manager has consistently pushed this development ahead, despite flood protection works required by their own Development Plan not even being finalised at the time.
Next time an important decision needs to be made, perhaps they should go to one of the local kindergartens - the issues involved would get more disciplined attention to the proposals.
We are in the process of organising a meeting with the OPW, for our entire community to study the new flood defence proposals, on 28th March. Venue to be announced shortly.
Flood Defence Proposal to be presented to B.T.C. tonight,
13th March, 2007
Late last week we learned, through the councillors who support our campaign, that tonight the Flood Study Group will present their preferred Flood Protection Scheme to Bray Town Council. We immediately requested a meeting between the OPW and our communities so that we can study the proposal and ask questions for ourselves. (Members of the public are not allowed to ask questions in the Council chamber, even if it affects their lives and homes.)
Mr. Tom Sherlock of the OPW readily agreed to meet with us, along with his colleague, Mr. Tim Joyce, engineer. They will describe the proposals, allowing us to ask questions on their efficacy. We would then propose to go back to our communities, explaining the scheme to them, and ask for their reaction.
Meanwhile, we have asked local politicians not to hold a vote to approve or otherwise these plans until we have had a chance to discuss them in our communities, because of our fears that this will be another attempt to push through something to influence An Bord Pleanala's decision on whether or not to allow high density building on the floodplain.
It remains to be seen which of our local councillors will listen to the people who elected them this time.
Meeting arranged with Minister Dick Roche
Our long awaited meeting with the Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche, has now been arranged for Monday, 16th April.
We will use this opportunity to ask the Minister for a commitment from his Government to fund the Flood Defence works from public monies.
Decision deferred until 14th March - and 'Election Special'
At the beginning of this month (February, 2007), An Bord Pleanala deferred their decision on our appeal to overturn Bray Town Council's decision to grant permission to put high density construction on the Dargle floodplain, downriver from our homes. We have been informed, though, that the new date, like 2nd February, is a 'nominal date': the decision may, in fact, be made before or after that time. We can only wait... And pray... And plan...
Meanwhile, with a General Election forecast for May, 2007, we are planning, in conjunction with our neighbours in Seapoint Court and the Maltings, to produce an Election Special, giving each political party's official, and actual, stance on building on floodplains in general, and ours in particular.
Watch this space!
Results of SWAP Christmas Raffle
Our sincere thanks to the many people who supported our Christmas Raffle, and all our fund-raising events during the year. Our very special thanks go to the people scattered throughout our community who sold the tickets - mostly the same staunch neighbours who deliver our newsletters.
The winning tickets were drawn by Green Party Cllr. Deirdre deBurca and Sinn Fein Cllr. John Brady on Saturday, 16th December, in Adrian McKenna's house, and the winners were as follows:-
- 1st prize: Christmas Hamper - Catherine Fox of Columcilles Terrace, who also sold the winning ticket;
- 2nd prize: DVD Player - Mr. Wilson (Greystones phone number), sold by Eoin Dawson of Millicent House, Dargle Road;
- 3rd prize: 6 bottles of wine - Katherina Furlong, a work colleague of seller Deirdre Hegarthy, Dargan Street;
- 4th prize: tray of beer - Dave Moody of Dargan Street, who also sold the ticket;
- 5th prize: bottle of vodka - Don Bredin, another work colleague of seller Deirdre Hegarthy.
We raised almost 900 euro nett from the raffle.
...And today we booked a further three advertisements from members of the Independent Retailers, which we hope will finally clear our debt!
Our thanks again to all our supporters, both within our community and outside, and a very Happy Christmas to you all!
Bord Pleanala decision deferred until 2nd February, 2007
Today (12th December, 2006) An Bord Pleanala announced that their decision has been postponed until 2nd February, 2007. Rather confusingly, we were informed that, while a new date has been set, a decision may in fact be made before or after it, but it will certainly not happen now before the New Year.
The announcement of a deferral was not entirely unexpected, given the size and complexity of Pizarro's applications, and, for SWAP, it's providing quite a welcome break in our campaign, allowing all of us - the core group and the many people who have delivered newsletters, sold raffle tickets, etc. - to enjoy Christmas and the New Year before going on with our fight again.
Meanwhile, we go into the second Christmas of our battle with a well argued Oral Hearing behind us, our (almost) ten thousand euro expenses so far (almost!) paid, and ready to fight the next stage - whatever it may be - as an increasingly able and united community.
Our latest fundraiser - a raffle - will take place on Saturday next, 16th December, and the winners will be contacted by phone, as well as being announced here on our website.
For now, we would like to wholeheartedly thank all those people who have helped us in our fight so far: may we all enjoy a happy, peaceful Christmas in dry, safe homes.
Flood Defence Proposals Feedback
We are publishing any feedback on the flood defence options proposed so far at . We'll be very glad of your input at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Flood Defence Proposals on Display
Last week the first six Flood Defence proposals from Bray Town Council's Flood Study Group were displayed over three nights in Bray Town Hall, and again on Monday afternoon and evening (6th November) in the Royal Hotel.
The three evening 'meetings' followed the same format as the previous 'Public Consultation Day' last April, with drawings and graphics displayed around the walls of the Council Chamber, but Monday's session included a PowerPoint presentation in the afternoon and evening, followed by questions. Leaflets showing the options were also supplied, so, all in all, it was a very much better format than last time, and we were actually given a lot of information.
Both OPW members of the Flood Study Group were also in attendance at different times, and met a group from SWAP last night to discuss our concerns. They have also promised to engage in ongoing consultation throughout this process, which has given us a lot of reassurance as to the standard and integrity of what will finally be agreed as a Flood Defence scheme for the Dargle River.
