I welcome this Bill. However, I must qualify that by saying I hope this legislation does not end up as another piece of unfinished business, like the Local Government (Reorganisation) Act which started life in this House over six years ago and is still part of an ongoing process within Dublin County Council and in local authorities generally. While waiting for the Local Government (Reorganisation) Act to be implemented fully within county councils on the planning front, major undesired developments are occurring throughout the length and breadth of Ireland. This Bill gives me an opportunity, as a person who represents one of the most scenic and high amenity areas of Dublin city, to speak in defence of such invaluable national assets. Will the Bill before the House afford any protection against such undesirable developments, or will it end up as another piece of unfinished business within local authorities?
In essence, what I am saying is this: I am not happy with the speed and the pace of imlementation of the Local Government (Reorganisation) Act which to date has not been implemented within Dublin County Council. I hope this legislation, which seems to be what is desired, is implemented much quicker than the three years which some commentators say it will take to fully implement. While local authorities are making every effort to implement the Local Government (Reorganisation) Act and while they will make every effort to implement this Bill as quickly as possible, developers are carrying out the rape of such scenic areas as Howth Head and Sutton and every green space is threatened with extinction by developers who wish to plan Bel Air or Dallas type housing, completely ruining some of the most scenic sites in western Europe. So serious is the threat on this scale to the environment in north-east Dublin that the residents of Howth peninsula and Sutton have come together in an effort to bring pressure to bear on local authorities and on the Government to save such sites of scenic and environmental importance. The Howth Sutton 2,000 group is completely voluntary. With the help on a voluntary basis of architects and planners they are now identifying sites of such significance and merit in the Howth peninsula. The east mountain of Howth is still threatened with development as is the large area of Carrickbrack, close to Sutton. If Dublin County Council cannot find enough money or exchange lands and purchase the interest of such developers, these scenic sites will be lost forever.
I wish to turn now to one of the most scenic and best amenities in Dublin. Here I refer to the cliff walks, the rights of way and the Hill of Howth. Some of these walks, which start from the most scenic areas of Dublin Bay in the Sutton area and work their way right around to Howth Harbour, are an invaluable asset. However, they have not been taken in charge by the local authority and the Government does not seem to interest themselves in such amenities. The only way one can interest oneself in such amenities is to put money up front and ensure that such rights of way and such cliff walks which are so near the city are properly presented by way of leaflets explaining the historical sites around these walks. Tourists who come to Dublin like to get out and see the countryside and see Dublin as it is. This amenity on our doorsteps is completely neglected.
Dublin County County have made every effort to have the walks brought up to date. It is impossible to take a walk around that area without running into brambles and injuring oneself as the area is completely overgrown. There is no proper hard core or paving on these rights of way. Dublin County Council have tried to operate schemes through FÁS and the Department of Labour. Though they made every effort last year, the Department of Labour were not able to sanction such schemes and Dublin County Council were unable to take on staff to do anything about the walks. People were prepared to put in some work. However, they could not liaise with Dublin County Council and do such works because a programme was not put in place since the Department of Labour did not sanction the schemes. The rights of way are there and locals are still pressing to have some scheme put in place by Dublin County Council which would need finance from Government. Will the Minister look into it and see if finance can be put at the disposal of Dublin County Council so that they can take the rights of way in charge from An Taisce and look after them properly so that they can be used as an amenity and to encourage tourism?
The rights of way about which I talk could be extended to take in Howth Harbour, Sutton, Baldoyle and Baldoyle Estuary. Baldoyle Estuary was granted the status of an estuary and it is famous as an overwintering place for Brent geese and other species of birds which we like to welcome in the winter and which we want to protect. If the walks could be extended to the Baldoyle area and around the estuary it would be a wonderful natural amenity. This estuary is twinned with the Polar Bear Pass in Canada and it has the full support of the Irish Wildlife Conservancy as an estuary. I know that the Department of the Marine and the Board of Works, who were responsible for having the estuary declared as such, are making every effort to put the infrastructure there. I am talking about putting in hides from which ornithologists can study the birds who overwinter there and about putting in paving or some sort of a road so that it is accessible to Dubliners and tourists. People could start from O'Connell Street, work their way out to Sutton and Howth and use the rights of way right into Baldoyle to this wonderful amenity at Baldoyle Estuary. Ornithologists and other environmentalists could study birds and could generally enjoy the wonderful amenity there.
Will this Bill help local authorities to ward off undesirable developments? If it would, I welcome it. The only sure way to protect high amenity areas is to have a special amenity area order declared. I understand that there are four special amenity orders in the pipeline. Work is presently taking place in relation to the Liffey valley special amenity area and I understand that a special amenity area order for the Howth and surrounding districts is placed third in priority with the Dublin County Council. Will this legislation allow for such special amenity area orders and when set up will the expertise in the agency have the wherewithal to deal with special amenity area orders and will the agency have the power to declare such orders? Perhaps the Minister is summing up will let me have this information.
This Bill should be enacted as soon as possible to stop the stampede of developers trying to beat the legislation. The onslaught of developers in the areas of Howth and Sutton must be stopped. I hope this Bill contains the remedy.
