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NAMA 'winding down operations'
- so we
petition them, and our Government, to #SaveOurFloodplain!
(Update 10/07/2016)

Apart from flooding (and the election), NAMA was the other story we kept monitoring on our FaceBook page over those 117 days when our website was not being updated.

As our floodplain is now in NAMA's hands, we felt it was necessary for us to try to work out who exactly is NAMA, what are its powers, and how the guardian of our assets carries out its operations.

It was a worthwhile operation, if only because, when Brian Carey, writing for the Sunday Times on March 13, reported that NAMA was to sell "a massive portfolio of €6bn loans in the Republic" as the agency "continues to accelerate its wind down", it frightened us into intensifying our campaign. We realised how quickly NAMA is now selling off its portfolios - our lands - often, it seems, to 'vulture funds' who are extremely unlikely to care what effect their developments will have on local communities.

    So we set up an online petition asking our Government, NAMA, and Wicklow County Council to rectify this wrong - urgently. And we need everyone who believes that no building should take place on a floodplain, even when flood defences are in place, to support us by signing our petition now - and by sharing it on FaceBook and/or emailing it to your friends.
    Please help to give our small community a very big voice!

If NAMA is allowed to sell on our floodplain with the present crazy planning permission intact, we will continue to fight - but the State will be open to legal action by any buyer who purchases this land if permission is then revoked and the zoning changed.

If, on the other hand, NAMA is persuaded to hold onto this floodplain until both planning and zoning are corrected (a 'swap' that puts building that complements our present town centre on the high ground, linear park and playing fields on the floodplain), then nobody can take legal action. The land belongs to us, the nation.

     
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NAMA and 'the Common Good': One of the stories that cheered us in our battle was the open letter from Edmund Honohan, the Master of the High Court, to Alan Kelly, then Minister for the Environment, and published in the Independent on April 4.

Having first of all commended Mr. Kelly for calling for a debate about property rights in the Constitution, Mr. Honohan then went on to say:

"Faced with repeated assertions about how the right to property is legally watertight, politicians need to recover control which they have ceded to the lawyers. To do so they need to understand that the position is a lot clearer than they have been led to believe.

"The Constitution in effect provides that the State may expropriate private property if the Oireachtas decides that to do so is for the "common good".

This view was repeated on RTE's Claire Byrne Live by Mr. Honohan, and reported in the Times on April 13.

Stating that 'the Constitution allowed interference in property rights where social interests required action by the State', Mr. Honohan added that 'the only way to get immediate control of additional social housing was to buy back now the housing sold to so-called vulture funds.'

And, according to RTE's 9 o'clock news on May 11, he again repeated to the Oireachteas' cross party committee on Housing and Homelessness that 'the Common Good' trumps the right to property, again recommending that the State should CPO vacant properties to solve the housing crisis. While this view was contradicted by Patrick Sweetman of the Law Society of Ireland on the grounds that this would be more expensive than acquiring the property privately, he seemingly did not contradict Mr Honohan's assertion of the supremity of the Common Good.

The thrust of Mr. Honohan's intervention each time was the need to build public housing: he says clearly that property 'now in private hands .... can (and, probably, legally should)' be acquired by the State to build houses, if necessary by Compulsory Purchase Orders.

If housing can be legally acquired from private property owners for 'the common good', then surely NAMA can be required to retain clearly dangerously zoned lands in its possession until the zoning is corrected - and still achieve the best possible value for the tax payer - because flooding is expensive, not just for the communities who are flooded, but for the State.

     
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The cost of flooding to the tax payer:
(Update 10/07/2016)

The cost of flooding to the British Government across northern England, Scotland, and Ireland in December 2015 alone was likely to exceed 2bn dollars, according to a review published in the London School of Economics and Business Science's Business Review on March 28 last.

Their report goes on to say that: 'The recent events in the British Isles are just one example of a major global problem. According to media reports collated by the Dartmouth Flood Observatory, between 1985 and 2014, floods worldwide killed more than half a million people, displaced over 650 million people and caused damage in excess of $500 billion (Brakenridge, 2016).'

By April 25, close to €900,000 had already been paid out to more than 500 households from Ireland's humanitarian assistance scheme following our own disastrous floods over last Christmas, as reported in thejournal.ie

Is selling off floodplains with planning permission for high density building really good 'value' for the tax payer?

     
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The 'two faces of NAMA': So who is NAMA, what does it do, and what should it do?

On June 12, the Sunday Business Post carried an article by Jack Horgan-Jones. We shared it on our FaceBook page because it described, in the best way we had come across yet, the 'two faces of NAMA'.

Horgan-Jones wrote:

'There are two Namas. The first is the sober, workmanlike agency which has managed an enormous book of toxic debt, overseen the unwinding of the state’s catastrophic property crisis and is set to deliver a return of €2.3 billion to the state. It’s a staid, prosaic organisation, which stringently follows the letter of the law, and makes its employees pay €20 a head into the Christmas party for uninspired finger food and a couple of pints.

'But there is another Nama. This Nama is partially the product of muck slinging – not all of it deserved – which the agency has been the subject of over the course of its lifetime. But it’s not all a fiction. This is the Nama of Enda Farrell, the executive who was last month convicted of leaking sensitive information to prospective buyers of Nama loans, and of Project Eagle, the controversy over the sale of the agency’s Northern Irish loan book which refuses to die, and which recently saw two people arrested as part of a fraud investigation linked to the deal.'

Below are the articles on NAMA that we shared on FaceBook over the last four months, showing those two faces. We have divided them into categories - 'Controversy and Criticism'; 'NAMA & Housing'; 'Commercial Success'; 'Project Eagle'; and 'Our Government's Attitude to Project Eagle'.

Controversy and Criticism: We start with one of the earliest articles we shared during that time.

On March 20, David McWilliams, writing in the Sunday Business Post, was scathing in his criticism of NAMA selling to 'outsiders who have become insiders'.

He describes Ireland as 'a carcass over which vulture funds are feeding.' And he predicts: 'When the vultures fly off, we will buy our property back at full price by borrowing from the banks.'

Sabina Higgins, wife of President Michael D. Higgins, was also perturbed at the growth of greed in our society when she spoke at the graveside of Countess Markievicz during the 1916 celebrations. She was reported by Niamh Horan in the Irish Independent of March 26 as saying:

“The empires of greed are even more powerful and less visible and less accountable [than they were in 1916]. The challenges are only too clear as we see the suffering of our fellow men and women across the globe.”

Fianna Fail TD, John Brassil, was also worried about NAMA selling off property to 'vulture funds'. In his maiden speech to the Dail, reported in the Irish Times on April 14, he pointed out, during a debate on housing and homelessness, that NAMA was 'set up to solve a problem, not to create another one'.

On April 15, Peter Flanagan in the Independent was reporting that the 'biggest unlisted property vehicle in the country' - IPUT - was about to acquire a new chairman, John Mulcahy. Mr. Mulcahy had joined IPUT six months after retiring as NAMA's Head of Portfolio Management in 2014, in which role 'he was the key decision maker in deciding when the state bad bank should sell its loans and property', reports Flanagan, adding: 'Now, as chairman of IPUT's investment committee, he is a key voice in advising the fund's management team on possible purchases'.

'The move raised eyebrows and led Finance Minister Michael Noonan to declare there was "no conflict of interest" in Mr Mulcahy moving back to the private sector.'

'Conflict of interest' certainly raised its head again when the Sunday Times revealed on April 17 that a south Dublin house, bought for €410,000 in 2011 by former NAMA executive, Enda Farrell, from one of the agency's debtors, had been sold on by him to a Dublin based business man in 2013 for €475,000, 'generating a profit of €65,000'. What made the story topical was that the house had just been sold again to 'an unidentified buyer' for €900,000.

'The state’s “bad bank” was unaware of the transaction until it was revealed by The Sunday Times, prompting it to launch an internal investigation into insider trading.'

Mr. Farrell appeared in the news again, when RTE reported on May 12 that he had been given a two-year suspended prison sentence for disclosing confidential information. Mr. Farrell 'had pleaded guilty to disclosing information confidential to NAMA by email between May and July 2012 .... related to NAMA valuations of hundreds of properties'.

This time, it appears, he did not make any personal gain from the information as 'Judge Karen O'Connor said had Farrell materially benefitted or NAMA been compromised she would have imposed a custodial sentence'. Other mitigating factors appear to have been that 'he had left Ireland to live in Brussels financially destitute due to costs arising from civil proceedings taken by NAMA', and that 'had he not voluntarily returned to Ireland for these proceedings it would have been difficult to extradite him'.

The effect of his disclosures, though, surfaced again in a report in the Irish Times of May 20 regarding an action taken against NAMA by property developer, Paddy McKillen, 'in relation to the leaking of information [by Enda Farrell] about his businesses from his time dealing with the State body.'

'Information relating to Mr McKillen’s businesses was among the documents sent by Farrell to named individuals in the investment companies QED Equity Ltd and Canaccord Genuity.'

A call had been made the previous week by Fianna Fail TD, Marc MacSharry (following an approach made to him by a confidential source), to set up 'an independent investigation into the leaking of information from Nama in connection with some 800 debtors'.

Replying, Mr Noonan said NAMA 'did not consider it incurred any loss arising from the leaking of information connected with debtors', and 'there was no evidence to suggest that there were connections between the recipients of the leaked documents and bidders for assets offered for sale by Nama debtors'.

'As a result, Nama had “not made or does not intend to make any proposals to compensate any party in respect of this matter”.'

On April 25, Liam Cosgrove reported in the Longford Leader that Cllr. Mae Sexton had expressed grave concerns over NAMA at the previous week's County Council meeting.

Claiming that 'unscrupulous' developers were buying back their assets at knockdown prices from NAMA, the Independent councillor said the issue had been brought to her attention after a local constituent had unsuccessfully tried to purchase a premises in Longford.

“What is happening is that some people are going into NAMA and are getting a third party to purchase back their property at a phenomenally low rate ... these unscrupulous people are making a laugh of people who have agreed to cuts in services and are paying additional taxes with great difficulty”.

Fianna Fail's Seamus Butler seemed equally unimpressed: “I think when the story of the Irish recession is told, NAMA will be the shining example of an atrocious situation. What's worse is here we are in the year 2016 celebrating the (Irish) Republic, but this is not the way a Republic should behave.”

Writing in the same paper on May 4, Cosgrove reported on NAMA's 'highly unusual move' in responding to Cllr. Sexton's claims. In what Cosgrove describes as 'a terse response', NAMA told the Longford Leader that "it was not in the business of conducting shady or underhand deals.

“All NAMA assets are openly marketed and sold to the highest bidder to ensure that the highest achievable price is obtained for the taxpayer,” NAMA said in its statement, adding that: "Section 172 of the NAMA Act precluded debtors or parties associated with them from buying back properties." The agency also said in its statement that it was precluded from disclosing information about borrowers.

'Nama writes off €1.5bn owed by 80 of its debtors' was the headline on an article by George Deegan in the Independent on July 9. Reporting that 'the National Asset Management Agency has written off debts totalling €1.5bn owed by 80 debtors to the agency', Deegan quotes Minister Noonan as stating that "debt is only written off where all of the underlying assets have been realised, there are no further assets to be realised nor any additional recourse available to Nama to recover borrowings from the debtor."

And, sure, what's €1.5bn between friends, anyway?

We started this section on the face of NAMA that seems to be constantly embroiled in controversy with an article by David McWilliams in which he described Ireland as 'a carcass over which vulture funds are feeding'. We finish it with another journalist - Fintan O'Toole - who, writing in the Irish Times on June 14, left us in no doubt as to his opinion of NAMA selling to 'vulture funds'.