We have continued, however, throughout the process, to insist that whatever flood protection measurements are put in place should include the 'safety valve' of an escape route for flood waters to the sea should the flood protection works be breached. For the first time a proposal has been mooted by the Flood Study Group that a culvert be put in place at the side entrance to the golf links which would take flood waters from Little Bray in time of need. We believe we need more than a culvert: we believe the flood plain should remain intact. But it's a start...
The flood options proposed so far are simply proposals, the OPW emphasised. They are open to discussion and amendment, and they are:-
to "do nothing", but a willingness to 'do nothing' doesn't, apparently, extend to the flood plain.
described as "containment only". This proposes building up walls and embankments, and re-inforcing them, without any works carried out on the river channel.
a mixture of "containment and river works", which would include lowering and levelling the river bed, excavating the river bank to widen the channel, and containment walls at a lower height than in Option 2.
"upstream storage" by creating a dam upstream of Bray, around the Tinahinch area.
"partial storage" (a smaller dam?) and "containment", a mixture of options 2 and 4, but with walls and embankments lower than in option 2.
"partial storage and containment and river works". This again involves partial upstream storage, along with "containment" using lower walls than in option 2, and "river works similar to option 3, but to a lesser height".
We intend to engage closely in discussions on these - and further - options, and we are very glad that our community is at last getting the opportunity to have a flood protection scheme designed, under the stewardship of the OPW and in consultation with our community, to minimise the risk of future flooding of our homes.
As part of that discussion process, we propose to publish, on this web site, our views on the options so far, as well as sending them to the OPW members of the Flood Study Group, when we've had a chance to analyse them properly.
For the moment, we would like to draw attention to the aspect of these options that seems to concern most people - the People's Park.
Under Option 2, the walls alongside the People's Park would be raised so high (2m, or roughly 6ft higher than at present) that we will no longer see the river, while no work would be carried out on the river channel itself. We don't believe this is a viable or just solution.
Under Option 3 and Option 6, the 'benefits' are listed as 'regeneration of the People's Park' but this 'regeneration' seems to include (we'll check it) excavating the ground from the Bridge as far as the bandstand so that it slopes steeply down to the river. This would mean that the sloping area cannot be seen from the Lr. Dargle Road, making it a haven for anti-social behaviour, and it would also mean that this sloped area would flood (because there will be no wall between it and the river) higher and more often, putting almost half the Park out of commission whenever the river is high. Finally, it would make that part of the Park, even in dry weather, more difficult to negotiate for elderly people and people in wheelchairs, unless the paths there are very carefully graded - but they'd still be out of sight of the road and therefore more vulnerable.
The regeneration aspect seems to involve moving the children's playground and the football changing rooms down to the end of the Park, as well as landscaping. Regenerating our neglected Park is something we'd all like to see, for young and old, but we would have to be sure that the benefits outweigh what we would lose.
Because, so far, this is also compensating for the loss of the flood plain.
...And we can ensure that the People's Park is safeguarded because it was given to the People of Bray in perpetuity in a very watertight Deed which has already been tested when an attempt was made to put a bridge across the Park when the Maltings were first built...
So let's all look at all of the options carefully. The OPW can't get it right unless we tell them the problems. We'd be glad of feed-back on this at email@example.com. We'll be glad to pass it on.
River Dargle Flood Defences
Bray's Flood Study Group, consisting of representatives from Bray Town Council, Messrs. Tom Sherlock and Tim Joyce of the OPW, and 'independent consultants', who worked on the design of Pizarro's application and whose fees as 'independent consultants' will be paid for by Pizarro, will put their first proposals on display this week.
A series of "informal evening meetings" will be held by "the design team" to allow "interested parties and riparian landowners the opportunity to view and discuss proposed options for a flood defence scheme for the River Dargle through Bray."
The meetings will take place over three evenings:-
31st October 2006 at 7.30pm in Bray Town Hall
Interested Parties / groups - Coburg, Killarney Glen, Upper Dargle Rd, River Vale, and La Vallee.
1st November 2006 at 7.30pm in Bray Town Hall
Interested Parties / groups - Seapoint Court, The Maltings, Bray Golf Club Lands.
2nd November 2006 at 7.30pm in Bray Town Hall
Interested Parties / groups - Dwyer Park, Little Bray.
According to the notice, "the design team" will be available to discuss the options and answer any queries we may have. It will be very interesting to see if the team includes representatives from the OPW and Bray Town Council, or if it will consist of the same ex-Pizarro employees who manned the last so-called 'Public Consultation Day'.
The notice ends:- "All residents of the above areas / estates are invited and encouraged to attend. These meetings will be followed by a formal public information day on 6th November 2006 which will be advertised in the coming days.
The one thing they don't mention is that all the proposals so far, according to what we heard at the Oral Hearing, take more land away from the residents of Little Bray - including the flood plain. ...But we'll be mentioning it...
Oral Hearing Over
The Oral Hearing of Appeals to An Bord Pleanala regarding Bray Town Council's grant of permission to Pizarro Developments began on Monday, 16th October, at 10am., and finished on Tuesday, 24th October, at 3pm. Inspector Tom Rabbitte heard the marathon Appeal for An Bord Pleanala, assisted by Mr. Danny O'Carroll, also of An Bord Pleanala.
The Hearing was held in three Modules, and all four of Pizarro's applications (two to Bray Town Council and two to Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown Council) were treated as one entity wherever possible, which made the process much easier to follow.
