We Need More Than a Wall in Clontarf

Frank McDonald

Frank McDonald is the former environment editor of the Irish Times, and the author of several books, including The Destruction of Dublin (1985), Saving the City (1989), and The Construction of Dublin (2000). He is also co-author of books including Chaos at the Crossroads (2005) and The Builders (2008). He was born in Dublin, graduated from UCD in 1971, joined the Irish Times in 1979 and has been a resident of the Temple Bar area since 1995.


A huge row erupted four years ago over plans by Dublin City Council to provide flood defences for Clontarf by building a series of earthen embankments and walls, up to 2.75 metres high, along the seafront. And the outcry was so strong that the scheme was dropped.

Now, Clontarf residents and others who drive along the coastal road have been expressing outrage in letters to the Irish Times over the construction of a new wall alongside the Sutton-to-Sandycove (S2S) cycleway, on the basis that it obscures cherished views of Dublin Bay.

Published under the heading “A wall and Dublin Bay”, the letters refer to a “5ft wall” being built along James Larkin Road, opposite Bull Island. “It seems short-sighted to remove such beautiful views right on the doorstep of our capital city,” wrote Ian McMurty, of Sutton, Dublin 13.

Complaining about a lack of consultation, Peter James, of Baldoyle, said it was “an outrage that one of Dublin’s most stunning views is walled up”, while Sophie Spalding, of Raheny, wrote that all they had been told was that work had finally started on the S2S bike path.

The need for coastal defences for Clontarf has become more pressing in recent years after the area was badly hit by an “extreme tidal event” in February 2002 and a less severe one in October 2004. Further such “events” are likely with the onset of climate change.

Several weak points in the existing, fairly rudimentary flood defences allowed a “deluge of water” onto Clontarf Road and flooded a number of properties. As a result, DCC decided that flood-alleviation measures were required to protect this important stretch of coastline.

But the original scheme, estimated at nearly €10 million (including installation of a new water main) had to be dropped due to strenuous opposition from Clontarf Residents Association, which is now involved in discussions with DCC about the future form of the promenade.

One Clontarf resident familiar with the situation, who did not wish to be identified, told Dublin Inquirer that they didn’t want to “sully the waters” by speaking out against the wall now under construction, which was “nowhere near as brutal” as the scheme dropped in 2011.

Councillors for the area are to meet city officials on Monday 26 October to discuss the latest development, which is still in the course of construction. Photographs show that a proposed footpath beside the new wall has yet to be built, and this may take the bare look off it.

Given the opposition being expressed by at least some of their constituents, the councillors should be pressing for a solution that would both fulfill the need for flood defences and preserve views of Dublin Bay for motorists travelling on the coastal road.

Such a solution is not impossible. Indeed, it has already been done in Waterford (see photo), where a toughened glass wall in stainless steel framing was laid all along the quay to protect properties in the area from storm surges in the Suir estuary. And there are clear views right through it.

Given predicted sea-level rise as a result of climate change, there is no doubt that coastal defences in Ireland and elsewhere will have to be reinforced to protect heavily populated areas. So far, however, no plan has been drawn up to deal with precarious places like Dublin Bay.

Some ideas are kicking around, however, including the notion of installing booms in the bay to neutralise storm surges before they can do damage to property along the seafront in areas such as Clontarf and Sandymount, which are most obviously at risk of inundation.

Even Donald Trump is faced with a major headache in trying to protect his Doonbeg golf resort in County Clare from Atlantic surges, such as the nearly 10-metre-high waves that washed over the seafront in nearby Lahinch last winter. The estimated cost of defending it is €10 million.

In many cases, especially where major economic assets (cities, in particular) are not involved, a policy of planned retreat is the only viable option – as they have recognised in East Anglia. That would apply to sparsely populated stretches of vulnerable coastlines.

Clearly, neither Clontarf nor Sandymount can be abandoned in this way. The only issue is how best to protect them from flooding in the context of an overall plan – not merely the building of a wall along a new cycle path that blocks out views of Dublin Bay from the coast road.

We asked DCC’s press office to outline the basis on which a higher wall was being built on the seaward side of James Larkin Road, and whether any consideration was given to adopting the Waterford solution. But there was no response prior to publication.

Author:

Frank McDonald: Frank McDonald is the former environment editor of the Irish Times, and the author of several books, including The Destruction of Dublin (1985), Saving the City (1989), and The Construction of Dublin (2000). He is also co-author of books including Chaos at the Crossroads (2005) and The Builders (2008). He was born in Dublin, graduated from UCD in 1971, joined the Irish Times in 1979 and has been a resident of the Temple Bar area since 1995.