"What links the blood-stained walls of the Pulse nightclub to an office block in Belfast?", he asks. And he answers: "Money. And the way people who have enough of it always get what they want."

"In April 2014, the Irish state, in the form of Nama, gave a lovely business deal to the people who make assault rifles of the kind that Omar Mateen used to kill 50 people at the Pulse LGBT nightclub in Orlando on Sunday", O'Toole continues.

He explains that Cerberus, about whose purchase of Project Eagle there has been much controversy, are "also very big in guns. It is run by people for whom everything is just business, from firesales to firearms, from Irish property deals to selling weapons of war to anyone who wants them. The connection between Belfast and Orlando reminds us of a truth that is easily forgotten - behind every mass shooting by a deranged psychopath in the US is a very profitable industry owned by Ivy League graduates with clean hands and manicured nails, respectable people who fund politicians in Congress and host charity galas in Manhattan. If they had a slogan it would be the old Roman adage, pecunia non olet - money has no smell."

It is a very powerful piece of writing, and a very powerful argument against taking profit as the only criteria for doing business.

Mr. Frank Daly, chairman of NAMA since 2009, replied to some of these criticisms of NAMA in an interview on 'Down to Business' (Newstalk, April 24) in which he talked about 'his life, career and why he thinks NAMA is misunderstood'.

On the latter point, he said: "The responsibility on us is to get the best financial return that we can for the taxpayer. That's our mandate. We don't act irresponsibly though. Every time we sell an asset it is sold on the open market... So everybody has an opportunity to bid on this.

"Ireland needs investors as well as developers. We need people to take these assets off our hands..."

And: "I think it's wrong to assume that these companies do not have ethical standards of their own just because they're so-called vulture funds".

     
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NAMA & Housing: One of NAMA's newer mandates, around which one would think every decent-minded individual would agree, is helping to provide social housing swiftly. Yet, despite most people's complete sympathy with people suffering the hell of homelessness, especially those with children, some voices are critical of the way in which this is being done.

On April 15, Paul Melia was reporting in the Indo that the 'State bad-bank Nama controls enough land to build at least 80,000 homes - but large parts of its portfolio cannot be developed' unless 'essential services including roads, sewerage, public transport and schools' are delivered.

'The failure of the main political parties to form a government over the past six weeks means that decisions around funding the capital works required have effectively been put on the long finger', Melia continues.

Will a fight for leadership of the leading Government party - Fine Gael - now distract our politicians from the urgency of making such decisions - especially when they have less than two weeks left before the Dail breaks up until September 27?

RTE News on June 9, reporting on the launch of NAMA's Annual Report for 2015, said that NAMA was on course to deliver 20,000 residential units by the end of 2020.

By then, there was already a complaint lodged about this plan, as evidenced by this extract from a report by Joseph Campbell on The Opening Bell on NewstalkFM on May 26: 'The Irish Government has told the European Commission that plans for NAMA to build 20,000 starter homes are not illegal and that this would not constitute state aid.'

George Deegan reported in the Irish Examiner on July 7 on the same story:

'Following the announcement last December of Nama’s plan to finance the building of the [20,000] homes, a complaint was submitted to the European Commission’s Competition Directorate by a number of property developers, who claimed the financing by the Government agency raised issues about state aid.'

The five builders who made the complaint maintained that NAMA had gone beyond its remit, and that NAMA 'enjoys a number of competitive advantages because its finance costs are considerably lower than those of private sector operators'.

Minister Noonan, defending 'Nama’s funding to debtors and receivers, said the funding is “at appropriate market rates of interest”.

He added: “The clear intention of Nama’s residential funding initiative is to enhance returns over and above any other viable strategy, provide funding on terms comparable to those available elsewhere in the market and ensure there is no impact on competition more generally.” He concluded that the Commission had not yet reached a decision on this matter.

DublinLive on July 7 reported on the People Before Profit's protest outside the Dail against the sale of NAMA assets to vulture funds.

'The party wants the resources to be used to build council and affordable homes to combat the housing crisis', wrote Kayla Walsh. 'But a bill put forward by TD Brid Smith (the Housing Emergency Legislation in the Public Interest Bill 2016) was thrown out by the Ceann Comhairle last month. This is despite the fact that the ideas in the bill are echoed by the Housing Committee final report, which is being presented to the Government today.'

The new 'consensus politics'? It seems to us that if NAMA is to be really effective, both socially as well as economically, then our politicians from all sides of the floor need to get their house in order to provide the essential services needed for whatever housing NAMA can provide, and to provide clear legislative direction that it is socially valuable, as well as commercially valuable, returns that we need from this agency.

And, on that topic, we would welcome NAMA putting social housing on the high ground above our floodplain, where we have always maintained development should take place.

Social justice brings long-term profits for all of us.

     
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Commercial Success:

In Jack Horgan-Jones' article in the Sunday Business Post, he described one of NAMA's faces as 'the sober, workmanlike agency which has managed an enormous book of toxic debt, overseen the unwinding of the state’s catastrophic property crisis and is set to deliver a return of €2.3 billion to the state'.

This, of course, is true, and should not be forgotten to NAMA's credit. We were in a bad way financially when this agency began.

In a series of written Dail replies to questions from Paul Murphy, Anti-Austerity Alliance TD (the former MEP who sponsored SWAP to petition EU help with our campaign), an Independent report of April 16 quotes Minister Noonan as saying:

'NAMA is on track to recover all of the €31.8bn it paid to the banks, including the €5.6bn in State aid and the €4.5bn of further value declines to the end of 2013.

'In addition, NAMA expects, based on current projections, to generate a surplus of up to €2bn by the time it completes its work after all its financial obligations have been repaid."

The road to this success was paved with the return from NAMA's debtors 'with a par debt of €18bn', more than half of whom had by then exited NAMA. "This comprises debtor connections that reached a final agreement with NAMA and debtor connections whose loans were sold", the Minister explained.

Frank Daly, chairman of NAMA, reiterated the Minister's projection of a €2bn surplus to the exchequer when he addressed the Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness in early May. The Irish Times on May 12 reported that 'Mr Daly said while the legislation setting up Nama had referred to a social dividend, it was clear the main purpose was its contribution to dealing with the State’s economic difficulties.'

He added that 'repaying the debt was Nama’s top priority. Paying it back as quickly as it could was the biggest social dividend it could deliver.'

Really, Mr. Daly? To us 'a social dividend' means that our society is paid not just in cash, but in a quality of life that can be lived without fear of flooding, among other things.

Those of us who were unlucky enough to be without insurance during the last two great floods in our community would tell you that their homes and their finances had been destroyed: those of us who were lucky enough to be insured would tell you that no money, no matter how great the 'dividend', could pay us for the hardship and heartache and fear of being flooded.

Social dividends are about more than paying back debts as quickly as possible - at any cost.

On June 8, the Sunday Business Post was reporting more upbeat news from NAMA and the Minister.

'NAMA recorded a €1.8 billion profit for 2015, four times the size of last year’s €458 million, and says it is on its way to a projected lifetime surplus of €2.3 billion. According to the agency’s annual report and financial statements for 2015, it generated €9.1 billion in cash during 2015, €8.5 billion of which came from the disposal of assets.'

Describing this as “good news for the taxpayer”, NAMA's chairman, Frank Daly, said: “The debate has changed dramatically from how much NAMA will lose over its lifetime to how big its surplus will be.”

The agency has made a profit each year since 2011, and if you want to read its 2015 figures in detail, you'll find its annual report for that year on NAMA's website here

The Irish Times on June 9 concentrated on the 'rainy day fund' aspect of the Minister's speech at the launch of this report. As NAMA raised its lifetime surplus forecast to €2.3 billion, Minister Noonan signalled that: 'Some of the profits from the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) may be used for a so-called rainy day fund to shore up the State finances against future shocks.'

That's a very good idea, Minister - but why not bank our floodplains against a rainy day also?

     
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NAMA news - Project Eagle
(Update 10/07/2016)

The first NAMA story we picked up during our time on FaceBook, and away from this website, appeared in the Independent on the 11th March, headlined 'Noonan stonewalls criticism of Nama loans sale'. It's a story that still hasn't gone away.

It started way back in June 2013, when our Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, received a letter from Northern Ireland's then Minister for Finance, Sammy Wilson, which Mr. Noonan passed to NAMA. The Irish Examiner published a very good timeline of developments up July 9th of last year: the only problem we found with the article was that it assumes that everybody knows who the main characters were at the beginning. If you do, then skip right up to the next news item, because this is simply a rehash of that very informative article - just explaining the acronyms and who's who! Otherwise, read on...

Mr Wilson wrote that he had received a letter from international lawyers, Brown Rudnick, saying that clients of theirs wanted to bid for NAMA's Northern loan portfolio, known as Project Eagle. Mr. Noonan wrote back saying that Mr. Wilson should contact NAMA, adding that NAMA did not favour granting exclusive access to any one bidder.

NAMA then received an unsolicited approach from Brown Rudnick to say that PIMCO, a global investment management firm, wanted to purchase Project Eagle - in a closed transaction. In December, 2013, NAMA decided on an open auction, setting a minimum price of £1.3bn, which in April was lowered to £1.24bn.

In January, 2014, NAMA received a letter from the Principal Private Secretary to Northern Ireland's First Minister, Peter Robinson, which NAMA said appeared to summarise “an agreement between PIMCO and the NI Executive” for the purchaser to agree in an Memorandum of Understanding to certain conditions with the Northern Government: NAMA says it ignored the draft letter.

Later that month NAMA invited nine prospective buyers — including PIMCO — to bid. These were whittled down by late March to three - PIMCO, Cerberus (a huge US capital management firm), and Fortress Investment, yet another global investment management firm.

On March 10, the story really began to pick up pace when PIMCO told NAMA that their “proposed fee arrangement with Brown Rudnick includes also the payment of fees to Tughans and to a former external member of NIAC”. Brown Rudnick, remember, were the international lawyers that contacted Mr. Noonan, and then NAMA, on behalf of PIMCO: Tughan's are a Belfast commercial law firm who acted as Brown Rudnick's 'man on the ground'. PIMCO named the ex-member of NAMA's Northern Ireland Advisory Committee (NIAC) as Frank Cushnahan.

Mr. Cushnahan had left NIAC in late 2013, but NIAC itself was not dissolved until September, 2014.

PIMCO later told NAMA that a fee of £15m was to have been split three ways, between Brown Rudnick, Tughans’ managing partner, Ian Coulter, and Frank Cushnahan.

On March 11, NAMA decided that the planned fee arrangement warranted withdrawal of PIMCO from the bidding process, and told the firm of its “serious concerns” about the fee arrangement proposals and “in particular” the proposed fee payment to Frank Cushnahan. By March 13, PIMCO had withdrawn from the bidding process.

On April 3, Cerberus bid £1.241bn and Fortress bid £1.1bn for Project Eagle. Cerberus won. The official figures, says the Examiner, emerged much later. Cerberus had paid a discounted price of €1.6bn for the loans worth €5.7bn at face value.

On April 4, Northern Ireland's then First Minister, Peter Robinson, welcomed the sale as “excellent news for the Northern Ireland economy.” He thanked NAMA and Michael Noonan “for the constructive way they have worked with the Northern Ireland Executive over the sale.”

End of story? Ah, no, only the beginning of Part 2...