During the first Module, each person or organisation who appealed against the decision, or supported it, presented their arguments.
Apart from SWAP, the 'against' included Seapoint Court Residents Association; some individual residents of Seapoint Court; Mr. Colm McCormack, a retired architect from Newcourt Road in Bray; Cllr. Ciaran O'Brien of the Green Party; and the Independent Retailers. Corke Abbey Residents Association had also initially opposed the permission, but made no further presentation after an announcement that they had come to an agreement about traffic through their estate with Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown Council and Pizarro.
Before withdrawing, though, Corke Abbey Residents Association stated on record that they support SWAP's fight to retain the flood plain. We, in turn, said clearly that, while we want the development moved back onto high ground, we defend also Corke Abbey's rights, and believe that the Brady Shipman Martin plan (basically building along a 'spine' road along the high ground) should be implemented.
Several individual residents of Corke Abbey, whose property comes close to the proposed Pizarro development, also lodged objections.
All of the people who fought the decision were in agreement on three things:- a) Bray needs development and none of us are opposed to planned, safe development of the golf club lands; b) the development, as proposed, is in the wrong place - it will dam the flood plain, making future floods even more dangerous for Little Bray and Seapoint Court; c) the scale of the development at present is far too big, and our already bad traffic in Bray will come to a standstill completely unless this is properly planned.
The lone voice in support of Pizarro throughout the Hearing was that of Mr. Jason Cooke, PR consultant, who said he spoke on behalf of Bray Chamber of Commerce. This was queried by the Independent Retailers on the second day of the Hearing, when they asserted that, from the Chamber's membership of some 250, only about 48 are retailers, and that there is no retailer on the Executive Committee. They further asserted that no vote was ever held within the Chamber to ascertain the level of support, and that a telephone poll conducted by the Independent Retailers showed that over 30 of the 48 retailers were against this development, 6 were in favour, and the rest were 'don't knows'.
Mr. Cooke said that the decision to support Pizarro had been arrived at by "a consensus of the Executive" and disputed the accuracy of the Independent Retailers' poll. He said that the Chamber supported this development:- "In any shape, in any size, in any form..."
Pizarro had one barrister all of the time, two on several occasions, accompanying Mr. McGill, a Chartered Town Planner, who co-ordinated their presentations throughout the hearing. They called 10 expert witnesses - 2 engineers, 1 hydrogeologist, 2 architects, 1 other town planner, 1 landscaper, 1 retail expert, and 2 traffic experts. We had 1 expert witness, our town planner, Deirdre McDermott, who was there for the first two days (getting paid for only half a day!). Ms. McDermott was not questioned by Pizarro, following her evidence, nor was the traffic expert brought in under observer status, whose submission raised many unanswered questions about how traffic is being handled for this development, but both lots of evidence were questioned by Pizarro representatives when neither witness was available to reply.
Each of the objectors, on the other hand, questioned Pizarro's witnesses immediately, particularly Bray Town Manager, Mr. Des O'Brien. Appellants returned consistently to the dangers of damming the flood plain, the huge scale of this proposed development and its effect on present businesses, and the nightmare traffic situation in Bray.
Technically, the arguments from our side centred strongly on the fact that this permission constitutes a Material Contravention of the Development Plan because the conditions attached to the zoning within the plan have not been met yet. It is also contended that the permission is Premature, for obvious reasons.
SWAP also focused strongly on the fact that, out of approximately 700 homes in our area, some 100 are one-storey or ground floor apartments; that a big percentage of our community are elderly; and that we also have quite a high number of disabled people, housed there by Council policy, as well as two residential homes for people with special needs and several families with children or adults with special needs. John Doyle of SWAP reinforced this argument powerfully as he consistently questioned access and safety from his wheelchair.
We used the video shown on the home page of this site, pointing out that this is the reality of that piece of land during flooding, whereas what Pizarro were showing were computer generated images, based on simulation and estimation.
Two other two pieces of evidence referred to again and again throughout the hearing were the Brady Shipman Martin report which has, since 1999, shown the best use of this land, protecting us all, and the clear position of the OPW outlined on their website, brochure, and indeed in Minister Parlon's speech when he launched www.floodmaps.ie. Mr. Tom Sherlock of the OPW presented at the Oral Hearing and was questioned vigorously about the OPW's involvement in a Flood Study Group, that is proposing Flood Protection Measures (to go on public display in the Royal Hotel on Monday, November 6), none of which use one inch of land at the golf links, and one of which, we believe, takes away almost half the People's Park. His response was that this was the way the majority of Bray Town councillors have zoned it, but that, if he is convinced that we need the floodplain on the golf links left open, he will not hesitate to insist on this.
The attitude of the councillors who zoned this land was referred to again and again, as we pointed out they were very clearly confused about the fact that this is (as everyone now admits) a floodplain, and that they equally clearly meant their position to be corrected by someone 'further up the line', if they got it wrong. This wording, we contended, made the zoning conditional. We are meeting Mr. Sherlock, along with representatives from Seapoint Court, as soon as his engineer returns from holiday.
We have also, incidentally, been invited to meet with Minister Dick Roche in the latest of our ongoing correspondence with him.
The second module consisted of Pizarro making their appeals against conditions imposed on them, attached to the permission, again supported by Bray Chamber of Commerce, but this time with Bray Town Council's engineer, Mr. O'Neill, joining our side of the floor in the fight.
Finally, the third module gave each person or organisation, starting with the local authorities, followed by Pizarro, and then each appellant, a chance to summarise their case, without any further questioning.