Sewage pollution of Dublin beaches is relatively slight considering the volume of effluent which enters the waters, according to a recent report. It is imperative that we cease dumping raw sewage in Dublin Bay in order to bring to an end an intolerable problem which is worthy of the Middle Ages. At present most Dublin sewage is processed through the corporation treatment plant at Ringsend, which is in need of further upgrading. This would cost in the region of £45 million. On the far side of the bay the north Dublin drainage scheme empties totally untreated sewage into the sea beside Howth Harbour. The scheme, which starts at Finglas, serves all the large housing estates, factories and hospitals on the north side of Dublin and it discharges raw sewage into the sea beside Howth Harbour. Factors such as tide, wind and the length of time which bacteria live in sea water combine to minimise the effects of sewage effluent, according to a recent report.
Beaches such as Donabate, Malahide and Rush received the blue flag award in 1990. It is encouraging to note that the awards were given to seven beaches in the present year, those beaches being Donabate, Rush, Portmarnock, Portrane, Malahide, Skerries and Sutton. I welcome the fact that Sutton received the blue flag award this year because it is so near the Nose of Howth where raw sewage from the north side is dumped and is washing back towards beaches. However, Sutton escaped this year and I welcome that. Dollymount Strand did not have the water quality to qualify for a blue flag award. I regret that, but I am glad it received a special award for the lack of rubbish on the beaches and for the way the interpretative centre there do their business.
It seems to be the present Government decision to spend most of the money available for sewage treatment on the Ringsend plant. This plant serves mainly the south side of the city. There is not any mention of money being made available to establish a similar sewage treatment works on the north side. Is it Government policy to continue to treat north side citizens as second class? Is it Government policy to continue with the dumping of raw sewage off the nose of Howth, systematically polluting beaches traditionally used by northsiders? That is something the Minister should take on board. Most of the money has been put into the Ringsend works. I am not satisfied that the Ringsend plant is doing its job either and some of the waste coming into the water from Ringsend washes over to the Howth area. More money is to be made available to update the Ringsend's works and that should be done as soon as possible to stop it polluting the north side.
Dublin Bay should be environmentally managed for the benefit of thousands of Dubliners who use it every year. A recent report tells us that 15,000 people go sailing, 30,000 go boating or cruising and that about 250,000 go walking. That is why I mentioned the walks which could start in O'Connell Street, go out by Clontarf, out to Sutton, around the Hill of Howth, around by the harbour and so on. The rights of way are there but they are not being maintained. The Department should make money available to Dublin County Council to make those rights of way accessible to people and have this wonderful amenity restored. About 250,000 people go walking, 1,500 people use the bay for angling and over 250,000 go to the beaches every year. The report also reveals that most of the complaints received from the general public were about water quality. Litter pollution and odours caused by pollution were of major concern.
A detailed monitoring programme is of the utmost importance. This should include water quality surveys, measurements of waste discharged into the bay and studies of algae growth. With proper monitoring and management, beaches and shoreline waters will improve and the amount of sewage and plastic will reduce considerably. Will the agency have the power to carry out such monitoring and management of Dublin Bay waters?
Nowadays we are worried about the provision of jobs. We are trying to get cleaner industries, cleaner air, a cleaner environment and protection for our natural resources. If we do not get it right in protecting the environment and if this agency does not work well but becomes another body that attends half heartedly to matters, it will not make effective decisions. It is important that the Minister should move ahead with all possible speed to ensure that the agency is set up as soon as possible. What timescale does the Minister of State envisage as undue delay that would be a sign we are not taking the protection of the environment seriously?
A few moments ago I referred to the environment of the Dublin north-east area. Recently Dublin Corporation granted permission for the construction of over 900 houses in the St. Michael's-Grange Road area, which is known locally as the "Hole in the Wall". I said earlier that the north Dublin drainage scheme starts at Finglas and works its way to the Nose of Howth, serving each estate, industry and hospital along the way. The residents of the area do not object to a further 900 houses being connected to the scheme, but what they do object to is the fact that 35 to 40 houses in the area known as the Hole in the Wall have no sewerage facilities and that their occupants have to depend on toilets which in this day and age could only be described as medieval. They have spoken to the developer who intends to build these 900 houses but he has given them no encouragement. It is his intention to build a road which would connect with the Hole in the Wall Road, which is the main road from the Donaghmede area and leads on to the Airport. Therefore, one can imagine the volume of traffic on this road.
The developer has informed the residents that in providing such sewerage facilities he would have to erect a pumping station at a cost to the residents of £30,000 to £40,000, money which they do not have. The point I am trying to make is that we have housing within eight miles of Dublin city which does not have proper toilets and the residents of which have to depend on septic tanks. The smell from these tanks during the summer is unbelievable. This should not be tolerated in this day and age. Dublin Corporation should talk to the residents and make sure they are provided with proper sewage facilities. They already have water facilities. Needless to say, the developer will be able to tap into this resource. Dublin Corporation should make sure that the developer, who is seeking further permission, provides proper sewerage facilities to the residents of that area. Having said that, the Hole in the Wall is not all that far away from the pipe in Kinsealy. I ask the Minister of State to look into this matter to see if these houses could be connected to the pipe to make sure that they have proper sewerage facilities. That would be most welcome.