In January, 2015, Ian Coulter 'unexpectedly resigned' as managing partner of Tughans in Belfast, and five months later, on July 2, Mick Wallace, Independent4Change Deputy, made the first of a series of interventions in the Dail regarding an alleged payment to a unnamed Northern Ireland politician.

NAMA pointed out that it had told PIMCO to withdraw, and that Mr Cushnahan was not a member of NIAC at the time of the sale and "never had access to confidential information". They added that Cerberus paid the highest price, and that Cerberus had confirmed again that no fees were paid to any party that ever had a relationship with NAMA.

NAMA also maintained that Tughans’ 'issue' had no relevance to its competitive bid process, and stated that it was fully satisfied that the process delivered the best possible return for Irish taxpayers.

Cerberus also had some things to say about the accusations, and their reply perhaps revealed more about the accusations than any of us had been privy to till then. It appears that Brown Rudnick and Tughans were also employed by Cerberus in their bid for Project Eagle.

On July 5, Cerberus said it was deeply concerned by the allegations made by Mick Wallace. “Specifically, we engaged Brown Rudnick as our lawyers to supplement our primary legal team from Linklaters and assist us in our bid for Project Eagle. We have had a long standing relationship with Brown Rudnick in the US. They informed us that they had been previously working with another interested party that was no longer involved in the process. We were not aware, and we were not made aware, of the reasons why their former client was no longer involved...Brown Rudnick informed us that they wanted to retain Tughans as a NI-based legal firm to supplement its work. In our engagement letter with Brown Rudnick, we received certifications, representations and warranties covering a number of issues including compliance with all laws and regulations including the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the UK Bribery Act.”

On July 7, the Northern Ireland Finance Committee started investigations. On July 8, the PSNI started investigating 'matters related to the Project Eagle sale'. On July 9, the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) met. NAMA's chairman, Frank Daly, said that NAMA had learned from PIMCO that £15m in legal and other fees were to be split between Brown Rudnick, Tughans ex-managing partner, Ian Coulter, and Frank Cushnahan. PAC chairman, John McGuinness, said it was “ill-judged” that the sale was not ended.

The story was published in the Irish Examiner on July 10 last year.

     
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NAMA news - our Government's attitude to the Project Eagle affair
(Update 10/07/2016)

We haven't managed to find as informative an article as that in the Irish Examiner to bridge the gap between its publication in July 2015 and when we started to monitor NAMA news stories in March 2016. However, stories about the Project Eagle affair since then provide a lot of the background that we missed.

It's no coincidence that the first article we picked up on in the Independent on March 11 this year was headlined 'Noonan Stonewalls Criticism of NAMA loans sale'. Change 'Noonan' to 'Kenny' and you have pretty well covered all the news stories on Project Eagle in the Republic since then.

The Minister for Finance has consistently pointed out that NAMA itself is not the subject of investigations by the Northern Ireland Assembly's Committee on Finance and Personnel and the UK's National Crime Agency: the inquiry is focussed, he says, 'on the buyer side' of the transaction and there are no allegations of wrongdoing against the State agency.

And the Taoiseach and his minority-Government have backed Mr. Noonan all the way in this stance, despite repeated and growing demands for an inquiry in this jurisdiction from the Opposition benches, led by Mick Wallace.

According to the Irish Times on March 12, however, Stormont's Finance and Personnel Committee was critical of our Minister for Finance’s role in the Project Eagle sale. The Dept. of Finance came to its Minister's defence, saying that Mr. Noonan could not have halted NAMA's Project Eagle sale, and that the criticism by the Stormont committee showed a “misunderstanding of the respective responsibilities of the minister and Nama’s board” under the 2009 legislation that founded the agency.

'A spokesman explained that the minister does not have control over the conduct of Nama’s individual sales as the agency is only answerable to it in relation to whether or not it has achieved the best value possible for the taxpayer', reports the Times. In the report issued by Stormont's Finance and Personnel Committee, Mr. Noonan's role has been described as 'possessing general powers of direction over NAMA'.

The questions we asked on FaceBook page were: if Minister Noonan is not responsible for NAMA's activities, then who is? And does 'the best value possible for the taxpayer' mean the best immediate commercial value, or the best long-term social and monetary value - floods are expensive events for the State.

The Times article also brought us up to date on two of the main characters in PIMCO's withdrawal from the bidding process for Project Eagle.

'Following the transaction', the Times reports, 'Belfast law firm, Tughans, which worked on the Cerberus bid, discovered that its managing partner, Ian Coulter, had moved £6 million in fees to an Isle of Man account. He resigned when an audit unearthed the transfer.'

The article goes on to report on further trouble regarding Mr. Frank Cushnahan, the former member of NAMA'S Northern Ireland Advisory Committee (NIAC): 'BBC Northern Ireland recently recorded Mr. Cushnahan claiming that the money was meant as payment to him for work he had done on the bid.'

According to a later (June 2) Irish Times report, Frank Cushnahan also suggested in that same recording (broadcast on BBC NI's 'Spotlight' programme) "that a former Nama executive, Ronnie Hanna, had somehow aided some of the agency’s debtors in staying afloat during the recession".

'Hanna did not comment when asked about this', continues the report, 'but Nama said subsequently that he would not have had the power to do this.'

On April 18, the Belfast Telegraph raised the question of Ronnie Hanna's behaviour, too, when it reported that, following a Freedom of Information request, Hanna's diary revealed that he had had a one-hour meeting with John Snow, chairman of Cerberus, on March 31, 2014, the day before the closing bids on the Northern Ireland loans. Hanna was then NAMA's head of asset recovery.

The Telegraph quotes the Sunday Times as reporting that 'when asked whether it was appropriate for Hanna to have met Snow so close to the deadline for the bid, Nama said it "acceded to requests from both Cerberus and Fortress [another bidder for Project Eagle] for meetings during the last week of March 2014".

'This was done on the basis there would be no discussion of Project Eagle, the paper said.'

So what did they discuss? The weather?

Cerberus appeared in news reports again on April 19, when the Irish Times reported that it was expected to be among the bidders for the disposal of the €4.7 billion Project Ruby and Emerald portfolios from NAMA. Unlike Project Eagle, this time ' two thirds of the properties in the portfolios are based in Ireland'.

Meanwhile, as Minister Noonan was being defended by his Department, NAMA chairman, Frank Daly, went one step further and 'issued a stinging rebuke over the Northern Ireland Assembly investigation into the Project Eagle deal', according to a Sunday Times article on March 13.

RTE's 9 o'clock News announced, on June 1, that two men had been arrested, and a number of offices raided in Co. Down, by officers from Britain's National Crime Agency investigating the purchase of NAMA's Northern Ireland loan portfolio. NAMA was not under investigation, but the purchase of the loans has also been the subject of an investigation by the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Northern Ireland Law Society. Sinn Fein requested a Commission of Investigation in this jurisdiction into the deal.

Four days later, Ronan Quinlan was reporting in the Independent that the Taoiseach was now 'under unprecedented pressure to establish a formal inquiry into Nama's sale of its Northern Ireland loan book'. Mr. Kenny had already 'flatly rejected a demand from Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams to establish a commission of investigation into Project Eagle', but now Fianna Fail leader, Micheal Martin, joined in the fray.

Asked for his view in relation to the Taoiseach's position, he said: "As far as I'm concerned it can't be left as it is, and I don't buy the argument that no inquiry should take place on this side of the Border."

On June 12, the Independent's Ronan Quinlan reported that Independent4Change TD, Mick Wallace, had used parliamentary privilege to name the two men arrested by the UK's National Crime Agency as 'Nama's former Head of Asset Recovery, Ronnie Hanna, who was held for questioning alongside businessman Frank Cushnahan [former member of Nama's Northern Ireland Advisory Committee] as part of the NCA's ongoing investigation into Project Eagle'.

Mr. Wallace insisted that it was time the Irish Government investigated the Project Eagle sale for itself, 'rather than leaving the investigations to be conducted by authorities in Northern Ireland and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the United States'.

Hanna and Cushnahan were subsequently released on bail, the Belfast Telegraph reported on June 15, under a headline that seemed to suggest it expected more arrests - ''Explosive evidence' on Nama and Northern Ireland politicians due in weeks'.

Did they know more than we knew in the Republic? Well, oddly, they seemed to be reporting on what was said in our Dail:

'Evidence linking politicians in Northern Ireland to a massive property deal allegedly involving multimillion-pound fixer fees could emerge in the coming weeks, the Irish parliament was told yesterday.'

And they quote Micheal Martin, 'leader of the chief opposition party Fianna Fail', as saying that 'the Dublin government's position on the £1.2bn sale of a Northern Ireland property loan portfolio by a State agency in the Republic was becoming more and more untenable by the day'.

Commenting that: 'Separate investigations have been launched by the UK's National Crime Agency, the US Department of Justice's Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as a parliamentary inquiry in Stormont', the writer, Brian Hutton, adds:

'But Taoiseach Enda Kenny has repeatedly rejected calls for an Irish State inquiry into the so-called Project Eagle sale.'

Hutton also added that £7m, allegedly linked to the sale was paid into an Isle of Man bank account controlled by a former managing partner [Ian Coulter] of Belfast-based law firm Tughans who resigned after it was unearthed.'

'Tughans, which was involved in the Nama transaction as subcontractor for Cerberus's US lawyers Brown Rudnick, insisted it was not aware of the transfer', the report continues, and concludes with:

'All parties involved in the £1.2bn transaction in 2014 have denied wrongdoing.'

Micheal Martin's continued insistence in the Dail that the Government's position regarding Project Eagle was 'untenable' was reported in the Irish Times on June 15, as were Enda Kenny's continued refusal to countenance an inquiry. Mr. Kenny added, though, that: 'Separately, the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General was continuing its examination of the disposal of loans by Northern Ireland debtors.'

On June 29, Daniel McConnell, the Irish Examiner's Political Editor, was also writing about the investigation by the State’s chief auditor, the Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG), of the Project Eagle sale, commenting that: 'Given the matter is now under consideration by the C&AG, it will in turn be examined by the new Public Accounts Committee.'

The story however took a new twist. Independents 4 Change had 'tabled a private members’ motion calling for the transaction to be examined by a judge', and the proposal was to receive the backing of Sinn Fein. But: 'Having previously tabled a motion calling for a commission, Fianna Fáil last night said it was to table an amendment to the motion saying now was not the time for an investigation to proceed.' Quite an about-turn...

This particular chapter of the Project Eagle affair in this jurisdiction seemed to have come to an end - for the moment at least - when the Independents4Change motion calling for a Commission of Investigation to be established was defeated in the Dáil on June 29 by 81 votes to 51, as reported by RTE News.

UTV's coverage added that 'The minority government’s counter-motion – rejecting calls for the inquiry – was defeated by 81 votes to 58', while 'A motion by Fianna Fáil – saying that an inquiry should not take place until a criminal inquiry into the transaction has completed its work – passed by 105 votes to 38.'

Is this the end of the story of Project Eagle this side of the border? We think not.

     
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Do 'extreme weather events' really only happen 'out there', in those foreign countries?
(Update 29/06/2016)

Last winter was the wettest in parts of Ireland since records began, according to a report from Met Eireann featured in thejournal.ie last March. Over 300% more rain than average was reported in some areas of the south in December, while Storm Frank brought the season’s highest sustained winds, reaching 102 kilometres an hour at Sherkin Island on 20 December.