This was an excellent finish for us, because - apart from the arguments put forward by the people who had been there throughout the Oral Hearing - we were joined by Emer Woodful, a barrister (ex-journalist) from Seapoint Court, who damningly summed up the failure of this planning process to meet even minimum requirements.
A decision was promised by the Inspector on or before December 13.
Oral Hearing in Royal Hotel, Bray,
commencing 10am., Monday, 16th October
The Oral Hearing of Appeals to An Bord Pleanala regarding Bray Town Council's grant of permission to Pizarro Developments to build on the Dargle Flood Plain will start on Monday, 16th October, at 10am.
This will be our biggest battle so far, and we would appeal to anyone who does not have to be in work during those days to come along and support us.
Strangely enough, the Hearing will take place just after the second period during which very high tides are forecast.
Today (September 8) we are lucky to have dry weather and little or no wind so that this month's very high tides are not battling a swollen river.
This is extremely fortunate, as the response from Bray Town Council's officials to our request for information, sandbags, a swift warning system (such as cars with loud hailers), and a priority list of evacuation for the elderly and disabled, particularly those living in one-storey houses, has been to point out that it is "tidal flooding" that is expected.
Yet, in a letter to householders in Seapoint Court and Dwyer Park (nearest the sea) the Town Clerk says that, in addition to sandbags being placed adjacent to Seapoint Court, a valve has been fitted at the outlet of the stormwater sewer from Seapoint Court to prevent high tides entering the estate through te stormwater system - and rightly so. These people were destroyed last time, like ourselves.
...But she goes on to say that: "There are further works planned to be completed at Seapoint Court before the next series of high tides commencing on the 6th October. These works will ensure that the storm water sewers can be pumped out to the river and thereby prevent flooding of the estate in the event that heavy rain and high tides occur at the same time."
If heavy rains and high tides occur at the same time, we will also be flooded - with no protection in place. No doubt, the Council will come along afterwards with strong disinfectant and yard brushes as they did last time.
...And this is the Council that is so concerned about our lack of flood protection, that they have zoned a flood plain as Town Centre in order to get developers to pay for protection.
The next series of high tides will commence on 6th October, ten days before the Oral Hearing.
Oral Hearing and Flood Warning
An Bord Pleanala has decided to hold an Oral Hearing regarding the application by Pizarro Developments to build on the Dargle floodplain. No date has been announced yet for the hearing.
The decision co-incides with flood warnings - for around 10th September, 9th October, and 6th November in Dublin - from the Irish Marine Institute. Highest tides of each year happen during the spring and autumn equinoxes (both called, confusingly the Equinox Spring Tides): this year the autumn equinox spring tides co-incide with the zenith of the 'nodal cycle' (lasting 18.6 years). This results in extremely high spring tides.
As Bray has no Emergency Flood Plan, and the warning sent to each local authority by the Department of the Marine has not been passed on todate to our community, we have written to Bray Town Council asking that they inform each household when the spring tides are expected (it is seemingly over three days) in Bray, what is the level of risk for our community, and what emergency measures have been put in place.
We await their response following the Council meeting tonight, 5th September.
It's a frightening time for us.
Ol' Woman Dargle
SWAP protest song to the air of Ol' Man River
There's an ol' stream called the Dargle River,
Concrete and silt mean she must break free,
Nowhere to go when the spring tides fight her,
Breaks her high banks when she turns angry.
Roll on river
By those who bartered your flood plain's soil,
But we'll keep fightin', we'll keep on fightin' - you'll see.
Ignored and neglected,
Dismissed and rejected,
Like Bray's own people,
By those they once elected
But we'll keep fightin', we'll keep on fightin' - you'll see.
They promised protection, they promised 'no more',
To those who were destroyed by your last angry roar,
But old folks lie awake when the rains come again,
And they're told: "We'll help you now
If you give up the flood plain.
We remember boats in our streets,
We remember adults cryin',
But they won't learn the lessons
That will keep us all from dyin'
So we'll keep fightin', we'll keep on fightin' - for thee.
20th Anniversary of 'Hurricane Charlie' on Friday, 25th August,
and Commemoration and Fundraiser on Friday, 18th August
Friday, 25th August, will be the 20th anniversary of 'Hurricane Charlie'.
Because of some of our core group being on holidays then, we decided to commemorate it at a fund-raiser in Katie Gallagher's on the seafront a week before, on Friday, 18th August, at 8pm.
Ballad singer and guitarist, Vincent (Fottrell) will head up the bill, with guest jazz singers and musicians from Holland and some 'rock 'n roll' to finish off the night. Admission is 10 euro, in aid of our flood campaign.
Vincent will also be joined by our core group member, John Doyle, who will sing a few songs - and Vincent and John will duet on our new flood plain protest song, to be premiered on the night!
The lyrics will be projected on a big screen and the audience will be encouraged to learn it - and sing it everywhere! They'll also be available on this site - soon. The melody is: 'Ol Man River'.
Vincent will 'sing it again, Sam' live on East Coast on the 25th, as we remember the '86 flood on air, and today's fight to ensure that such devastation never happens again.
Finally, we're asking all our supporters to remember our community on the 25th August, and our fight, by lighting a candle in a church, in your home or office, by saying a prayer, or simply by thinking of us - whatever you're comfortable with - on that day.
Pizarro Cancel Meeting again
At our Public Meeting on 29th May, Mr. Chris Kelly from Pizarro addressed our community, and suggested a meeting with a group of representatives. We agreed.
The meeting was originally set up for 8th June, but was postponed till 15th June by Mr. Kelly, due to a family bereavement.