Reader responses

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steve white
at 21 October 2015 at 14:54

bit late now

Lois Kapila
at 22 October 2015 at 08:33

We got a response from Dublin City Council press office. Here’s what the spokesperson said:

“The new flood wall under construction was approved by An Bord Pleanala following public consultation, as well as Part 8 Planning approval, and following a public consultation process for the cycleway, watermain and flood defence. It is designed to the national standard to keep out the 200 year tide level, plus associated wave action, together with an allowance for sea level rise due to global warming.

A glass wall was considered, however,

  1. This would involve rebuilding most of the existing sea wall, not just a small portion of it under the current scheme.
  2. There would be a difficulty with handling impacting waves.
  3. Anywhere we have installed glass panels in the city there are very significant maintenance costs due to vandalism.
  4. The cost of the glass panels is a multiple of the current flood alleviation measure.
  5. The extra cost for a glass panel project would be €5 million to €10 million more than the current proposal, with no funding stream for it.”

Jason
at 27 October 2015 at 20:35

Concrete. Engineers just love the stuff. When it come to flood defenses, drainage etc just expect to see more and more of it. Views, amenities and aesthetics be dammed (no pun indented).

Jason
at 28 October 2015 at 10:30

intended!!!

Richie
at 28 October 2015 at 14:51

Bare concrete is hardly ideal but the wall in Clontarf looks to be a bit over waist height, it’s only blocking the view for motorists – great incentive for people to get on their bikes or their feet if they want to see the bay, surely?.. The level of complaint will be several orders of magnitude greater if nothing is done and homes in this area are flooded in the future.

Sharon
at 1 November 2015 at 16:53

I’m a walker and I don’t like the height of that long cement wall either, because it completely obstructs the view of me and every other pedestrian from the road, which, over such a long distance, could be quite unsafe – good picking grounds for people who like to beat up/rob/accost and otherwise interfere with safe passage of pedestrians. Not wanting to sound over-dramatic, but a wall that high leaves nowhere for a pedestrian to escape malicious intent except into the sea. Also, on behalf of motorists, that Bay view is one of the pleasures of their long, tedious commute every morning and every evening, and as they pay a hefty road tax to keep these passageways operational, they have a right to be considered as well as pedestrians and cyclists, no?

steve white
at 2 November 2015 at 23:52

the wall is on the seaward side of the path it wont’ block the view of pedestirans from the road, don’t you think flooding would get in the way of the operations of the road, thats the consideration motorists are getting

Sharon
at 4 November 2015 at 14:42

Yes, I’ve now checked the drawings and see that pedestrians and cyclists will indeed be on the inside of the wall. Silly me, I thought they might be taking this opportunity to widen the road. I think the same dream-team who stripped O’Connell Street of its character in order to erect the Spike are in charge of the decisions about the wall across from St Anne’s Park. That part of the road where they are currently building the cement wall isn’t the flooding part of the road. This is just where precedent is being set so that when the wall reaches as far as Clontarf, it’ll be a done deal. As long as no serious lead is taken on improving public transport from the periphery in to town, people will use their cars. And they’ll be driving single file along a long, narrow road with a grey cement wall all they can see out the window of their car. Yes, of course, protect the road from risk of flooding, but not all parts of that road present the same level of flood potential. For those parts, think of the relief the view of the Bay gives to weary commuters (and I’m not one of them, I travel by public transport).

steve white
at 4 November 2015 at 16:03

DCC says “With large portions of Bull Island likely to be flooded in the future due to a rise in sea levels, this section of the coastline will be much more exposed to wave action and the wall height is the minimum recommended to combat this.” [http://www.dublincity.ie/sites/de…

User Anon
at 4 January 2016 at 11:31

reposted from:
John Morrissey
The glass panels issue is a red herring. There is no chance of water ever getting close to the top of the “New Wall” as outlined in the “independent survey of heights” and accompanying video. Water simply cannot flow up a 1.75 metre hill.

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A….

The entire inner city, IFSC etc. would be under a metre of water if this occurred, at which stage I would imagine the city council might have other more pressing issues!

and what about Self Closing flood barriers?
<iframe class="youtube-player" type="text/html" width="1200" height="705" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/9vs…" allowfullscreen="true" style="border:0;"></iframe>

Michael
at 30 July 2016 at 09:40

This will be a fantastic development. The slight increase in the wall height is totally justified. Imagine the protests if floods happen. Regarding the views….the views will still be great.. motorists are supposed to be watching the road.

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