On January 15, Dr. Eoin O'Neill, lecturer in environmental policy at UCD Planning and Environmental Policy and UCD Earth Institute, wrote an interesting piece about flood protection in the Irish Times. In it he said: 'In terms of communities putting their faith in flood defence measures, it is important to understand that the protection offered is not absolute. In fact it increases vulnerability to more extreme events if defences are overwhelmed as recently occurred in Britain, with some communities unexpectedly finding themselves flooded behind defences.'

Extreme events are becoming more common - and this is a trend that is on the increase.

On March 8, Dr Conor Murphy from the Department of Geography at Maynooth, said on Morning Ireland that a research study of 150 years of Irish weather data predicts drastic seasonal changes in Ireland in this century, including extreme temperatures, precipitation, and drought. 'Hardly the right time to be building on floodplains?

Yet in April, the Irish Examiner was reporting on planning permission granted for 'a 400-bedroom student apartment complex on a site in Cork which was badly flooded in 2009'. Will we ever learn?

By the end of that month, close to €900,000 had already been paid out to more than 500 households from the humanitarian assistance scheme activated by the Department of Social Protection to assist households affected by flooding following the severe flooding experienced in 2015 and early 2016.

Putting in flood defence schemes where they are needed - but insisting that these are not used as an excuse to destroy nature's defences, such as floodplains - not only saves lives: they save money in the long run, too.

This is why we are continuing our fight to have the planning permission granted in 2010 to put high density development on our floodplain, while building flood defences alongside our river, revoked. We can do it now, if our new Government lives up to its promise of 'a new kind of politics'.

     
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In those 70 days from election to Government:
(Update 28/06/2016)

  • Heavy rainfall in Peru left 1 person dead, 5,181 people seriously affected, and 588 houses destroyed;
  • Louisiana flash floods left 'at least 3 dead';
  • At least 2 people died in Brazil's Sao Paolo in heavy flooding and mudslides;
  • Flooding caused the evacuation of nearly 200 people on New Zealand's west coast;
  • Flash floods in Pakistan, caused by torrential rains, killed at least 45 people;
  • 23 people died and 84 were injured when months of a severe drought were broken by heavy rains in Ethiopia;
  • 2 people died and 3 others were rescued in flash floods in 'usually arid Oman';
  • We had flooding in parts of Cork city and county at the beginning of April, while snow covered other parts of the country, including Kerry and Clare - but no deaths, thank God;
  • A few days later 18 people died and 915 people were rescued in heavy rains and flooding in Saudi Arabia;
  • 3 earthquakes in 3 days in Japan and Ecuador, caused the deaths of 41 people in Japan, while a further earthquake in Ecuador just days later brought their tragic toll to 655 deaths with 4,605 injured;
  • Homes and livestock were flooded on New Zealand's North Island;
  • Texas suffered the first of several catastrophic floods (897 water rescues within Houston city limits, and several hundred more throughout Texas County) in mid-April;
  • 2 people died and 4 million more were short of water following massive floods in Chile's capital city, Santiago, where heavy rain caused the Mapocho river to overflow;
  • Floods and mudslides followed the earthquakes in Ecuador, causing at least 4 deaths and destroying 80 homes;
  • At the end of April, Southern Mississippi experienced the 'worst flooding since Katrina';
  • Within days, severe weather (torrential rain, tornadoes, and hailstones) lashing central US caused the deaths of a grand-mother and four of her grand-children;
  • At the end of April, Southern Mississippi experienced the 'worst flooding since Katrina';
  • all while our politicians squabbled about forming a Government.

    Since then:

  • A huge wildfire devastated the Canadian province of Alberta;
  • Deadly Rwandan floods killed at least 49 people and left thousands homeless;
  • Floods in Durban in Sth. Africa claimed at least 6 lives and left hundreds homeless;
  • Floods in Guangzhou (the 'Venice of China') were described as being 'of biblical proportions';
  • 84 people died in Sri Lanka from flooding and landslides caused by Cyclone Roanu;
  • The cyclone went on to cause at least another 21 deaths in Bangladesh, with many more injured, and about 500,000 people relocated into 3,500 homes;
  • 11 people were struck by lightning in Paris over one weekend at the end of May;
  • The same weather system caused deadly flash flooding in southwestern Germany;
  • Southeast Texas suffered two 500 year flood events - in 2 months;
  • 4 people died in floods in France, and hundreds of towns and villages - and their capital city - were inundated;
  • Southeast Australia was devastated by storms;
  • People and animals were rescued from flash floods in London and Birmingham, while Nth. Yorkshire was covered in snow - on June 8th;
  • The 90th birthday of England's Queen Elizabeth was threatened as 'a week's worth of rain in one hour' was forecast for parts of the UK and Northern Ireland;
  • Scattered storms moving across the Houston region of Texas brought more water to areas still trying to dry out;
  • Key infrastructure and buildings were damaged in record flooding in Tasmania;
  • Texas is hit by flooding yet again, and this time Oklahoma is under water as well;
  • Some flash flooding hit Dublin on June 16, while torrential rains and rising waters threatened communities across the UK;
  • Indonesia suffered far worse flooding though with 47 people confirmed dead, 15 missing, 14 injured, and hundreds of homes badly damaged;
  • Flooding in Strokestown, Co. Roscommon, was due to 'exceptional historical levels of rainfall';
  • The death toll from the latest US state - West Virginia - to suffer floods this summer has risen to 25.
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    The white smoke...
    (Update 28/06/2016)

    On 10th April, 44 days after the election, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail finally agreed to meet early the following week to discuss how a minority Government might work.

    A week later, the Irish Times was reporting that 'senior party figures' in Labour were seeking a consensus from their members to form an alliance with Fine Gael and the Greens.

    Meanwhile, both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail continued to court the Independents, and an Independent Alliance group emerged who were prepared to work with Fine Gael to form a Government. They insisted however that first FG and FF had to come to an agreement: they weren't prepared to 'buy a pig in a poke'.

    And even when talks between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail finally ended with an agreement on 'the shape of a Fine Gael-led minority Government that should last three years' (RTE news), they were still hammering out their own deal with Fine Gael almost two hours after Enda Kenny had been proposed and seconded for Taoiseach for the fourth time on May 6.

    When they finally made an appearance, though, five of them put Mr. Kenny - and the rest of us - out of his and our misery, and voted 'yes'. We finally had a Government, 70 days (one-fifth of a year!) after the election.

         
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    It didn't happen quickly:
    (Update 28/06/2016)

    On 31st March, 34 days after the election, we were posting on FaceBook:

    'We were warned before the election by both Fine Gael & Fianna Fail that voting for Independents would lead to an unstable Government because the Independents "wouldn't be able to agree".

    How prophetic - except that it's Fine Gael and Fianna Fail now who can't agree to form a stable Government, while both continue to court the Independents they maintained were so unreliable.'

         
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    Our Petition Fell - or did it die of lethargy?
    (Update 28/06/2016)

    In 2013, we petitioned the Oireachtas Joint Sub-Committee on Public Oversight and Petitions to have the zoning on our floodplain reversed while in NAMA, and to investigate the process that led to the grant of permission.

    We were told that our information was being checked, and our Petition would then be scheduled to be brought before the Committee.

    In mid-February of this year we were informed that 'when the 31st Dail was dissolved [on 3 February, 2016], the Joint Committee ceased to exist', and consequently petitions which 'had not been disposed of prior to the Dail being dissolved .... fell'.

    We were advised also that 'the question of whether, and if so how, petitions will be considered in the future is a matter for the new Dail and Seanad'.

    We decided that, when a new Dail was finally formed, we would ask.

         
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    NAMA - our National Asset Management Agency
    (Update 25/06/2016)

    Floodplains truly are national assets.

    Ask our National Asset Management Agency to Save Our Floodplain!

         
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    Filling seats was the easy bit.
    (Update 25/06/2016)

    By March 3 this year all 158 seats were filled in the Dail.

    We soon found out, however, that filling the seats seemed to be the easy bit. It was getting the people in those seats to form a stable Government that proved more difficult.

    At the end of March, Enda Kenny and Micheal Martin's 'at-long-last' telephone conversation turned into a spat as to who called who first! Minor problems, like a country still without a Government, had to be put aside for more important discussions.

         
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    Those Missing 117 days...
    (Update 25/06/2016)

    At last we've gotten back to updating our website, having been concentrating on social media for the past four months.

    Now we propose to fill in the main events of those missing 117 days. So...

         
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    Results of General Election 2016 for Wicklow
    (Update 29/02/2016)

    Congratulations to Stephen Donnelly, Social Democrats, John Brady, Sinn Fein, and Simon Harris, Fine Gael, who have filled the first three seats in Wicklow. We look forward to John Brady continuing to champion our cause from the Dail, and we look forward to Stephen Donnelly and Simon Harris joining him in that championship.

    Our commiserations to Cllr Steven Matthews Green Party , Sharon Briggs People Before Profit Bray Candidate Co Wicklow, and Anna Doyle People Before Profit Election Candidate on failing to secure a seat this time in Dail Eireann. We know that the support they pledged to our campaign will still be there for us at County Council level from Steven, while Sharon and Anna will continue to muster People Power for our cause. Well done on a great fight, all three of you!

    Congratulations to Andrew Doyle and Pat Casey on their election to Dail Eireann. We hope that they will represent all of the people of County Wicklow in the Dail, including our community in Little Bray.

         
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    Responses from Wicklow candidates to our 'Save Our Floodplain' campaign
    (Update 25/02/2016)

    On 9th February we sent an email to Wicklow candidates for the General Election, asking them:

    Are you prepared to fight on behalf of the community of Little Bray to have the Dargle floodplain changed back to its original 'open space' zoning, while it is in NAMA - and therefore in State ownership?

    And are you prepared to fight on that community's behalf to prevent the 280,000 tons of construction waste from flood defence works being 'stock-piled' upriver on the land at Rehills?

    The following are the responses - or lack of response - that we received:

  • First to respond was Anna Doyle of People Before Profit, part of the Anti-Austerity Alliance. A former resident of the Dargle Road, Anna is emphatic that ‘the river should be allowed to take its natural course’, and that no building should take place on a flood plain. She also believes that stockpiling construction waste alongside the river should be opposed immediately because ‘the water will be contaminated by the waste’. And she assures us that she is ‘ready to fight to ensure the protection of the river and the people who live along it’.
  • Next up was Steven Matthews of the Green Party, who said: 'The Green Party are still with you on this one. I'm going to face very strong opposition to any proposal to dezone lands to recreational open space from the usual sides but I believe it should be done for both flood protection and commercial reasons for our 'real' town centre.’ Steven’s ‘still with you’ refers to the fact that the three Green Party councillors voted against rezoning our floodplain in 2005, and have strongly supported us in our campaign to have that decision over-turned.
  • Our third response came from John Brady of Sinn Fein who replied that, while he has campaigned for the current flood defence works along the Dargle for many years, he still believes ‘we need to keep the floodplain free from development as a backup if the defences fail’. His record in this campaign includes: 1) voting against rezoning the flood plain ‘from Open Space to High Density Development’, while ‘green open space was relegated to the high ground’; 2) proposing a Variation to the Bray Development Plan in another attempt to return the floodplain to its original Open Space zoning. He adds that he is ‘fully prepared to fight on the community's behalf to prevent the 280,000 tons of construction waste …. being 'stock-piled' upriver from the community in Little Bray’. He points out removal of this waste was one of the conditions of the permission granted for the flood defence works – ‘otherwise it invalidates the integrity of the entire flood protection scheme which had no provision for the retention or stockpiling of this material on the Slang or elsewhere’.
  • Our final real reply came from Sharon Briggs of Anti-Austerity Alliance People Before Profit who replied that herself and all her branch members would be happy to support our campaign. Sharon ‘grew up in Little Bray along with other branch members’, and they ‘remember the damage the last flood did’. Regarding the stock-piling of waste on the land at Rehills, she pointed out that ‘a lot of residents in Kilcoole’ are also angry with the proposal to eventually dump that waste out near Kilcoole (in order, the Council maintains, to create an ‘environmental park’): it is while attempting to gain a licence to do this that the Council propose stock-piling the waste upriver from our community. Finally, Sharon said that ‘regardless of the outcome of the election, we would gladly support you as best we can …. people power and pressure can do the job just as good as any sitting Councillor or TD’, she believes.
  • The last two candidates to answer were Billy Timmins of Renua (formerly of Fine Gael) and Simon Harris of Fine Gael, but neither response gave any indication of how they felt about our campaign. Mr. Timmins informed us that he has forwarded our email 'to Wicklow Co Co for their views'. As a Fine Gael TD, he was far more decisive, giving a fulsome welcome to the proposed development on our floodplain, along with a glamorous artist's impression of it on the front page of his newsletter. Mr. Timmins does venture an opinion, however, that 'if the permission is live, changing the zoning won't make a difference'. He seems to have missed our suggestion that, if necessary, NAMA could hold onto these lands until permission expires in 2020 before changing the zoning. Solution orientated, it seems, Mr. Timmins is not... Simon Harris likewise gave no indication of his attitude to our campaign, other than telling us that he would 'be delighted to meet' with us 'in the coming weeks to hear your views on these issues and see how I can best assist'. He requested that we give him 'a call next week to organise this'. We will certainly do so if Mr. Harris is re-elected.
  • We received no reply to our email from either Anne Ferris of Labour, nor Joe Behan, Independent (formerly Fianna Fail), but a clear indication of their attitude to building on floodplains was their vote in 2004 to zone our floodplain at the old Bray Golf Club land for high density development. Since then neither Ms. Ferris nor Mr. Behan has made any attempt to rectify this wrong.
  • Four other candidates - Jennifer Cuffe and Pat Casey of Fianna Fail, and Andrew Doyle and Avril Cronin of Fine Gael - did not reply either. None of these candidates have any previous personal record to demonstrate their attitude to building on floodplains. However, their parties have... Our floodplain was zoned for high density development by Labour, Fianna Fail, and Fine Gael.
  • Stephen Donnelly of the Social Democrats (formerly Independent) and Charlie Keddy, Independent, did not reply either, so we have no knowledge of their stance on saving our floodplain. Nor did Katrina Hutchinson of Direct Democracy Ireland, but, in fairness, we overlooked emailing Ms. Hutchinson until 23rd February - two weeks after the others.
  • Finally, we simply couldn't find an email address anywhere online for Bob Kearns, Independent.
  • That's the summary of the response from our Wicklow candidates for the General Election to our request for support. How important is it to you?

         
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    We are now on FaceBook and Twitter with our 'Save Our Floodplain' campaign!
    (Update 15/02/2016)

    At the end of January we decided to take our campaign to FaceBook and Twitter, as well as continuing to update our website with more detailed analysis - especially for those who simply don't wish to (or don't know how to, if you're like most of us!) engage with social media.

    We've also hand-delivered a newsletter during this pre-election period, asking residents in our area to question candidates about their commitment to saving our floodplain, particularly while it is in NAMA - and therefore in the hands of us, the nation.

    That way we're hoping to allow everyone, whatever their favourite way of communicating, to fight alongside us to Save Our Floodplain!

    If you're a FaceBook fan, please 'Like' us and 'Share' our page at Save Our Floodplain. If, on the other hand, our campaign has you all of a twitter, then please 'Follow' us on Twitter at #Dargleriver.

    ...But if you would rather question candidates for the coming election right on your own doorstep, please ask them the following two questions:

  • Are you prepared to fight on behalf of the community of Little Bray to have the Dargle floodplain changed back to its original 'open space' zoning, while it is in NAMA - and therefore in State ownership?
  • Are you prepared to fight on that community's behalf to prevent the 280,000 tons of construction waste from flood defence works being 'stock-piled' upriver on the land at Rehills?
  • We are relieved and grateful to have flood defences erected, but we need our flood plain as a safety mechanism against the day when those defences fall to increasingly extreme weather events - or to the type of planning that thinks stock-piling construction waste from those defences upstream, on our river banks, is a good idea.

    Like us, share us, follow us, speak up for us... Little Bray needs you. Thank you.

         
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    Is Bray the only town in Ireland to defend a flood plain against flooding?
    (Update 18/01/2016)

    Our Dargle River flood defence scheme is not finished yet, but one part of it is well nigh complete, as can be seen in the photograph to the right showing the high flood walls protecting the empty green space beyond. This flood plain, which has acted as an escape valve for the terrible floods that have destroyed our homes four times in the last century, has now been protected against flooding - expensively protected. Many devastated communities around Ireland would give a great deal to have this kind of protection against the water and mud that has invaded and destroyed their homes.

    ...And the reason why an empty flood plain has been afforded such protection...? It is, of course, because in 2005 eight councillors - with the strong support of the Town Manager - voted to rezone this long, narrow strip of land for high density development, while open space was preserved on the high ground away from the river. Our community fought to have this decision reversed so that development could go ahead on the high ground, while retaining the flood plain as the safety net it has always been for us.

    So far we have been unsuccessful, but now that the importance of empty flood plains has been demonstrated once more all over Ireland and Great Britain - disastrously, in terms of human life and family homes and farms - we ask again that this rezoning be reversed. The land is in the hands of NAMA, and therefore in our hands as citizens. It is time for politicians, finally, to do the right thing.

    That 'right thing' needs to start in the Dail, where questions need to be asked as to how this land was rezoned with the solid support of both the majority of councillors and officials, against all good practice and against the clearly stated opposition of the local community. Perhaps the first questions should be addressed to TD Anne Ferris of the Labour Party, who was one of the local politicians at the time who rezoned this land. Now it's time for her and her party to find a way to redress that dreadful decison. As it is for Wicklow County councillors Pat Vance and Joe Behan of Fianna Fail and formerly of Fianna Fail, who were also among those eight elected representatives who so poorly represented their people. The other Labour, Fianna Fail, and Fine Gael councillors who supported that decision have since either retired or lost their seats.

    Now they - and their respective parties - have a particular duty to find a way to have this land returned to its original open space while the State still owns it. And for the other politicians to work with them in finding a way to correct the crazy rezoning decisions that have caused such hardship and heartbreak in so many parts of our country.

    The flood defence wall alongside an empty flood plain beside the Dargle should stand as a stark reminder of the lunacy of this kind of totally irresponsible rezoning of land - and its consequences.

    Because we need this flood plain alongside the Dargle to remain empty, despite the very effective flood defence work that has already been done upstream, alongside our homes.

    While our unfinished flood defences thankfully held, exactly the same level of flood defence in Cumbria was overtopped: their one in one hundred year flood defence was breached nine years after being put in place. Flood events are worsening all over the world, and while the flood defences erected throughout our community have undoubtedly made us safer, they have not made us safe. Nobody now would dare to make that claim.

    Under those circumstances, a community like ours - with a high percentage of elderly and handicapped people housed here by that same Council and its officials - needs a 'belt and braces' approach that retains the safety that this flood plain affords us.

    ...And if our flood defences fail upstream in the future, like in Keswick, the flood waters will no longer be able to get back into the river because of the same high walls that now protect us. It is then we will really need the flood plain that has always taken those immensely dangerous waters back out of our homes until they can return to the river and the sea.

    We are grateful for the flood defences, and the hard work being done on them by men like the unfortunate driver of the digger that slid into the river on 8th January - see photo on right. We are grateful for the newsletters, updating residents on progress, that have begun to appear on a regular basis since TKF Management took over the role of construction management last year. They are all accessible at OurTown/OurRiver), and their publication culminated last year with an information night in the Royal Hotel on 10th December last, at which drawings - and explanations of those drawings - were clearly available.

    But every time the heavy rains come, and every time any kind of a breach appears even in the old unfinished walls, we worry ... Breaches like the some 20' of the old lower river wall, on the north-west side of the bridge, collapsing on the 30th December - see photo on right.. This is obviously a weak area to which we have already drawn attention (see our update of 9.12.2013 and its accompanying photo - 'Defences #1: Broken River Wall at Stoneopener'). The Council's response to the many calls they received about it was to erect an earthen embankment between the lower and higher river walls - see photo on right. This embankment was erected at some distance from the breach, so that "in the event of the river level rising the embankment will be well removed from any turbulent flows and will seal the river from the park and the rest of Little Bray", according to the Council, who added that the embankment and the breach would be monitored on an ongoing basis over the Bank Holiday weekend. It held, much to the relief of our community, but, the sooner this weak link is permanently mended, the better.

    The real weak link though is further downstream, where an empty flood plain and its crazy flood protection, reminds us of the need for the integrity of this land - and flood plains like it all over Ireland - to be reclaimed. Perhaps then the integrity of our politicians may stand some chance of being reclaimed also.

      Flood Plain Defence

    Flood Plain Defence

    (click here to enlarge)

    Escape from Digger

    Escape from Digger

    (click here to enlarge)

    Wall Collapsed at StoneOpener - December 2015

    Wall Collapsed
    at StoneOpener
    - December 2015

    (click here to enlarge)

    Defence against wall collapse

    Defence against wall collapse
    at the StoneOpener

    (click here to enlarge)

     
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    Spot the Difference
    (Update 31/08/2014)

    This week, on Tuesday, 26th August, we had the 28th anniversary of Hurricane Charlie, followed swiftly by promises of flood protection so that "it will never happen again".

    In March of 2012, a quarter of a century later, it looked as if that promise was finally going to be fulfilled. Then, a year later, with roughly one-third of the flood defences completed, work ground to a halt.

    Photographs below, alongside news update of 9th December, 2013, show the state of the flood protection works at that time. Last week, when the photographs alongside this news update were taken, it was hard to 'spot the difference', despite Bray Town Council's announcement in May this year (just before the demise of local government) that the flood protection scheme was now back on track.

    We were told that, although completion of the flood protection was now scheduled for 2016, meanwhile "a number of smaller construction packages" were being prepared to "target key areas along the scheme" under the supervision of a "Construction Manager Service Provider" (CMSP), then still to be appointed.

    One of those 'targeted areas' was La Vallee, where, we were told, a "detailed design for a reinforced concrete wall along the riverbank adjacent to La Vallee" had been finalised and it was "anticipated" that a contractor would be appointed towards the end of May, "with a view to works re-commencing in this area in June 2014". Further works would then be required on the right hand bank, opposite La Vallee, in 2015, we were told.

    The urgency of these emergency works was apparent when a report just one month later, in June, said that:

    "In order to prevent further deterioration of the riverbank at La Vallee and in order to protect lives and property adjacent to the river, it was agreed with the OPW to proceed with the Emergency Works at La Vallee.

    "Site preparation and mobilisation has commenced at La Vallee in advance of emergency works comprising sheetpile flood defence walls. The site preparation required the removal of mature trees and vegetation along the riverbank. The Municiple [sic] District of Bray has been liaising with Inland Fisheries Ireland and the National Parks and Wildlife Service in relation to same."

    Evidence of these works has been apparent over the summer months, but nothing else much seemed to be happening, with the state of one of the most obvious eyesores - the People's Park - causing real annoyance locally.