On the 14th June, we received a text explaining that the Board of Pizarro, and the PRO team, had insisted that no meeting be held until after An Bord Pleanala had made their decision.
A phone call, from Pizarro's local office the following day, expanded on this by pointing out that five companies make up the consortium: the Kelly family's company is only one of them.
We are disappointed, but not surprised, that this has happened. It fits in
with the pattern of how Pizarro has behaved with our community all along,
but we believe that Pizarro will eventually be the losers. It took courage to stand
up at our meeting, as this young man did, and, if he had been allowed to follow his instincts,
we are prepared to believe that it might have done some good.
His offer to meet with us, if it had been followed through with the
sincerity with which he spoke at our meeting, might have saved Pizarro - and us - a
lot of time and a lot of money.
Appeal to An Bord Pleanala
Our Appeal to An Bord Pleanala was submitted on Friday, 2nd June, 2006. We commissioned town planners to prepare our Appeals (Pizarro submitted two applications for the same site), because it is a complex development and we cannot afford to get it wrong. We have consequently incurred a bill of 8,277.43 euro, which means a lot of fundraising. We have posted on our website, and would be very grateful for any donations towards our campaign - no matter how small.
We have also launched a to our politicians on the site, and we would also be grateful if you could support us in this way.
In addition to our own Appeal to An Bord Pleanala, many other Appeals have been lodged with An Bord Pleanala, including the retailers (with a submission from the publicans), the Florentine Centre, the Green Party, residents from Seapoint Court which is also within the flood plain on the opposite side of the river, and several individuals, including one engineer who lives well above the flood area but who is incensed by the dangers inherent in this proposal - it's great to find fighters for justice!
Feedback from Public Meeting
Our Public Meeting held on 29th May, was poorly attended by locals - seemingly (from feedback at the meeting and on the streets) because we sent out newsletters too early, and we didn't put up posters this time round.
The meeting turned into a dynamic one, however, particularly at the end...
It started with an update on the campaign to date, followed by a discussion on how best to keep our neighbours informed and involved in the campaign. Suggestions ranged through a door-to-door 'blitz', both for information and fund-gathering purposes, to the prospect of setting up a retail network right throughout the town to display posters of forthcoming events.
This arose following Liam McGarry of the Bray Independent Retailers Association's declaration of their opposition to the proposed development, backed by the publicans of the town. They, like us, are submitting an Appeal to An Bord Pleanala, but they are concentrating on the retail and traffic aspects of the development, while we are concentrating purely on the flood danger.
Following various contributions from the floor on how our campaign should continue, Adrian McKenna of the core group asked for suggestions for a draft Flood Emergency Plan. You can access the result by clicking . The document has since been sent (13th June, 2006) to Cllr. John McManus, chairperson of Bray Town Council's Community, Cultural, Social
Municipal Policy Committee. This committee has already undertaken to putting together such a plan, and we have asked for community involvement in its speedy completion and implementation.
The biggest surprise of the night came when a young man who identified himself as Chris Kelly, son of Paddy Kelly, the biggest member of the Pizarro consortium, asked to address the meeting.
A healthy discussion ensued, with Mr. Kelly granted the respect he deserved for having the courage to stand up and discuss this with the community. It ended with him volunteering to meet a small group of us to further explore the issues involved.
We have agreed, on the understanding that we can accept nothing less than moving the high density building back to the high ground, and bringing the park and playing pitch down to the riverside to keep the flood plain open.
A meeting has been set up for Thursday, 15th June.
SWAP will hold its second Public Meeting since the beginning of this campaign on Monday, 29th May, 2006, in St. Peter's Parish Hall (next to the cemetery) in Little Bray.
The purpose of the meeting is to update our community on the next steps in our campaign - an appeal to An Bord Pleanala - following Bray Town Council's Planning Department's decision to grant permission to Pizarro to build on the Dargle flood plain.
We will also be putting together the bones of a suggested Emergency Flood Plan in case of major flooding, as Bray Town Council does not have one, nor is flooding mentioned in Wicklow County Council's Emergency Plan.
We would encourage supporters from outside our community to come along also.
If you believe that building downriver from a vulnerable community is wrong, then please come. If you have questions about our stance on this development (we welcome the development: we simply want it stepped back to the high ground), you are also welcome.
Together we can stop what a young journalist today described as a 'no brainer'.
8th May Decision Given - after close of business on due date
Monday, 8th May, 2006, was Decision Day for Pizarro's application to build on the Dargle Flood Plain. In perfect accord with their record of with holding information wherever possible, no decision was available up to 4.50pm, despite repeated phone calls. We were informed that the office would be closing at 5pm., and that the decision would be made by then - but might not actually be available...
SWAP representative, Noeleen McManus, went to the Civic Offices just before 5pm and pointed out that the decision was due that day, and we were entitled by law to know it. At 5.12pm. Ms. Triona Irving came to the desk in the by-now firmly closed Civic Offices, and said that the decision had been made to grant permission, subject to many conditions, including flood protection works. The staff was now proof-reading the conditions before publication.
When Noeleen asked Ms. Irving to note that the decision had only been given, publicly, after close of business, Ms. Irving said that the decision had actually been made earlier. It seems that, like the 'expert reports', minutes of any pre-planning meetings, membership of the Flood Study Group, and proposals for flood protection works, sharing information with the community most affected by this application is way down on the list...
It remains to be seen if An Bord Pleanala will see it the same way... That's the first of many next steps for us.