Also close by stands Baldoyle Racecourse, which over the years has been the subject of many planning applications. The Encamp development which was proposed a few years ago would have led to the creation of another concrete jungle which would have completely ruined the environment of the Baldoyle area. However, the local residents and others came together to launch a campaign to make sure that no undesirable development took place in the Baldoyle Racecourse.
Baldoyle Racecourse, however, which comprises 60 acres, forms only a small part of the land mass of the owners, who own approximately 600 acres in the area. It was their intention to build a new town but, as I said, local residents and other groups came together to ensure that that development did not take place. Part of the coastal area is zoned high amenity which they will not be allowed develop. However, behind this and backing on to the famous sewerage pipe I have spoken about at the Baskin Cottages lie the remaining 540 acres. This is a wonderful area and it should be preserved.
The people of Baldoyle and the surrounding areas are not naive and they know that in time to come there will have to be some development, but they do not want a concrete jungle. Recently some developers suggested that there should be limited development with provision made for golf clubs, an interpretative centre beside the Baldoyle Estuary, which would be most welcome, a hotel and other developments. They want to build a shopping centre, but that may not be acceptable to the residents. What we are saying is that it would be most welcome if they set aside open space on which a golf course, a pitch and putt course and other facilities, such as a running track and other open air facilities, could be constructed.
Given that this site is located beside the airport and the DART stations at Sutton, Kilbarrack and Bayside and that there is no traffic congestion between the city and Baldoyle, it would be an ideal site for the national sports centre. I also note that the site suggested by the Government on the quays has run into trouble. This site at Baldoyle should be looked at as it would be the ideal place for the sports centre. It is right beside Baldoyle Estuary and near to Howth where water sport facilities could be provided at a very low cost. It is also beside some of the best golf courses in Europe, including Portmarnock. I hope the Minister of State will take this suggestion on board to see if it would be feasible. I am not happy at the way in which the Department have tried to split the complex among certain areas; it should be maintained in one unit. We should locate the training centre, football pitches, running track and soccer stadium on this site on the old Baldoyle Racecourse. This would be welcomed by the residents and the people of the north side of Dublin. When this site was used as a racecourse it attracted people from the North of Ireland and abroad who used the airport. I understand that the owners of the site would welcome such an approach. I suggest therefore that the Department of the Environment should speak to them. If they do they will be able to buy a site more cheaply in the Baldoyle area and could protect the environment by locating the national sports centre there. This would be welcomed by the citizens of Dublin.
Another site in my area which has been the subject of media attention over years is the Red Rock site. Once again, the local residents and others came together to ensure that no development took place on eight acres of that site. This was a wonderful victory for the local residents associations. Dublin County Council also came to our rescue and put up £500,000 to satisfy the developer, who wished to develop this wonderful amenity which would have interfered with the local walks which cross the Hill of Howth, including the famous walk to which I have referred which runs from the city to Howth Head and on to Baldoyle. However Dublin County Council seem to be having a problem in getting the developer to accept what is on offer. A land deal has been made but he is not happy with that. We are worried that this site may come under threat once again if the developer does not accept what is on offer. Could the Department make finance available to the council to compete the deal and to protect forever the Red Rock site, which, as I say, is a wonderful amenity? Perhaps the Minister will take this matter on board.
One could not talk about the north-east of Dublin without mentioning the wonderful amenity of Howth harbour. It is a marvellous development, into which the Department of the Marine and successive Governments over the years put £13 million and created a harbour worthy of the highest praise. We are very happy with it. The harbour has landings worth £4 million per year and creates good employment. The allied industries which have been set up in the area have been very clean. The ship repairing business is excellent but they have to bring the boats across the road to the west pier, an uncovered area, to repair them. However, that is a matter for another Department and we will be looking for finance in that regard.
I worry about the fact that the harbour is very close to the village and needs a sewage treatment works to cope with the pollution in the area. I hope the Minister will treat this matter with urgency. The sewage is ruining the spawning beds and the fish life. Fishermen will tell you that there is no point in looking for lobster in the Howth area. Dublin Bay prawns used to be on the menus of good restaurants but they have now disappeared. Employment in the fishing industry is practically nil although, of course, trawling has made a difference and has upset the beds. Raw sewage affects the beds and the famous Howth herring cannot reproduce themselves. It is a long time since the Howth herring was on a menu.
A proper treatment works in the north Dublin drainage scheme would cost a lot of money but it would solve many problems. It would bring back fishing, help tourism and the harbour. If the Minister takes just one point from my speech I ask her to ensure that whatever money she can get from the European Community — which would be welcomed by the people in Howth and the surrounding district — will be spent on the north Dublin drainage scheme in the Howth area. A sewage treatment works as good as the one in Ringsend would be adequate for our needs although we would welcome a more elaborate one. I hope the Minister will consider that point.