Written Answers. - Bray (Wicklow) Coastal Protection Scheme.

Mildred Fox

Question:

238 Ms M. Fox asked the Minister for the Marine when the tender will be awarded in respect of the proposed Bray coastal protection scheme, County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8693/96]

Mildred Fox

Question:

239 Ms M. Fox asked the Minister for the Marine the number of proposals that were considered for the Bray coastal protection scheme, County Wicklow; the criteria used for selection; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8694/96]

Mildred Fox

Question:

240 Ms M. Fox asked the Minister for the Marine the final date on which he will accept and consider alternative proposals in respect of the Bray coastal protection scheme, County Wicklow; his views on whether two weeks is adequate time to prepare and submit such proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8695/96]

I propose taking Questions Nos. 238, 239 and 240 together.

The closing date for receiving tenders is Tuesday, 30 April 1996 at 12 noon. The proposal is to build a rock breakwater southwards from the harbour wall, a rock groyne eastward from a point on the esplanade near the aquarium and to build a shingle beach in their lee. The design calls for the use of shingle similar to that found naturally on the south beach and one possible source that has been identified is the Codling Bank.

The present proposal was not chosen lightly. It is the most economical and effective way of protecting the northern esplanade which has been attacked by natural processes since it was first built. The vertical wall and pier have combined with natural elements to undermine the foundations and scour out the beach which could otherwise protect them. To protect the wall and pier a beach is needed extending sufficiently far out to minimise the wave impact on them. The beach must be stabilised and that requires breakwaters and groynes to keep it in place.

The scheme was designed, costed and negotiated between officials of my Department and the councils, Bray Urban District Council and Wicklow County Council. The proposal was put to the UDC. They called a special meeting to consider the matter and had an oral presentation from my Department and questioned officials in detail on all aspects of the problem and the proposed solution. The UDC subsequently considered the proposal under the planning Acts and granted itself permission to carry out the development. The planning regulations under which this process was undertaken provide for public notice, public display of the proposals, receipt of submissions and observations to the proposal and an evaluation of implications of the proposal for planning and development in the area before a decision is made by the council. The planning decision was reached last autumn.
A public meeting was held in Bray on 8 February 1996 to give further information to the local residents on the details of the scheme and the analysis of other options. The general tenor of that meeting was that most of those present wanted the scheme to go ahead but some people were worried by the visual appearance of the end product. Further analysis has been carried out by my Department and I understand the UDC has commissioned landscape planners to come up with an analysis of the visual impact and costed methods of improving the amenity value. The most recent technical reports have been passed to the UDC.
My Department's engineers have looked at:—
strengthening the sea wall;
protecting the wall with rock revetment; and,
protecting the wall with a new raised beach
Strengthening the sea wall would cost more — at least £2.8 million — and would only last until the increasing wave height scoured out the remnants of the beach to a new lower level and undermined the wall. It would not prevent the current overtopping problem or flooding and it would not reduce the erosion of the beach which is now only available at low tide.
Rock revetment would protect the wall by placing a sloping face of large rocks to absorb the wave energy. Prevention of overtopping and flooding would entail extending quite a distance seaward and this would combine higher cost — £3.2 million — with an extensive rock pile along the promenade and pier. There would be no beach.
New raised beach requires rock structures to keep it in place. Using shingle with the rock structures as proposed is budgeted at £2.4 million. This provides an embankment at promenade level with a sloping beach beyond that. To use fine sand would require much more elaborate rock structures than are proposed, more closely spaced and double the quantity of nourishment materials. It would have to be replenished from time to time because it would be more difficult to keep it there against storm pressures. The initial cost would be two to three times the shingle option because of the extra rock structures and greater fill quantities. Ongoing maintenance costs would also be considerably lighter.
In addition the further options of a recurve wall, an offshore breakwater or a basin to accommodate a future marina were examined. A recurve wall is a substantial reinforced concrete wall 1.1 metres high with a curve on the outer face to turn waves back and prevent overtopping. It would require strengthening of the seawall as well and this, like the proposal to strengthen the sea wall mentioned earlier, will not eliminate the scoring at the base of the wall. An offshore breakwater would have to be more substantial than the rock revetment and, that, combined with the complexity of working offshore would be likely to be a significantly most costly option than that currently proposed. On its own it would not result in the rebuilding of the beach but it would prevent further erosion. The outline cost of the rock structures to form a basin would be £3.5 to £5 million depending on results of detailed site surveys and model studies. The design and modelling exercise for what is effectively a new habour would cost in excess of £90,000 and take up to 12 months. It may require revetment of the esplanade as well and the required dredging would almost certainly lower the existing beach. The proposal would cease to be coast protection works and would not attract the present available funding. As well as putting the funding at risk the delay would put the esplanade at hazard of collapse and inundation for at least a further year.
My Department is open to any reasonable proposals and will incorporate any additional work that Bray UDC is prepared to fund. The technical resources of my Department will also be made available to help assess any new options. But the bottom line is that a decision must be made whether or not to proceed to contract on the present proposal with or without modifications. If the decision locally is not to proceed and a viable alternative, which is eligible for the present funding, is not in place to start this year there must be a risk of the project not proceeding as other demands emerge.
My Department has given extensive consideration to this proposed coastal protection scheme. The moneys that have been earmarked for the scheme. some £2.4 million, of which Bray and Wicklow local authorities are to contribute between them 25 per cent, are almost half of all the moneys assigned to coast protection works in the Community Support Framework agreed between the Irish Government and the European Union for the period 1994 to 1999. It is not practical to devote further funds from this measure to the Bray scheme and there are no supplementary funds from any other source available to me. Should Bray and Wicklow local authorities be in a position to guarantee additional funding I would have no difficulty if it were used for visual enhancement of the scheme as proposed or any other additional work required. I am also willing to respond to the wishes of the local authority with regard to the future of this scheme.
The timescale for final decision is short. I understand that Bray UDC will be meeting with those opposed to the present scheme and those in support on 14 May 1996. Officials from my Department will attend. Following that meeting Bray UDC will have to make a decision to proceed with the scheme as designed, or with additional works which are funded locally. A prolonged delay in proceeding with the Bray project would of course oblige me to redirect the finance which is being made available this year to other coastal protection schemes, for which there is considerable pressure.