Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company has started to dismantle the Stena building bringing down the final curtain on a service that until 2014 brought visitors and business to Dún Laoghaire. And with its removal comes a timely reminder that contentious plans are in motion that will have implications for the future of both the harbour and Dún Laoghaire town as a whole.
— Dun Laoghaire Marina (@DLMarina_Dublin) June 22, 2016
Stena Sealink served the Dún Laoghaire to Holyhead route for nearly 20 years allowing easy transport to the UK aboard its distinctive white catamaran HSS Stena Explorer. But consolidation of business activity in 2014 saw the termination of the ferry service and Stena operations were moved to and combined with their Dublin Port set-up. This vacancy in Dún Laoghaire has however presented an opportunity for a new service or development in area and two competing visions for the harbours future have come to the fore.
In October 2015 at An Bord Pleanála hearing Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company (DLHC) lodged a proposal to create an €18 million berth for ‘next generation’ cruise ships. The DLHC sees the attraction of huge cruise liners as central to their masterplan to regenerate the port following the loss of the Stena ferry traffic. But this plan would face stiff competition from Dublin Port and has had a mixed reception from locals.
Dublin Port Company has advanced plans to attract the business of the same large cruise liners with their own redevelopment plans. Their €230 million Alexandra Basin redevelopment for large cargo carriers and cruise ship traffic has already been approved by An Bord Pleanála.
Also at the October An Bord Pleanála hearing the Dún Laoghaire Combined Clubs put forward an alternative vision for the harbour. Leaving the super cruise liners to Dublin port, they envision Dún Laoghaire as a centre of watersports excellence with a national watersports centre that would be a focal point for training and could host ‘major international and national sailing and other water- sports events’ such as kayaking, windsurfing and scuba diving. They believe it would draw international competitions and with it positive attention, tourism and business.
Now as the last vestiges of the Stena ferry building are removed, the question of what next for Dún Laoghaire’s harbour comes into focus again. Indeed, what’s best for the harbour and the local community is perhaps the most appropriate question.
There’s a lot to be said for the sight of an impressive cruise ship sailing in to the harbour but would these massive massive crusise liners bring any real economic benefit to Dún Laoghaire town or would the passengers be whisked off in shuttles for the city centre? Certainly the vision of an international watersports centre of excellence in Dún Laoghaire is compelling and it’s perhaps easier to see how this would draw visitors and tourists to a Dún Laoghaire that would very much appreciate the increased business.
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Either way, we’ll get some answers soon enough. The decision by An Bord Pleanála on the DLHC plan is expected in the next month.
*Updated article, originally published in May