On the edge of Castlelands, a neighbourhood south of the Balbriggan town centre, Garrett Mullan steered around a roundabout and took the only one of the four exits that was yet to go somewhere.

Behind him on the Hamilton Road, just off Dublin Street – the town’s main shopping street – men in high-vis vests were working on new cycle lanes.

Mullan parked his car on the incomplete road. The tarmacadam surface was uneven and cracked. A mound of grass, weeds and gorse cut across it, blocking off access to a gravelly route up a rugged slope.

Eventually, this will be the Castlelands Link Road, connecting to the R127 which trails along the coastline down to Skerries, he says. “And on either side of the road will be estates of over 800 houses and apartments.”

Mullan and Laly Calderon, a fellow member of the North Fingal Pool Campaign stepped out of the vehicle and clambered up onto the walkway. They were trailed by a wiry black and white stray kitten.

Housing estates lay either side, as they trudged up onto a wild stretch of parkland, covering some 24 hectares.

It’s mostly zoned for homes, but a northern parcel of the site is earmarked for a public swimming pool in the Castlelands Masterplan, published by Fingal County Council in March 2021.

It is an amenity that not only Balbriggan needs, says Mullan, but all of Fingal. “Fingal Council has zero swimming pools.”

The North Fingal Pool Campaign is already five years old. But discussions with the council have been going on far longer, he says. “This is going back 20 years.”

After walking for five minutes across the green, the pair stop at the site slated for the pool.

It is an idyllic spot from which to admire the harbour in Skerries. But “there are still no diggers on site”, he says.

The Castlelands masterplan says the swimming pool should be built early on in the development of these lands, before the first homes.

But while the Land Development Agency has applied for, and been granted, permission for more than 800 homes across most of the rest of the site, nobody has applied for permission for the pool in a northern pocket yet.

Mullan said it was a disappointment, because Fingal County Council has indicated that the site would be developed as an indoor pool.

A spokesperson for Fingal County Council hasn’t yet responded to queries sent on Tuesday about its current plans for a pool, who would develop the facility, or if an alternative site is being considered.

Lack of amenities

The North Fingal Pool Campaign was first launched in January 2018 with a petition addressed to the Department for Transport, Tourism and Sport.

With more than 2,850 signatures, the petition highlighted that Balbriggan’s population was, at the time, projected to reach 36,000 within eight years.

In the 2016 census, the town’s population was 21,722, which was a 194 percent increase since 1991.

It should have been developed into a more vibrant, social place, Mullan says, as he walked across the windy field just south of the town’s centre last Thursday afternoon. “Driving through town, you’ll see quite a lot of boarded up buildings.”

With an average age of 30.9 years old, it was named the “youngest town in Ireland”, according to the Central Statistics Office in 2022.

Balbriggan is a good place for children and families, Calderon says. “But there is nothing for teenagers to do. There are community centres that they can go, but at the moment, we are losing them after they turn 14.”

A lot of housing was developed as the population surged, Mullan says. But there isn’t a lot for residents to do for recreation.

“Planning views Balbriggan as a dormitory town where people sleep,” he says. “It’s not a place where people can spend time, and a swimming pool is just one of many things that you’d want.”

The nearest pool in Dublin is in Swords – 19 kilometres away. Mullan says, when he takes his children swimming, they go to Drogheda, which is 22 kilometres north.


Plans for a swimming pool were flagged in the Fingal Development Plan 2017 to 2023, with the council listing this as objective in Balbriggan, as well as providing swimming facilities in Rush and Skerries.

In 2019, Fingal County Council launched the Our Balbriggan rejuvenation plan.

There was a lot of optimism going around, says David Flynn, another member of the North Fingal Pool Campaign. “We got involved with Our Balbriggan because there was a lot of funding.”

The council had carried out three world café events as part of the public consultation, Flynn says. “And from those, it came out that the indoor swimming pool was what people wanted.”

Of more than 4,000 people surveyed, 70 percent highlighted the need for “leisure experiences”, and 72 percent said they wanted more spaces for the youth, a report on the rejuvenation plan said.

When asked if the survey had missed anything important, 56 percent of participants responded in agreement, with the most frequently named omission being a swimming pool, the report said.

Fingal County Council responded by committing to identify a site for one in the Castlelands masterplan, the report said.

It was added to the list of things to do, Flynn says. “And then, it was kinda forgotten about. A pin was put in it when it was allocated to the Castlelands development.”