Dargle Protest 2004
On 24th April, 2006, we received an e-mail from a Mr. Rolf White, informing us that the machine which appears in a photograph on our page, described by onlookers (and the Bray People newspaper) as 'a JCB with a cutting arm' is actually a 'Deutz Agrotron with a rear mounted Flail cutter'. We are very glad of any feedback on our web site, and are happy to correct any information we inadvertently get wrong.
Public Consultation Day?
On Monday, 10th April, 2006, a so-called Public Consultation Day regarding proposed flood protection works was held in Bray Town Hall. The ‘consultation’ turned out to be an information gathering exercise. The information gatherers, advertised on posters and brochures as members of a Flood Study Group, to include the Office of Public Works, turned out to be:-
- Dr. Paul O'Sullivan, the Consultant Hydrogeologist employed by Pizarro to prepare the mandatory Environmental Impact Statement to accompany their application to put high density building on the flood plain;
- Mr. Paul Healy, engineer, along with some colleagues, from O'Connor Sutton Cronin, the company who designed the application for Pizarro;
- and Mitchell Associates, the landscape company who worked for Pizarro on the same application.
They are all now working for Bray Town Council on preparing a flood protection scheme, which Pizarro say will prevent the Dargle flooding again – even if they destroy, and dam, the flood plain by putting high density buildings right across it! Pizarro have agreed to reimburse Bray Town Council for the work being carried out now by their former employees. They have also agreed to pay for the flood protection works – provided they are allowed to build on the flood plain.
We duly supplied information on previous flooding, and our concerns, by giving them details of our web site, which we rather suspect they may have seen already. In return, we asked for information on proposed flood protection works. There aren’t any proposals yet, we were told, as we’re only starting to work on this. …But weren’t you working on the river a year ago, one of our members innocently asked the consultant hydrogeologist…? Um, yes, but that was for Pizarro, he said, with the only blush we raised all night.
We did manage to elicit two admissions, though, by insisting on a straight answer. The area Pizarro want to build on is a flood plain: unbelievably, that simple admission continues to be fudged by ‘but there are all sorts of flood plains…’ Further insistence on whether any of them had ever seen a study stating that it is safe to build on any kind of flood plain finally elicited a ‘no’.
The second admission came with much more alacrity. Pizarro’s PR people have been insisting that the proposed flood protection works will stop the river ever flooding again. “Do you guarantee this?”, we asked. An immediate “No!”, came from both the hydrogeologist and the engineer. Under Irish law, councillors who zone land in such a way that people end up losing life and property in flooding cannot be sued. Engineering companies and hydrogeologist consultants don’t have any such immunity. Pizarro is a limited company…
Pizarro submit amendments to applications
On Friday, 10th March, 2006, Pizarro submitted revisions to their Planning Applications 05/117 (the proposed mixed development on the flood plain), and 05/116 (the proposed development facing the sea, and apartments to the rear of Dwyer Park).
The number of apartments proposed for the developments facing the sea and at the rear of Dwyer Park (which residents maintained would have completely blocked daylight from their homes at certain times of day) has been almost exactly halved - from 552 to 277.
On the other hand, the proposed development on the flood plain has had its original 416 residential units reduced by a mere 69 to 347, with its proposed commercial space reduced by 614 sq.m. to 56,615 sq.m.! That's a reduction of about one-sixth on the residential units and a little over one-hundredth of the commercial space!
No attempt has been made to move any of the buildings to the high ground, by swapping them with the parks and GAA pitch.
A 'substantial reduction in the overall height of the proposed development' is the only really good news because it means less of a problem in moving 'skyscrapers' to the high ground.
The planning notices also advise that: "Part of the proposed flood defence scheme, the proposed road infrastructure, landscaping works, and other associated site development works have also been amended as part of the proposed revision." When we've had our experts look at the revised plans, we'll post an update on what that means...
Labour's Heartland is flooded with Opposition -
and Dick Roche is told to remove Pizarro's Power
SWAP kickstarted its 2006 campaign on Saturday, 14th January, by inviting the real opposition to walk the flood plain with them. Green Party Leader, Trevor Sargent, and their Spokesperson for the Environment, Ciaran Cuffe, along with Sinn Fein’s Sean Crowe, were led on a tour of the flood plain by Billy Byrne from Dwyer Park, a member of SWAP's core committee. Billy, with the help of Thomas O'Reilly who lives on the old Ravenswell farm, described graphically how the flood waters come in from the west side of the golf links, leaving devastation in their wake.
Sean Crowe, who was replacing Sinn Fein's Spokesperson for the Environment, Arthur Morgan, down with flu, said at the press conference later that he found it a frightening experience to stand at the western edge of the golf links, and listen to locals graphically describing how the flood water tore through Dwyer Park and entered the golf links at this point in each major flood – and to imagine what the next one will be like when the waters meet a 7m dam there, with apartments built on top of it. He said the immediate memory that came to mind was of people fortunate enough to be above the Tsunami last year videoing the disaster below from the balconies of their hotels and apartments.
The Green and Sinn Fein TDs were joined on their walkabout by SWAP committee members, and by local councillors from their parties, who have supported us all along. Photographers from the Irish Times, Bray People, and North Wicklow Times captured the politicians against a damp golf links bathed in winter sunshine.
Unfortunately, Trevor Sargent had to leave the group following the walkabout, due to a prior engagement, but his reaction to what he had seen there was that the flood plain needs to be enlarged, not merely retained. He has promised to raise this matter in the Dail.
The group then adjourned to the Royal Hotel, where SWAP chairman, Vincent Eaves, opened the press conference by thanking the Green Party and Sinn Fein TDs for the support their parties have given to the people of Little Bray in the absence of their traditional champions, the Labour Party.