    Now, at last, that seems to be going to change. A Construction Manager Service Provider, in the form of one Brian Collins of TKF Management Ltd., seems to be one of those rarities in this whole saga - someone who cheerfully and informatively answers questions from locals, and is even willing to be quoted on his answers. Could it be that the new Municipal District of Bray, under the chairmanship of John Brady, is exerting a positive influence over communication with residents?

    Mr. Collins said that "on Monday or Tuesday", 1st or 2nd September, a four week contract will commence in which the area between the two compounds in the People’s Park will be landscaped. His description tallied with the outline given in the Council's June report, ie. "the work will involve the introduction of a hoggin path (similar to picture) [on right]. This material is hardwearing, offers good drainage and is flexible around tree roots. The path will be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs, buggies etc."

    In addition, Mr. Collins added that the compound in front of the main gate into the Park will be substantially reduced, and that a bank will lead up to the hoggin path, which will be at a height that will allow views of the river to walkers.

    Finally, he promised that work, including sheetpiling, along the river from the Slang up the western end of the Park, would be carried out before Christmas, affording protection to the residents in that area. Additional security in the form of ton sandbags will be ready to be dropped into place should flooding threaten Glenburgh Terrace, the row of houses at the western end of the Park where a gap for machinery to enter the river will still be maintained.

    We're looking forward to seeing photographs taken in four weeks' time really showing a difference, at least to the Park. Landscaping the Park will not give us any greater protection from flooding - but it will at least finally show some respect for Little Bray. It will also give us hope that the flood defence works will, this time, be finished, even if it is another two years down the road.

    Meanwhile, the high density development zoning on the flood plain remains in place, despite our petitions to the European Parliament (whose human rights charter seemingly only applies to drowning communities where the letter of European Law is pertinent), and to our own Irish petitions committee, from whom we are still awaiting a reply since submitting substantial evidence of our claims just before the summer of 2013.

    Equally, planning permission for the seven storey development submitted by Pizarro also remains in place until 2020, despite Pizarro having already been taken over by NAMA when permission was granted.

    And among the works that have made it to the top in this year's flood defence proposals are:

    "...appointing design consultants to undertake detailed design for the flood defences at Ravenswell Road and on the right hand bank between Bray Bridge and Seapoint Court. It is anticipated that works in this area will commence in October this year."

    Flood defences at Ravenswell Road will protect a still thankfully empty flood plain, while Seapoint Court is the home of one of the then councillors who voted through this high density zoning on our flood plain - now Deputy Anne Ferris... Ah well, at least her neighbours fought a brave battle with us to overturn her zoning.

    And we might be watching the flood defence work from a landscaped People's Park. Won't that be something?

      River Dargle at the Slang

    River Dargle at the Slang

    (click here to enlarge)

    From Glenburgh Tce at Western End of People's Park

    From Glenburgh Tce
    at Western End of People's Park

    (click here to enlarge)

    Work at La Vallee

    Work at La Vallee

    (click here to enlarge)

    Entrance to People's Park

    Entrance to People's Park

    (click here to enlarge)

    Compound at entrance to the park

    Compound at entrance to the park

    (click here to enlarge)

    Proposed Hoggin Path

    Proposed Hoggin Path

    (click here to enlarge)

     
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    Letter to Bray Town Council:
    (update #1 of 2 (see #2 below): 09/12/2013)

    Todate, despite appeals to the OPW for information, we have had no response other than a reassurance that Bray Town Council and the OPW "remain committed to completing the Bray scheme as quickly as possible and to ensuring that it will provide the same standard of protection as provided by other OPW flood relief schemes". Meanwhile, we are reading in local newspapers, and seeing the evidence with our own eyes, of the flood protection works being abandoned by SIAC, who have gone into examinership.

    Consequently, we today sent this email to Bray Town Council:

    "Dear Town Clerk,

    As you know, we have been attempting to find out what has been happening regarding the flood protection works, via the OPW whom we understand are ultimately responsible for this scheme, without much success. Instead we have been forced to rely on newspaper reports, and feedback from councillors and TDs who are as frustrated as ourselves at the state of this long awaited, and urgently needed, scheme.

    We understand from the above sources that SIAC is now in examinership (reported in national as well as local newspapers), that they have pulled their men and machinery off the flood protection sites on the Dargle River (evidenced by ourselves), and that the process of finishing the scheme must now be put out to tender yet again, with a ‘tidying-up’ process meanwhile being carried out by the local Council: for this latter information we are reliant on feed-back from various local councillors and TDs through disparate neighbourhood queries.

    At no stage has the courtesy of a coherent, informed update on the situation been extended to our community as a whole.

    We understand that your Council considers the scheme to be “approximately 35% complete”. May we point out that the disruption to previously existing construction caused by this 35% completion brings its own dangers, and needs to be urgently addressed, without waiting for the continuation of work on the scheme proper. For instance, the old river wall on the north-west side of the bridge, which was broken down in order to put in the new culvert, was temporarily blocked against flooding at the bridge end by simply piling a large amount of construction material into the breach between the Lr. Dargle Road wall and the river wall – a type of emergency ‘sand-bag’ effect. While this was acceptable as a very temporary measure, it has now been in place since September, 2012.

    The same resident who asked us to contact you then has pointed out to us that this river wall is now weaker all along its length because it is not tied into any structure at the bridge end. A strong surge on the river during or after heavy rain would knock such a wall down very easily, leaving our community even less protected than before from flooding. Please see photograph Defences#1.

    This is particularly true as the works left partially finished above stream – at the Slang – have resulted in a temporary bridge, and huge boulders, which, as well as the traditional debris swept down the length of the Dargle in a storm, would create ideal ‘ammunition’ for a river in flood to further batter the river walls. See photograph Defences#2.

    Just downriver from the Slang, the terrace of houses at the western end of the People’s Park – which are built at a lower level than the Park – are still only protected by a very old and very low wall from the river which sweeps down to them around a sharp bend at this point (see photograph Defences#3). The new flood protection wall ends within the Park still, and where it ends, soil and debris are now being dumped as part of a ‘clean-up’.

    We attach photograph Defence#4 of a resident in his eighties, on crutches, who lives yards from that wall, and who has already lived through floods here, watching the dumping going on. He attempted to speak to the driver of this dumper, but got no response.

    The People’s Park is in an appalling state following the disrupted flood protection works, as you know, but surely the tentative efforts at tidying up that seem to have begun should not be ‘tidied’ into a heap alongside one of the most vulnerable parts of the defences, with elderly people (there are at least three houses in that row with residents around eighty years old) living nearby.

    Finally, while a new ‘arch’ has been put in place at the bridge to help deal with such events, the river entry to the arch on the south-west side of the bridge is almost completely blocked by a temporary roadway put in place from the entrance to the Maltings down to the base of the bridge. This was created in order to allow machinery access to the bridge in order to carry out under-pinning necessitated by the disruption caused to the bridge’s foundations by the flood protection scheme. See Defences #5.

    Like the ‘temporary’ blocking of the bridge end of the Stone Opener, like the boulders at the Slang, and like the appalling mess made of our neighbourhood by littered and overgrown work compounds – particularly around the People’s Park – this blocked arch was acceptable when it was a necessary part of providing us with flood protection. Now it simply smacks of abandonment.

    We are constantly reassured that the flood protection scheme will be completed to the standard promised, but an end-date for this seems to be receding further and further out of sight.

    May we ask that a clear update on the situation would be provided to us so that we can correctly answer the questions put to us by people in our community, and that the specific concerns brought to our attention, ie. the broken wall at the bridge end of the Stone Opener; the temporary bridge and boulders at the Slang; the blocked south-western arch of the bridge; and the dangerous situation around the houses at the western end of the People’s Park, would all be addressed immediately.

    We are copying this email to the councillors and TDs of whom we have been made aware who have taken an interest in this situation to date, as well as posting it on our web site at www.braywatch.com where the photographs are no longer compressed.

    Yours sincerely,"

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      Defences#1: Broken River Wall at StoneOpener

    Defences 1:
    Broken River Wall
    at StoneOpener

    (click here to enlarge)

    Defences#2: Temporary Bridge and Boulders at Slang

    Defences 2:
    Temporary Bridge and Boulders
    at Slang

    (click here to enlarge)

    Defences#3: River Bend between Slang and People's Park

    Defences 3:
    River Bend between
    Slang and People's Park

    (click here to enlarge)

    Defences#4: Soil Dumping where Flood Defence ends

    Defences 4:
    Soil Dumping
    where Flood Defence ends
    at Glenburgh Tce

    (click here to enlarge)

    Defences#5: Bridge Arch blocked by 'Temporary' Road

    Defences 5:
    Bridge Arch blocked
    by Temporary Road

    (click here to enlarge)

     
     

    Report from Bray Town Council re Flood Protection Works:
    (update #2 - 09/12/2013)

    We received an immediate response to our letter (above at Update #1) to Bray Town Council from Cllr. John Brady, one of the elected representatives to whom we copied the email.

    He attached a report [reproduced immediately below], which he explained was issued to councillors and TDs on December 6.

    Assuring us that he has already been asking questions in relation to the points that we have raised in our letter, Cllr. Brady added: "I have pushed the council on the lack of information on this issue. They have said their hands have been tied, they have stated now however that they are going to do a newsletter for the residents of Little Bray. I am not sure when exactly that will happen but the sooner the better."

    The report reads as follows:

    'River Dargle Flood Defence Scheme

    Bray Town Council wish to advise that construction on the River Dargle Flood Defence Scheme has been suspended due to events beyond the control of either party. SIAC Construction Ltd will demobilise immediately.

    This will enable the appointment of other contractors as soon as practicable to complete the remaining elements of the project, in accordance with the approved scheme design.

    Bray Town Council and the Office of Public Works remain committed to ensuring the delivery of the scheme which will provide the standard 1-in-100 year level of protection.

    At present, the Scheme is approximately 35% complete and the works that have been constructed to date (including the construction of the culvert at Bray Bridge) will have a significant beneficial affect in alleviating flood risk.

    Bray Town Council and the Office of Public Works (OPW) would like to assure the public that every effort will be made to ensure that the works are completed as soon as practicable. The OPW has confirmed that funding is available to complete the project.

    Preparation of the necessary documents required for the appointment of new contractors will commence immediately, with a view to being in a position to re-commence in-river works in 2014 during the next available season.

    Bray Town Council will take on responsibility for the ongoing upkeep and security of the site. Bray Town Council and OPW would like to thank the public for the ongoing support during the construction of the flood defence scheme.'

    Hopefully, the promised newsletter will address our specific concerns, as well as our general concern - and the sooner the better.

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    Dispute between BTC and SIAC:
    (update #3- 08/10/2013)

    A very worrying dispute regarding the flood protection scheme, between Bray Town Council and SIAC, has been going on for some time now, with rumours and counter-rumours abounding, fueled by newspaper reports that only seem to add to the confusion. We wrote to the OPW, the body ultimately responsible for the flood protection scheme and notable throughout this saga as being very willing to enter into dialogue with us, to ask what is going on.

    We received a very prompt reply from their Mr. Michael Caden who initially explained that - because the dispute is part of an ongoing conciliation process - he can, at present, add little to the information given by Junior Minister Brian Hayes in reply to a recent Parliamentary Question by Stephen Donnelly, Independent TD for Wicklow. This was hardly reassuring as the Junior Minister's answer concludes with:

    "The outcome [of the conciliation process] will determine which approach is to be taken to deal with the matters in dispute and, in this context, how the remainder of the scheme will be progressed. It is therefore not possible at this point to give a timescale for completion of the works."

