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On April 4th, all four of Pizarro Development's applications to build on the old Bray Golf Club lands were refused unanimously by An Bord Pleanala - on grounds of flooding, of traffic, and of insufficient active open space.

With five candidates from Bray standing in the forthcoming General Election - Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche, Fianna Fail; Liz McManus, T.D., Deputy Leader of the Labour Party; and Councillors Joe Behan (Fianna Fail), Deirdre deBurca (Green Party), and John Brady (Sinn Fein) - we saw this as an opportunity for a fresh start in what has been a very flawed planning process, particularly with regard to the floodplain. This had been rezoned by established Labour, Fianna Fail, and Fine Gael councillors for high density construction. Three newly elected Green Party councillors, and one from Sinn Fein, voted unsuccessfully against the rezoning.

So, on April 17th we addressed the following questions in writing to each of the five Parties represented on Bray Town Council:-

  • What is your Party’s position on building on floodplains? (letter to Leaders and Spokespersons for the Environment)
  • Will your Party fund the vital defence works for Bray if they get into power? (letter to Leaders and Spokespersons for the Environment)
  • Will you vote to pass a Variation on the Development Plan to return the floodplain to its safe Open Space zoning now that we’re all back to a clean sheet for design? (letter to Bray Town councillors)

We asked for an answer by May Day...

Labour:

Their four representatives on Bray Town Council - Cllrs. John McManus, Anne Ferris, Ann Egan, and John Byrne - voted unanimously in December 2004 to rezone the floodplain for high density construction, despite strong representations from the local community.

Deputy Liz McManus' Constituency Office is located right beside the floodplain, and all Labour politicians in Bray would be well aware of the devastation caused by previous floods in what has been a traditional Labour stronghold.

We have had no reply from Labour's leadership, but we received a one and half page letter from their local councillors, the full text of which is reproduced below.

It seems to translate as: 'Yes, our Party is against building on floodplains, but we're still going to keep the floodplain zoned for high density construction, and, no, don't expect us to provide for flood defence works, even if we get into power.' We're open to correction on this, though...?

A letter welcoming Pizarro's plans was circulated by Labour shortly after the four applications were first lodged. It was signed by Deputy McManus, and her four colleagues on Bray Town Council.

Deputy McManus' present election propaganda however describes An Bord Pleanala's rejection of Pizarro's four applications as "necessary and wise", saying that ensuring the best future development of the town can only be done "if the protection of the residents of Little Bray and Seapoint Court against flooding is guaranteed first".

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Fianna Fail:

Their three representatives on Bray Town Council - Cllrs. Pat Vance, David Grant, and Joe Behan - also voted unanimously in December 2004 to rezone the floodplain for high density construction. Cllr. Joe Behan is a candidate in the forthcoming General Election.

We have had no reply as to their present stance on building on the floodplain from any of these three councillors as of today's date.

Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche, however, met with our group on April 16, and said that An Bord Pleanala's rejection of Pizarro's applications makes this "a completely new ball game".

He maintained that he couldn't interfere in this process up to now for legal reasons, but that he will now liaise with both the OPW and the Department of Finance to look for funding.

He also pointed to his insistence that both Monaghan and Meath should make changes to their Draft County Development Plans for environmental reasons. It is unclear however whether the Minister has the power to order a Variation on a Development Plan that has already been passed.

We hope that Minister Roche's involvement in environmental madness in his own town may not be too little, too late.

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Green Party:

The Green Party's three local representatives - Cllrs. Deirdre deBurca (another candidate in the coming General Election), Ciaran O'Brien, and Caroline Burrell - have all voted consistently against the rezoning of the floodplain as Town Centre.

Cllr. deBurca has set out lucidly her Party's stance on this issue below. The Green Party is against building on floodplains, in line with all international best practice and our own OPW's guidelines. If elected, Cllr. deBurca will insist on public funding of flood protection for Bray as one of the conditions for her participation in a Coalition Government.

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Sinn Fein:

Sinn Fein's sole representative on Bray Town Council - Cllr. John Brady (also a candidate in the coming General Election) - has voted consistently on Bray Town Council to have the floodplain zoned as Open Space.

His Party Leader, Gerry Adams, replied to our questions with a courteous note saying that he "had been in touch with" their Head Office, and has been assured that Councillor John Brady would be in contact with us regarding this issue.

Cllr. Brady wrote to outline his Party's refusal to countenance building on any floodplain, and their insistence that flood defence works should be paid for from public monies. The full text of his letter is reproduced below.