He explained that as the day had been planned for the media, and the hotel had originally given us a small conference room, no local people had been invited to attend. The day before the conference however we had been moved to the hotel ballroom, and so had invited any neighbours we could contact at the last moment to come along.
"It was literally word of mouth in the street", he said, "and we'd like to apologise to all our neighbours who would have liked to come along, but whom we couldn't contact in time."
A short , demonstrating the extent and depth to which the links are covered even many hours after the flood waters begin to recede in our homes, was then shown to the TDs. "The links become, in effect, a reservoir", Noeleen McManus explained.
Ciaran Cuffe said he empathised with people's fears, as he recalled escaping with his partner and two young children (2 years and 6 weeks respectively), over the garden wall of their home, with the help of the local Gardai, when the Drumcondra area was flooded a few years ago.
He welcomed SWAP’s clear statement that they did not wish to simply dump the entire development on their neighbours in Corke Abbey (his own Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown constituency) either, but that there should be enough space in this development for all residents to be protected.
“Pizarro’s development is far too big”, he added. “As a town planner, I would say that this development is dominated by greed. There is land that should be developed on, and land that should not. We have to learn the lessons of history.”
Ciaran Cuffe and Sean Crowe's contributions were followed by a brief presentation by Adrian McKenna, who referred to Minister Tom Parlon's advice to people living in flood prone areas to "move their valuables upstairs".
"What does he say to the very many elderly people who live in one storey houses in our area?", he asked. "Should they store their furniture on the roof?"
He also returned to the PowerPoint slide showing the flood basin, and demonstrated that the physical size of the new development is almost exactly the same as that of our present community. "And the height", he added, "is that of the hotel in which we are now sitting, which is built on a hill".
Locals who addressed remarks from the floor agreed that one of the most difficult and worrying aspects of this development is the blanket of secrecy into which it is securely tucked at every stage. They pointed out that Pizarro, in a letter to residents before Christmas, have now reneged on their promises, made in their PR doorstep campaign, to hold public meetings about their proposals. They say that this is because Bray Town Council have “voted to assume responsibility for the planning and implementation of a flood protection scheme for the river Dargle”. Their letter continues: “This is on the basis that the necessary monies to carry out these works, which have not been previously available to the Town Council, will be funded by Pizarro Developments Limited”.
They make no mention of the fact that Pizarro will eventually be allowed to recoup the cost of building on the flood plain through levies imposed on “future development along the river”. The levies will be paid to Pizarro “as the Council is precluded from making a profit” from such an arrangement.
Adrian McKenna pointed out that the Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche, could remove the threat held over Little Bray residents by Pizarro by simply fulfilling the promises made by his Government – and successive governments – to this community for the past 20 years.
And chairman, Vincent Eaves, promised that, if he doesn’t, Little Bray will send out a clear message to its families and friends: “If Dick Roche and Liz McManus can’t look after their own back yard, then they’re not fit to be in charge of a nation.”
As we pointed out to the media, for BTC’s Cathaoirleach, Green councillor, Deirdre deBurca, and local Sinn Fein councillor, John Brady, both selected to stand for their parties in the next General Election, that has to be good news…
Yet, for many of the people of Little Bray, so long a Labour stronghold, there was still an enormous sense of loss and of betrayal. As Adrian said: "Many of us grew up with these people, or our fathers and mothers did... It's the end of an era for Little Bray.
Town Manager responds to councillors questions re proposed development and flood protection works, 18th October, 2005
At an extra Council meeting on 18th October, councillors were given the opportunity to ask the Town Manager, Des O'Brien, questions on the proposed development, and the proposed flood protection works. His responses made graphically clear that, as far as he is concerned, the councillors are now
simply interested spectators - while the developer and the officials work closely together to get this development through.
And, legally, he is right, despite our Labour representatives' 'huffing and puffing' about their protection measures. The only way of reclaiming protective power is for the councillors to change the zoning back again to its original safe status, until an independent Environmental Impact Study can be carried out on building on the flood plain.
Instead Labour tried to propose that "an independent Environmental Impact Assessment be
carried out on the flood protection scheme which we understand the
developers are proposing for the whole river valley." This proposal was quashed in no uncertain terms by the Manager, who said:-
"I don't need your approval for this", before going on to indicate that he would, however, be prepared to accept the councillors' 'support' for the EIS - and for the CPOs they also intend to carry out... Cllr. John McManus promptly changed the Labour proposal to support both the EIS and the CPOs.
Copies of the long awaited 'expert reports' were requested by Cllrs. Brid Collins and John Brady, but they were told that these reports will not be made available to them until a decision has been made by Council officials on Pizarro's application. Cllr. Brady also asked if meetings had been held with the developers before the Development Plan was published, as their application was submitted very soon afterwards. He added that, if such meetings had been held, he would like to see a copy of the minutes. Mr. O'Brien replied that minutes of pre-planning meetings with Pizarro would not be released either, until a decision has been made on Pizarro's application.
With regard to the speed with which Pizarro managed to make their application, the Town Manager replied that "most of the main decisions were made before the development plan went out".
Cllr. Joe Behan interrupted the Manager at one stage to ask if any of the other councillors had noticed that Mr. O'Brien had assured them that the development would not be "occupied" until experts agree that it is safe to go ahead. Cllr. Behan pointed out that the Development Plan says that "no development shall take place until..." The Manager responded by saying he didn't have a copy of the Development Plan in front of him to check. Cllr. Behan replied that, with respect, he should know that phrase without having to check, whereupon Cllr. Caroline Burrell produced out a copy of the plan and verified Cllr. Behan's recollection. Mr. O'Brien assured the councillors that everything would be carried out in accordance with the wording of the Development Plan.