Now, Flynn says, until the Castlelands development moves ahead, the fear is that it is going to remain in limbo.

Any money that has been talked about so far for the Our Balbriggan plan has been for other things, says Flynn. “Like the greenway and derelict buildings in the town.”

Still waiting

The Castlelands masterplan was published in March 2021. It says that the Castlelands Link Road would be done in the first phase. The swimming pool would then be carried out as part of the second phase, it says.

On 4 April 2022, the Land Development Agency lodged its planning application for hundreds of homes at Castlelands with An Bord Pleanála. It got permission in March.

But the application didn’t include the swimming pool.

“The omission of the swimming pool from the proposed development is noted as an issue of concern,” says the An Bord Pleanála inspector’s report on the planning application.

Still, the inspector concludes that the site for the pool has been set aside and that is good enough.

Mullan says that they still want a swimming pool delivered. “The LDA should deliver on it, because they are overseeing the site.”

David Flynn says that he thinks there is no ownership of who is going to deliver the pool. “The LDA is really only interested in the residential aspect of the plan.”

Interim measures

Campaigner Martin Walsh says that the campaign is awaiting a feasibility study from Fingal County Council. But any major step forward is at least another three years away.

A separate study is being carried out for a tidal pool in the area, says Walsh. But he hopes, he says, that creating an outdoor pool would not mean the indoor facility would be scrapped.

“Costs for the tidal pool might be perceived to be lower,” he said. “So that may be a factor when they decide to pull the trigger.”

In the interim, as locals continue to wait for news about an indoor pool, Walsh points to a recent collaboration between the council and Swim Ireland, in which a pop-up swimming pool was put up in Donabate.

A pop-up pool is not really designed for sports clubs, he says. “It’s very much towards children, minority groups. It’s 12 metres long and has a nice atmosphere.”

His hope is that, in the coming year, a facility like that could be brought up to Balbriggan, he says.

“It’s not necessarily even a stepping stone, in terms of supporting the wider public. But it would allow us to at least have something in the area,” he says.

Michael Lanigan is a freelance journalist who covers arts and culture for Dublin Inquirer. His work also appears in Vice, Totally Dublin, TheJournal.ie and the Business Post. You can reach him at michael@dublininquirer.com.

Join the Conversation


  1. Balbriggan, Skerries, Lusk and Donabate all lack the basic public amenity of a swimming pool. All citizens of Ireland should have access to a community swimming pool in which to learn the basic life skill of swimming. The lack of leisure amenities particularly in the towns of Balbriggan and Lusk is shocking and unacceptable. Allowing hundreds of houses to be built in the absence of community leisure facilities is short sighted and irresponsible. Fingal County Council need to step up and take action to ensure these areas in North Dublin have healthy, safe, positive places for everyone to exercise in and stay fit and well.

  2. Note the swimming pool in Swords is a private run pool, so the nearest public pools are Northside, Coolock and Ballymun. Its a disgrace that’s there is no swimming pool in the Fingal Catchmeny area. As long as I can remember Fingal Co Co have been promising this facility and never following through.

  3. When I moved out to the area 27 years ago we heard there was a swimming pool planned. It’s obviously never happened. Every so often when plans for a massive development is looking for Plannin ‘the swimming pool ‘ red herring gets rolled. The area needs more then a swimming pool. Try getting onto a bus to head to the airport or onwards after 7am and there is a very good chance the bus will pass by full as it’s come from Drogheda and is full by Julianstown.

  4. Balbriggan is a town that has grown so much that there is a captive population of young families ready to use a public run swimming pool.The benefits to the physical and mental health of users is incalculable.Calling our town a domitory town is no longer accurate.Remote working has changed the argument.The council is developing further sport facilities of pitches and athletics fields.What about the over 50’s!We need alm weather indoor facilities as well!

  5. There have been “promises” of a swimming pool in Balbriggan since the 90’s. It’s 2023 and STILL NOTHING. Allowing more houses to be built with no leisure facilities is just inviting trouble. Balbriggan as a town has been allowed to die over the last 30 years or so. Just look at the state of the main street, beach and harbour (even compared to Skerries just up the road). Fingal County Council NEED to be hammering on all TD’s doors about this. Just watch anti social problems / drug dealing explode as more houses go up with less places for bored kids and teenagers to go.

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