Deputy Arthur Morgan, Sinn Fein's spokesperson for the environment, also replied directly to us, and the full text of his reply is also given here.

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Fine Gael:

Fine Gael's sole representative on Bray Town Council - Cllr. Brid Collins - also voted in December 2004 to rezone the floodplain for high density construction.

Cllr. Collins phoned us in response to our letter, and informed us that she has been ill and will be in touch with us again as soon as possible. We accept this fully.

However, as with Labour, we have not yet had the courtesy of a reply from Fine Gael's leadership, despite Deputy Enda Kenny's unequivocal reply to a question from Deirdre deBurca on a 'Questions and Answers' programme: "You do not build on floodplains".

It may well have been a programme that their sitting TD for Wicklow, Deputy Billy Timmins, missed, because Deputy Timmins used a computer generated PR image from Pizarro to illustrate the front page of his newsletter in autumn of last year. In it he maintained that the flood protection works being designed by a team on which the independent consultants were ex-Pizarro employees, and which was being funded by Pizarro, would solve the problem of flooding to the extent that the floodplain would be no longer needed... At the time, no one on Bray Town Council, nor in our communities, had seen these proposals, so we can only assume that Deputy Timmins was privileged with a preview.

The West Wicklow T.D. has since greeted An Bord Pleanala's decision to turn down Pizarro's four applications as "a sad day for Bray".

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Labour's reply:

28th April, 2007

We would like to outline the position of the Labour Party on the Bord Pleanála decision on the development of the Golf Club Lands.

We support a mixed development on the site to provide a much needed housing, recreational, educational, commercial and retailing centre for our town. We welcome the decision on the particular application submitted by Pizarro as it was flawed in many respects. It does give us an opportunity to have a fresh and better proposal.

In particular, we agree, that until a decision is made by the Bord on the proposed Flood Protection Scheme, that the application was premature.

You will remember that it was on a proposal by the Labour Party in the Development Plan that no development on the lands could take place prior to the construction of the Flood Protection Scheme and that it was on our insistence that the Office of Public Works be involved in the generation of that scheme. It was also the Labour Party’s proposal that following an Environmental Impact Study that the scheme be submitted for adjudication by an Bord Pleanála.

Therefore until that decision is made by the Bord the development is, of course, premature. The Labour Party will abide by the decision of the Bord and not try to circumvent its decision in any way.

From the beginning our major concern about the proposal concerned the traffic generated by the scheme and in particular the impact it would have on residents in the Little Bray area. The scheme as proposed was totally inadequate in that regard and we made that point at the time during discussions on the Development Plan and during discussions on the proposal itself. Of course the traffic problems would be the same no matter where on the site the development was located. In the new scheme this issue must be properly addressed.

A new proposal must involve the connection of the LUAS to Mainline Rail and to the DART as well as providing good public transport to the site in order to reduce traffic.

We also share the Bord’s concern regarding the allocation and positioning of the Open Space, both public and private, on the site.

We have also severe reservations concerning the operation of Part 5 of the Planning Act in the allocation of social and affordable housing in the development. We feel that the way it was to be done in the old application was socially regressive. We will seek to have it done differently in the new application when it comes.

We believe that the present Flood Protection Scheme is a good one and has been developed after widespread consultation in which your organisation had a major role. Over 20 years after Hurricane Charlie it is time that the people of Little Bray and Seapoint Court had the security of a Flood Protection Scheme. A good scheme, in our view, has been developed and if it is passed by an Bord Pleanála we will seek to have it built as soon as possible to protect the lives and properties of local residents.

Thank you once again for your interest in this matter.

Yours sincerely,
Cllr. John Byrne, Cllr. Anne Egan, Cllr. Anne Ferris, Cllr. John McManus

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Liz McManus, T.D., Deputy Leader, Labour Party

Liz McManus, T.D.
Deputy Leader
Labour Party

Deirdre deBurca, Green Party candidate for Wicklow

Deirdre deBurca
Green Party candidate

Ireland's Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche

Minister for the
Environment,
Dick Roche, Fianna Fail

John Brady, Sinn Fein candidate for Wicklow

John Brady
Sinn Fein candidate

Cllr. Joe Behan, Fianna Fail candidate in the coming election

Cllr. Joe Behan
Fianna Fail candidate

 
 

Green Party's reply:

29th April, 2007

The Green Party’s supports what is recognised as ‘international best practice’ in relation to flood plains- that is that they are left free of development. This position is reflected in the Office of Public Works own guidelines on building on flood plains, which recommend that flood plains are best used for open space or playing pitches.