While referring to the "large squalls that we call flooding in Little Bray" (obviously a man who doesn't know what it feels like to be over 70 and up to your armpits in flood waters in a one-storey house), the Manager said that they had encountered "a bit of a conundrum" in that they didn't want the developer to build on the flood plain unless flood protection works were put in place, but the developer's application could not show flood protection works upstream of Bray bridge as Pizarro don't own any land there. He admitted that there is also a problem with title to the river, which the Earl of Meath is willing to hand over to the Council but the title cannot be located at present.
In order to allow Pizarro to make an application to build flood protection works - and so, they hope, get permission to build on the flood plain - the Manager seemed to be recommending funding Compulsory Purchase Orders on private land along the river, and flood protection works, with public monies - and then charging this cost back to the developer. That would get rid of another little protective planning rule rather neatly. But, in case Pizarro should end up with less profits, levies paid for future developments along the river (and the implications there are staggering) would be reimbursed to Pizarro as the Council "can't make a profit" out of the scheme... While there is to be no limit whatsoever on Pizarro's profit, it seems.
Now, this seems so incredible to us, that we think we must surely be mistaken, so we would invite journalists to contact Mr. O'Brien direct to verify this recommendation...
Cllr. Deirdre deBurca asked who had authorised a letter of permission to Pizarro to allow them to include Ravenswell Road (a public road) in their application, and also queried if this might not cause problems about a right of way. The Manager said that he had authorised the letter, and that the right of way would not be closed.
The Town Manager was also asked if Pizarro's application can be modified now that it's in. He said it can be changed or modified - or the Council can request a new application. In other words, Pizarro will get any help they need from the officials to get their application through before their requested extension of 8th May, 2006.
In all of the Manager's responses, only one phrase was really sweet music to the people of Little Bray - apart from his initial, swiftly reversed, the 'flood protection works should be paid for from public monies'. Mr. O'Brien stated that "all of Little Bray is a flood plain", thus hopefully putting to rest the silly semantics debate about whether the golf club lands are a flood plain. He didn't point out, though, that the golf club lands are almost the only part of Bray's flood plain not built on yet - and the most vital. Perhaps Mr. O'Brien should now click on our link to so that he can find out what Irish and international experts have published (without waiting for a decision on Pizarro's application) on building on flood plains.
SWAP Deputation to Bray Town Council, 4th October, 2005
We'd like to thank the very large crowd of supporters who walked with us to Bray Town Hall on Tuesday, 4th October, and all those who joined us at the Town Hall itself, including some of our more senior citizens who travelled there by Order of Malta mini-bus.
Over 100 people gathered there, but only 50, including councillors, were allowed inside the Council Chambers because of fire regulations. Many supporters therefore were turned away, and others, who arrived late (7.30pm is difficult if you work in Dublin, particularly), were obviously not allowed inside either. But their support meant a great deal to us.
Our deputation - Vincent Eaves, Adrian McKenna and Noeleen McManus - made a 15 minute presentation to the Council on behalf of our community. You can access their papers by clicking
We were received with great courtesy by our elected representatives. Unfortunately, this courtesy was not maintained to each other for the rest of the debate, and a vote on returning the golf links to its original safe zoning was marred by angry shouts about the legality or otherwise of the vote, which resulted in four (3 Green and 1 Sinn Fein) in favour of returning these lands to their original Open Space zoning, one abstention (Labour), and six against (3 Labour, 2 Fianna Fail, and 1 Fine Gael). One Fianna Fail councillor was absent from the meeting.
Perhaps we precipitated the chaos that ensued over this vote by appealing for a Variation to the Development Plan to be set in motion that night, and, if so, we apologise. We hope, however, that the genuine goodwill that was apparent on all sides as we made our presentations will surface again, and allow all of us to continue a dialogue about a river, and a community, that are located in the heart of our town.
Pizarro request time extension till May 8, 2006
On August 11, 2005, the due date for a decision on Pizarro's present application, Bray Town Council announced that the developers had requested an extension of time to May 8, 2006. This means that Pizarro Developments may wait until then to request a judgement from Bray Town Council officials on this application - but they are also at liberty to do so earlier, if they so decide.
Meanwhile, SWAP are appealing to councillors from every party to use this time to create a Variation on the Bray Development Plan 2005-2011 to return the vital flood plain section of the old Bray Golf Club lands to its original, safe Open Space zoning.
Bray Golf Club Lands - Action Area Plan
The newest page on our site - - reproduces a plan commissioned by Bray Urban District Council in 1998, and published in 1999, for Bray Golf Club Lands.
The study, by town planners, Brady Shipman Martin, clearly acknowledged the lowlands of Bray Golf links as a vital part of the flood plain, and came up with a detailed plan for development on the high ground, while preserving the flood plain along by the river as Open Space. Their advice, along with guidelines from the OPW, was ignored by councillors from Labour, Fianna Fail, and Fine Gael in December, 2005, when they zoned these lands as Town Centre.
Table Quiz and Update in Murphy's Pub, Dargle Road - Thursday, September 15
Our fund-raising committee held a Table Quiz in Murphy's Pub on the Dargle Road on Thursday, September 15. It was the successful start a campaign to raise either a 'fighting fund', or - if we succeed in our fight without having to resort to expensive legal arguments - to raise money towards badly needed repair and maintenance on the River Dargle.