    However, Mr. Caden went on to assure us that: "Bray Town Council, as the Contracting Authority for the project, and the OPW remain committed to completing the Bray scheme as quickly as possible and to ensuring that it will provide the same standard of protection as provided by other OPW flood relief schemes", and that the scheme "when completed will conform with the grant of permission issued by an Bord Pleanala".

    Furthermore, he pointed out: "the works that have been completed to date under the contract have reduced significantly the level of flood risk in the area".

    This same reply from the Junior Minister was reported in the 24th September issue of The North Wicklow Times, but a report published in the Bray People of 2nd October, quoting a site worker who asked to remain anonymous, was far more ominous.

    The report quoted the man as saying the scheme could take another two years to complete, attributing this to site workers being pulled off the site throughout the recent fine summer months because of the dispute between BTC and SIAC: for environmental reasons work would have had to stop on the river from the end of September until next spring anyway.

    Worryingly, the allegations of the site worker correspond to what local residents have observed and to a verbal report we received, also originating from an anonymous source, suggesting that unless this dispute is resolved quickly SIAC may pull their workers from the site completely.

    We passed on the full content of the anonymous report we received (which we are unwilling to publish until we can verify it) to our hydrologist, Kenneth Barr, who said:

    "If the rumour is correct, it would have a major impact on the standard of protection that will be provided and the probability of future flooding."

    He, like us, found the OPW's reply reassuring in terms of their commitment to the project, but advised that:

    "As and when the contractual dispute is resolved you should press for information on any significant deviation in the contractor’s work proposals from the original scheme drawings."

    We will continue to do so.

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    Petition No. P00004.13 to Irish Joint Sub-Committee on Public Petitions:
    (update #2- 08/10/2013)

    Much of May and June was taken up in a trawl through the past eight years of SWAP's fight, in order to provide evidence of our assertions regarding the fundamental inaccuracies underpinning the decision by eight Bray Town councillors to vote through a Town Centre zoning on the Dargle flood plain back in April, 2005.

    The Houses of the Oireachtas Sub-Committee has asked for this proof as the zoning by BTC is the basis on which An Bord Pleanala granted a ten year planning permission for this enormous development on a flood plain to a consortium that had already been taken over by NAMA.

    We are now waiting, and hoping, since the end of the summer recess, for a decision as to whether our complaint meets the required criteria for the Sub-Committee on Public Petitions.

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    Meeting at BTC re Ravenswell Road: 5th March, 2013:
    (update #1- 08/10/2013)

    Apologies for the delay in updating this site. However, we have continued to work behind the internet scene...

    Our last update ended with a report that we had been invited to meet the engineers responsible for the proposed access road for the sewerage works at the eastern end of the flood plain. That meeting took place on 5th March last.

    One of SWAP’s main objectives at this meeting was to get reassurance in writing regarding the specifications for the ‘access track’ planned for the flood plain. The Town Clerk and Town Engineer, as well as Mr. Tom McKeown of Barry & Partners, on the other hand, were clearly concerned that committing something to writing would tie their hands in terms of changes that might later emerge as necessary, or at least prudent, in this 'design and build' contract.

    They pointed out that ‘accommodation works’ affecting some parts of the design have to be agreed with two other parties, in particular – NAMA/Pizarro and Dun Laoghaire/ Rathdown, the former in relation to the golf ‘pay and play’ enterprise at present using the old golf club lands, and the latter because of the Bray/Shanganagh Drainage Scheme.

    By the end of what was quite a long meeting, it appeared as if BTC and Mr. McKeown appreciated the depth of our community’s fear of the loss of even part of the flood plain to non-permeable surfaces, but also our intention to be reasonable with regard to changes that will not endanger our community in any way. They agreed to try to meet our request for a written specification of the road as proposed at that time, with an assurance that maintaining the permeable nature of the access track would be a priority in possible future changes to those specifications. In addition, we requested a copy of the drawing - B237-111 - which Mr. McKeown used at the meeting to demonstrate the present design of the defences, the emergency flood relief channel, and the road in that area. Both documents, it was agreed, would have caveats attached allowing for necessary changes.

    Unfortunately, we have still not received either the written reassurance we sought, nor the drawing, nor indeed any further communication of any kind - possibly because BTC and SIAC have been involved in a dispute since the beginning of the summer that has brought a halt to much of the work, including, seemingly, the new access track. We will return to that dispute in a separate update.

    From notes taken at the meeting, the drawing Mr. McKeown was using showed the old stone wall between Ravenswell Road and the river being retained (but underpinned and strengthened) from Bray Bridge to a little less than three-quarters way down to the railway. Here the wall, and Ravenswell Road, will end, as the remainder will be excavated to widen the river: Ravenswell Road will be open to the public again – though now as a cul-de-sac – once the flood protection works are complete.

    Between Ravenswell Road and the golf club lands (where the hedges used to be) the flood defence wall was shown extending out to the south-east to create a barrier at the end of the shortened road before continuing alongside the river up to the railway. Negotiations were still going on between BTC and the railway company at that time regarding how this wall would ‘attach’ to the railway.

    At the other (Bray Bridge) end, it was proposed that the flood protection wall would peter out just west of no. 3 Ravenswell Road (no. 4 being the house next to the golf course), as the ground rises there above flood levels, apparently. No. 1 – on the corner of Ravenswell Road and Castle Street – and 2 have already been demolished.

    Inside that flood defence wall a green embankment was proposed, with an emergency flood relief channel inside that again (on the golf course side), which will vary between 5-6m wide and some 0.7-0.8m deep. This will discharge, via outfalls, any water that accumulates on the golf course. There were no details available at that time on how the channel would be lined.

    Finally, inside that flood relief channel, next to the golf course, an access track will be built. This will have to be wide enough to allow for "the occasional tanker" or "the huge machines that will be needed occasionally to flush out the sewerage works", but, according to Town Engineer, Marc Devereux, mostly the vehicles using it will be small vans.

    It was proposed that a gravel track would be laid from the existing access to the golf course down to the sewerage works at the railway end of the course. However, an impermeable surface – "probably granite blocks" – is proposed for a new access road to the golf club house, which will come in from the western end of Ravenswell Road, behind its flood defence wall.

    Another, presently gravel, track belonging to the Bray/Shanganagh Drainage Scheme already exists. It traverses the flood plain in a north-westerly direction from the railway side up to the high ground behind the club house where a huge storm water tank is buried. This is an attenuation tank, it was explained, so that, when the drainage pumps are unable to take all of the sewage pouring in, the sewage is diverted instead into the tank, until the pumps can handle it again.

    This track comes under a ‘way-leave’ agreement between BTC and Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown Council, with the work contracted out to Sisk Dragados Drace. We were told that whether the present rough track from the railway end up to the tank on the high ground is 'improved' will be up to DL/Rathdown, and it will be their decision as to what kind of surface will be used.

    We therefore asked that Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown be requested to ensure that any track they might put in place to service the storm tank should be permeable also, and to give them our reasons.

    However, despite the courtesy - and information - extended to us at the meeting, we have received no follow-up from BTC during the subsequent seven months, despite a written reminder.

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      Cover page of Bray People. 2nd October, 2013

    Bray People Cover Page
    2nd October, 2013

    (click here to enlarge)

    Page 6 of Bray People. 2nd October, 2013

    Bray People Page 6
    2nd October, 2013

    (click here to enlarge)

     
     

    Flood Defences and the Flood Plain:
    (update #2 - 05/02/2013)

    In October of last year we became worried when SIAC workmen explained to local residents that Ravenswell Road was going to be closed off for safety during flood protection works, and REINSTATED ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE HEDGE, in other words, on the flood plain area of the old golf club lands.

    When we finally received the flood protection drawings in November, on foot of a Freedom of Information request, and passed them on to our hydrologist, Kenneth Barr, he found that the road the men were describing did not appear in any of the specifications.

    Enquiries to Bray Town Council and SIAC finally elicited a reply from the Council explaining that a permanent road will be built on the flood plain, inside the flood defences and parallel to Ravenswell Road, and that this road is necessary to service the sewage works on the golf course lands. The explanation given for its non-appearance in the specification documents is that "it is a Design and Build Contract"

    In relation to the specification of the access road, we have been told that "the Contractor has been advised that the design must not increase the risk of ponding in the golf club or effect the rate at which the golf club will drain after a flood event. As such the road and the road base will be designed to accommodate the drainage regime required." It is interesting to note that the Council has here acknowledged that the rate of drainage is important on this land because of the possibility of "a flood event" there, despite the flood protection works.

    The only design specifications we have been given for the new road are that "it is proposed that the access from in front of No. 3 and 4 Ravenswell Road to the entrance of the Golf Club will be of macadam material" and that "the access track to DLRCoCo’s [Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council's] Storm Tank (along the [eastern] perimeter of the golf club lands) will comprise 3m wide gravel access track.”

    Our hydrologist pointed out that: "Increased rate of runoff could be mitigated or avoided by use of drainage that allows infiltration, such as filter drains, but we have no detail of the drainage proposed.”

    We therefore requested further information - on 15th December last - with written reminders on 7th and 23rd January. Yesterday we received an invitation to meet with the engineers.

    The reason for our concern can be seen from the photographs on this page, which show the proposed road (between the barriers and Ravenswell Road) taking up quite a sizable portion of this long and narrow flood plain, covered - following the heavy rain of 18th/19th January last - by floods.

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    Petition submitted to the Houses of the Oireachtas Joint Sub-Committee on Public Petitions - and to the Minister for the Environment:
    (update #1 - 05/02/2013)

    On 18th January last SWAP submitted a Petition to the Oireachtas, via the new Joint Sub-Committee on Public Petitions, to ask them to revisit the zoning on the old Golf Club lands.

    Our petition was made on the grounds that this zoning is fundamentally unsafe and should be reversed while it is in the control of NAMA, before being sold on to a private developer.

    It is now being examined to decide whether it is compliant with the criteria set down for this Sub-Committee.

    We also wrote to the Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, TD, with the same request, on 22nd November, 2012. On 10th December, we received an email from the office of the Minister for Housing and Planning, Jan O'Sullivan, TD, to say that our request had been passed on to them and that "a further reply on this matter will issue as soon as possible". Despite a reminder from us on 6th January last, no further communication has been received todate.

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    SWAP's Petition to the European Parliament - and their response
    (update 12/11/2012)

    The video of our presentation to the Petitions' Committee of the European Parliament - and the response of the Commission and of the MEPs - can be downloaded by clicking here. You will notice that a 'banana-skin', in the shape of a missing PowerPoint presentation, occurred at the beginning of our presentation, too late for us to do anything about it. Luckily, however, the film clip of the August '86 floods had arrived safely to their system.

    It shows Civil Defence volunteers retrieving a boat from which four rescuers had been flung earlier that morning at the height of the flood. The force of the flood rolled up the tarmacadam road in Dwyer Park, as it entered the golf links, having destroyed some 400 of our homes. The film clip ends by panning out across the area on which Pizarro now have permission to put the biggest part of their development.

    You can see what the MEPs were watching by clicking here.

    We are delighted to announce too that we have finally received today an electronic copy of the flood protection drawings, through Wicklow's Freedom of Information Officer, which we have passed on to Kenneth Barr. His comments, when he has studied the drawings, will be posted on this website also.

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    We've brought our campaign to Europe
    (update 7/11/2012)

    On November 6 a representative from SWAP presented our community's case - based on the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union to the Petitions' Committee of the European Parliament.