Our Party strongly supports the right of the people of Bray to have proper flood defence works put in place along the Dargle River to protect them from a repeat of the devastating floods experienced by the town during Hurricane Charlie in 1986. If I am elected as a Green Party TD from County Wicklow, one of the conditions of my participation in any Coalition Government involving the Green Party will be the funding of the necessary flood defence works for Bray.

Yes, the Green Party councillors on Bray Town Council will give their full support to a Variation to the Bray Town Development Plan to return the floodplain to its original Open Space zoning. We believe this is necessary in order to reverse the extremely flawed decision made by a majority of town councillors to zone the flood plain for high-density Town Centre development. 'The Green Party's position in relation to the approx 8.5 acres of floodplain adjacent to the Dargle running from Bray Bridge to the harbour area it that the area should form a linear riverside park. This has been our position since our election to Bray Town Council in 2004 and formed part of our appeal re the development of the Golf Club Lands to An Bord Pleanala. This will continue as our position on Bray Town Council and will be my position if I am elected to Dail Eireann.

Regards,

Deirdre deBurca

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Sinn Fein's replies:

25th April, 2007

Thank you for your recent letter and the enclosed information on planning applications on the old Bray Golf Club lands.

I have been in contact with our Head Office and they have assured me that Councillor John Brady will be in contact with you regarding this issue.

Is mise le meas

Gerry Adams, MP, MLA

25th April, 2007

Many thanks for your email regarding Sinn Fein’s policies on building floodplains in Bray. Sinn Fein are fully supportive of the campaign currently being conducted by SWAP and our Councillors have worked hard with all concerned. At council level, Sinn Fein Councillor John Brady opposed the rezoning of the floodplain as well as attempting to make a material contravention to the development plan for the area reversing the zone back to open space as per the wishes of local residents and SWAP. It is unfortunate however; Cllr. Brady did not receive the same support from other councillors.

Since 1986, successive Government’s have promised funding for flood protection to communities across the state, however this money has not materialised. We have fully supported the residents of Bray at local level and will continue to do so, as well as at a national level.

Sinn Fein does not agree with the building of floodplains in this or any other circumstances. The provision of flood defences must be funded using public funds as we are opposed to the use of public private partnerships. The building of flood defences must be funded in Bray immediately due to their rate of recurrence and Sinn Fein believes this should be a Government priority.

Should you have any questions regarding this, or any other Sinn Fein environment policies, please do not hesitate to contact me on 01 618 3182.

Is mise le meas,

Arthur Morgan, TD, Sinn Fein Spokesperson on the Environment

24th April, 2007

Firstly, I would like to thank you for your recent letter, and, secondly, I would like to congratulate SWAP and all concerneed with your David v Goliath battle with Pizarro, in which common sense prevailed.

As you are well aware, I have supported SWAP and the residents of Little Bray right from the outset of this proposal. I opposed the rezoning of the floodplain in the current Bray Development Plan and at a later stage I proposed a material contravention to the development plan seeking a reversal of the zoning back to its previous status as open space. However, this was not supported at Council level by the majority of the members.

I am very conscious of the need to get flood protection in place as quickly as possible, as does my party at national level and at European level. I have spoken to Arthur Morgan, TD, my party's spokesperson on the environment in Leinster House and to Mary Lou McDonald MEP on the issue, and have briefed them on the entire situation and the issue of flood protection.

My party's position on building on floodplains is that it shouldn't happen. We have experienced it in other areas such as the likes of New Ros in Wexford, where we have opposed it. If my party get into power it will prioritise the issue of flood protection and Bray will certainly be prioritised for protection. As my party is opposed to the use of public, private partnerships (PPPs), public money would be used to fund the scheme.

I have already proposed a Variation to the Development Plan to return the floodplain to its Open Space status in the past. I will be proposing it again in the near future, as I feel it is the best and only option open to the Council.

I think that the developers, Pizarro, have acted in a very selfish manner todate, and without the intereests of the people of Bray at heart. I think they must take on board the issues that An Bord Pleanala have raised and the only way to do this is to have the development moved back from the floodplain.

I have stood shoulder to shoulder with SWAP and the residents of Little Bray from the outset, and will contine to do so. If there is anything else you feel I can do, don't hesitate to contact me.

Is mise le meas

Cllr. John Brady

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e-mail: swap@braywatch.com