    A video link of our presentation to the committee - and the response - is available now and we hope to have it linked to our site within the next few days.

    The visit was arranged by Dublin MEP, Paul Murphy, who spoke on our behalf, and he was supported by German, Romanian and Danish MEPs. Sligo MEP, Marian Harkin, whose assistant attended the meeting on her behalf, also came to us after the meeting to express her support.

    While M. Brakeland, an official from the Commission, said that he could not see a mechanism for helping us - other than pressing Ireland for affordable access to justice for groups like ours, and pressing for greater transparency of information - the Petitions' Committee decided to:

    1. keep our petition open;
    2. write to the Irish authorities asking for an explanation for the grant of planning permission on a flood plain downriver from a community such as ours; and
    3. to make a fact-finding mission to Ireland during our country's presidency of the EU, which begins on January 1.

    A lot done, a lot more to be done... And we are grateful to Paul Murphy for his help, particularly when we are outside his constituency.

    Another piece of good news is that Bray Town Council have finally ceded, through a Freedom of Information request, to grant access to the flood protection drawings. We are awaiting electronic copies to pass on to Kenneth Barr, our hydrologist, and, hopefully, reassurance that all is well with Bray Town Council's management of these defences.

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    Behind the Scenes
    (update 29/08/2012)

    SWAP didn't go away. When An Bord Pleanala granted permission for high density development on the Dargle floodplain two years ago, it unfortunately co-incided with the beginning of a period of illness and family bereavement in our core group. That, on top of all the usual time pressures for volunteers meant we had to concentrate our activities where they were most needed.

    Work on the website and newsletters stopped, while we used what time and energy we could avail of to lodge a formal Complaint to the European Commission against development on the floodplain, followed by a Petition to the European Parliament.

    The Complaint - judged under present European environmental law - was turned down, but we immediately asked that it be judged on the basis of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, already law in every member state, and clearly being breached on many grounds here.

    We are following this up at present through some of our MEPs, and through the Dublin office of the European Parliament.

    Meanwhile we are also following with great interest - and relief - the construction of the long awaited flood protection works by SIAC.

    Having fund-raised to employ our own hydrologist - Kenneth Barr of W. A. Fairhurst - to represent us at the Oral Hearing into the proposed defences back in December, 2007, we wanted to make sure that the flood protection works being carried out - under Bray Town Council - are in accordance with what was agreed then.

    Consequently, we requested that Mr. Barr be allowed sight of an electronic copy of the contractors' drawings (not just the spec copies which are available on BTC's website), and of guidelines to the contractors as to what changes in these plans would be permitted.

    We have emphasised to the Council that:

    1. we have absolutely no wish to delay the construction of the defences that our community so desperately needs by instigating a detailed external review similar in scope to the role performed by Halcrow Barry for the Council,
    2. we understand - and certainly Kenneth Barr understands - that there will be some details of the project that may have to be changed if SIAC encounter unexpected obstacles, but we want to be reassured that neither the overall concept nor the hydraulic performance should be affected by these changes,
    3. we have no wish to access commercially sensitive information such as costs, simply the technical information.

    Nonetheless, despite an initial request to John Farragher of SIAC, whose name appears on all Flood Defence material as the Public Liaison Officer for the project, and a further request to the Town Clerk, Christine Flood, all we have managed to elicit so far are two refusals, signed by yet another Public Liaison Officer, Amy O'Farrell, for Bray Town Council.

    We are being cited fears of delay, legal privilege, and commercial sensitivity as the reasons for their refusal, despite our constant explanations that none of these apply. Finally, most insultingly, we are being told that such information is not available to 'third parties', i.e. the residents of this community for whom the flood defences are presumably being put in place.

    We are continuing to fight for sight of these drawings and guidelines for our own hydrologist. If the work is being carried out correctly - and SIAC seem to be doing a fine job - then what are the Council afraid of?

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    Bord Pleanala rejects inspector's decision and grants permission to build on floodplain
    (update 8/06/2010)

    Following:

    1. the hugely destructive floods of late last year in Ireland, many of them acknowledged to be directly attributable to building on floodplains,
    2. the disastrous consequences for our economy of what has now been accepted as wildly irresponsible over-building,
    3. 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.

    The decision was made despite the recommendation of the Board's inspector, who, following long and detailed investigation, recommended rejection of this application. The inspector's recommendation and the Board's decision can be accessed by clicking here

    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.

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    Bord Pleanala has made its decision
    (update 4/06/2010)

    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?

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    Decisions
    (update 19/05/2010)

    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.

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    Bord Pleanala's Chairman, as always, talks sense...
    (update 11/02/2010)

    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 report in the Irish Times 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?

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    Moves at OPW
    (update 19/08/2009)

    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.:-

    1. The appointment of Halcrow Barry as Client Representative to prepare the contract documents;
    2. Commencement of land acquisition /procurement of valuers to handle this;
    3. 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.

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    They rocked for Justice - and An Bord Pleanala?
    (update 22/04/2009)

    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 - Brian Meakin & Band, Bree Harris & Paul Fairclough, and Dermot 'Blues' Byrne, 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:- the Royal Hotel, who not only gave us the function room free, but donated a one year couple membership of their newly refurbished Merrill Leisure Club and Spa for our raffle. Atlas Print produced all our posters and tickets free. Stage lighting was sponsored by Castle Shoe Repairs. Atattooed, 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?

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    SWAP Fundraiser - Blues & Rock Night
    (update 21/03/2009)

    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 QuoVadisLive, 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.

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    Good News - and Weird News
    (update 16/01/2009)

    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 "unacceptable practices" 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.

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    No Oral Hearing into Pizarro's latest application
    (update 10/12/2008)

    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.

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    Bord Pleanala approve Flood Defence Scheme,
    and Flood Emergency Plan is tested:
    (update 11/10/2008)

    Three important developments in our campaign took place over the summer months:-

    Bray Town Council Grant Permission Again:
    See update below.

    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:-

    1. 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 Council.
    2. 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.
    3. 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 piling operations.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. An environmental monitoring committee shall be established by Bray Town Council for the construction period, comprising representation from the following:-
      • Bray Town Council;
      • Members of the local community along the relevant section of the River Dargle;
      • Eastern Regional Fisheries Board;
      • Department of Environment Heritage and Local Government (National Parks and Wildlife);
      • Office of Public Works;
      • Local angling interests.
      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.
    8. 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.

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    BTC Grant Permission Again:
    (update 28/07/2008)

    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.

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    Awaiting Decisions:
    (update 13/06/2008)

    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.

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    Draft Proposals for Flood Emergency Plan:
    (update 01/04/2008)

    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?

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    April 29 new date for decision on Flood Defence Proposals:
    (update 28/03/2008)

    The latest date for a decision on the proposed Flood Defence Works has been given by An Bord Pleanala 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...

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    March 27 new date for decision on Flood Defence Proposals:
    (update 28/02/2008)

    A decision on the proposed Flood Defence Works by An Bord Pleanala has been deferred again until March 27 - the Thursday after Easter.

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    February 28 new date for decision on Flood Defence Proposals:
    (update 21/02/2008)

    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 An Bord Pleanala has been deferred now until February 28.

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    February 5 new date for decision on Flood Defence Proposals:
    (update 04/02/2008)

    A decision on the proposed Flood Defence Works by An Bord Pleanala has been deferred again until February 5 - tomorrow.

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    Decision Deferred again till February 1:
    (update 31/01/2008)

    A decision on the proposed Flood Defence Works by An Bord Pleanala has been deferred again until February 1 - tomorrow.

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    Decision on Proposed Flood Defence Works Deferred:
    (update 27/01/2008)

    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.

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    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...

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    Oral Hearing announced into Flood Protection Works
    (update 17/11/2007)

    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.

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    Let the Games Begin...
    25th July, 2008

    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...

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    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."

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    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. Copies of the CPO and EIS 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 reassurances given to our community by OPW representatives 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.

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    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 here.

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    MAYDAY! MAYDAY! Election Special: 1st May, 2007

    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:-

    1. Will you, Councillor, vote to rezone the floodplain now that you have a clear opportunity to do so?
    2. What is your Party's official position on building on floodplains?
    3. 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 traffic, 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 NEW E-MAIL CAMPAIGN!

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    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 http://www.pleanala.ie/DCT/217/S217906.DOC.

    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.

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    Decision made by An Bord Pleanala: 4th April, 2007

    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.

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    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...

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    Decision deferred till 4th April, 2007
    and Flood Defence option explained by OPW on 28th March

    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 - www.braytowncouncil.ie.

    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.

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    28th March, 2007: 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.

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    Bord Pleanala decision deferred again till March 21, 2007:

    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.

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    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.

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    Meeting arranged with Minister Dick Roche:
    16th April, 2007

    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.

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    Decision deferred until 14th March, 2007 - 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!

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    Results of SWAP Christmas 2006 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!

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    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.

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    Flood Defence Proposals Feedback

    We are publishing any feedback on the flood defence options proposed so far at Feedback on Flood Defence Proposals. We'll be very glad of your input at swap@braywatch.com.

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    Flood Defence Proposals on Display:
    6th November, 2006

    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:-

    Option 1
    to "do nothing", but a willingness to 'do nothing' doesn't, apparently, extend to the flood plain.

    Option 2
    described as "containment only". This proposes building up walls and embankments, and re-inforcing them, without any works carried out on the river channel.

    Option 3
    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.

    Option 4
    "upstream storage" by creating a dam upstream of Bray, around the Tinahinch area.

    Option 5
    "partial storage" (a smaller dam?) and "containment", a mixture of options 2 and 4, but with walls and embankments lower than in option 2.

    Option 6
    "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 swap@braywatch.com. We'll be glad to pass it on.

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    Evening Meetings re River Dargle Flood Defences:
    31st October - 2nd November, 2006

    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...

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    Oral Hearing Over: 24th October, 2006

    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.

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    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.

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    Oral Hearing and Flood Warnings for autumn, 2006

    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.

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    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
    Despite betrayal,
    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.

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    20th Anniversary of 'Hurricane Charlie' on 25th August, 2006
    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.

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    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.

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    Appeal to An Bord Pleanala: 2nd June, 2006

    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 an appeal for help on our website, and would be very grateful for any donations towards our campaign - no matter how small.

    We have also launched a letter-writing campaign 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!

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    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 here. The document has since been sent (13th June, 2006) to Cllr. John McManus, chairperson of Bray Town Council's Community, Cultural, Social and Environmental 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.

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    Public Meeting: 29th May, 2006

    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'.

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    Decision Given on 8th May, 2006 - 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.

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    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 Dargle Protest 2004 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.

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    Public Consultation Day?
    10th April, 2006

    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…

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    Pizarro submit amendments to applications
    10th March, 2006

    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...

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    Labour's Heartland is flooded with Opposition -
    and Dick Roche is told to remove Pizarro's Power:
    14th January, 2006

    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 clip of RTE newsfilm from 1986, 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.

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    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 Expert Advice 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.

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    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 here...

    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.

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    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.

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    Bray Golf Club Lands - Action Area Plan

    The newest page on our site - The Answer - 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.

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    Table Quiz and Update in Murphy's Pub, Dargle Road - Thursday, September 15, 2005

    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 of 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.

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      Ravenswell Rd. 19th January, 2013

    Ravenswell Rd.
    19th January, 2013

    (click here to enlarge)

    Ravenswell Rd. 19th January, 2013

    Ravenswell Rd.
    19th January, 2013

    (click here to enlarge)

     
     

    e-mail: swap@braywatch.com