Coast Protection Bill, 1962— Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I would like to be in a position to give Senators some idea of the extent to which our coasts are being damaged by the encroachment of the sea but there is very little up-to-date information on the problem available. The last general examination of the position was made thirty-two years ago when an inter-departmental committee reported to the then Minister for Local Government and Public Health that there was no conclusive evidence of any really grave erosive action and that much of the erosion was of little practical importance; there were, however, a small number of cases in which erosion was taking place with so much damage or danger to property as to assume, what might be termed, "public importance". I doubt if there has been any material change since and I think it could safely be taken that the committee's assessment still holds good.

The purpose of this Bill is to provide machinery under which county councils and county borough corporations can have cases of erosion in their areas investigated and protective works carried out if protection is possible at a cost which bears a reasonable relation to the value of the property being damaged or endangered. The word "erosion" is not used in the Bill but the terms of the Bill make it quite clear that only genuine and serious cases of erosion will be eligible for treatment. Works may be carried out only when land "is being progressively damaged by the continuing encroachment of the sea, as distinct from occasional or abnormal storms" and "the encroachment is liable to endanger the safety of a harbour, the buildings or amenities of a residential area or other valuable property". Storm damage is specifically excluded and this is of some importance as there is very often confusion between storm damage and erosion. Storm damage is an isolated occurrence but erosion, even though it may be aggravated or accelerated by storms, is a continuing process.

Within the past ten years State aid has been made available for coast protection works in three areas — Bray, Wicklow town and Rosslare Strand. In these cases it was known that the danger to valuable property was imminent and it was possible in each case to put the work in hands without administrative or other difficulties. At Bray the work done was the underpinning of a sea wall which was being progressively undermined. At Wicklow the work was also straight forward consisting mainly of the dumping of heavy protective rubble. Rosslare is the best known and most important of these cases and Senators may be interested to learn something of the work which has been done and is still being done there by the Commissioners of Public Works.

The Wexford County Council had, for many years, made representations for Exchequer aid to arrest erosion at Rosslare Strand, but no positive action was taken. On 3rd May, 1955, they offered to provide £3,000 annually for four years provided that a substantial grant from State sources would be made and the work carried out by the appropriate State Department. In June, 1957, the Government decided, as an exceptional measure, that a programme consisting of a survey and some experimental and direct protection works should be proceeded with by the Office of Public Works. It was agreed between the Wexford County Council and the Office of Public Works that the work should cover the portion of the beach, approximately 3½ miles long, from a point near the churchyard, immediately south of the village of Rosslare Strand, to a point approximately halfway along the Spit.

Works were commenced in 1957, and after experimentation, in which various types of groynes and protection works were tried, a scheme of works was evolved. Under this scheme, a length of about 6,000 yards of beach was covered by a series of groynes, of different types. In general, the groynes were spaced at 150 yards intervals along the beach. The groynes are in the main constructed of round timber stakes. This type of construction is very economical and allows the use of native timbers. The Village section over a length of 650 yards has, in addition, been protected by 5½ ton concrete blocks laid along the beach head; over the parts where erosion was most severe, these blocks are in double rows. Seriously threatened parts of the Golf Course section have also been given direct protection by the erection of stake breast works. The denuded part of the Spit has been reinstated by the construction of a double line of ridge works to back the groynes, and by the use of wind breaks and by grass planting. The beach has also been nourished by transferring material from low water to above High Water Springs to speed up the action of the groynes, and to give immediate protection to the banks.

As foreseeable, the works necessary to complete the scheme include the following:—The general duplication of the present system of groynes, i.e. to give a system of groynes spaced at 75 yard intervals; the extension of stake breast works, if necessary over those sections which up to now have not been given direct protection; the construction of windbreaks and grass planting on the Spit; and the construction of low water protection works on the Spit—if such are found to be necessary. The works will probably be completed in 1964 and the total cost will be about £120,000. The Wexford County Council, who have contributed approximately £30,000, were informed that their contribution would be examined, and a refund made if it exceeded the proportion determined by this Bill to be contributed by local authorities towards the cost of Coast Protection Works. Any refund to the council can be dealt with as an administrative matter and will be entirely outside the provisions of the Bill.

The type of protection works adopted is simple and economical, and it is expected that the works when completed, will give reasonable protection under the present conditions of erosion on that portion of the beach where they have been undertaken. The Commissioners' engineers have learned a great deal from the Rosslare works and this knowledge can be profitably used in the planning and carrying out of future coast protection schemes. I might mention that in 1937, at the request of the Wexford County Council, an English expert on coast protection, Mr. S.W. Mobbs of Lowestoft, East Suffolk, made an investigation at Rosslare and recommended that groynes and an extensive system of retaining walls should be erected at a cost then estimated at £340,000—the equivalent of about £1,000,000 now. As the present scheme is so very much simpler and less costly it was considered desirable to obtain up-to-date advice from Mr. J. Duvivier, a well know London expert. Mr. Duvivier visited Rosslare and expressed the opinion that the works being carried out were on the best lines. The works will, of course, have to be very carefully maintained and in the Bill provision is made for maintaining them in the same manner as works which are carried out under the Bill. This provision is necessary because otherwise the county council would have no authority to pay the maintenance costs.

Although in the three cases I have mentioned it was possible to put the work in hands without any special coast protection legislation, it is by no means certain that in other cases problems of access or interference with privately owned property could be overcome without special powers. Some statutory machinery for dealing with the whole problem is clearly needed and as I have already said the aim of this Bill is to provide the machinery required.

Senators may be aware that this is not the first Coast Protection Bill which has been prepared. In 1956 our predecessors in Government introduced a Coast Protection Bill in Dáil Éireann and it was under discussion when the Dáil was dissolved and the Bill lapsed. This Bill is generally on the same lines as the 1956 Bill but with some important variations, particularly in the financial provisions. The maximum State grant for a coast protection scheme is raised from 50 per cent to the very generous figure of 80 per cent of the cost. Only half the costs incurred by the Commissioners of Public Works on a scheme which does not proceed to execution will now be recoverable from the local authority concerned while under the older Bill the local authority were liable for the full amount of these costs.

Briefly, the Bill provides that if the council of a county or a County Borough are satisfied that land within their area is being progressively damaged by the continuing encroachment of the sea and that the encroachment is liable to endanger valuable property, they may promote a coast protection scheme. If the encroachment affects land in two or more counties, the councils are required to name one council as the authority to promote the scheme. The council or councils shall cause a report on the encroachment to be prepared before a council as a promoting authority under the Bill requests a preliminary examination to be made by the Commissioners of Public Works. If, following the preliminary examination, the Commissioners report that a coast protection scheme is feasible—which is intended to mean practicable within economic limits of cost—they may at the further request of the promoting authority and subject to the consent of the Minister for Finance prepare a scheme.

The scheme, which will show the percentage grant available—not more than 80 per cent—will be exhibited by the promoting authority. They will notify any person affected and consider any observations received and report to the Commissioners on the observations and any alterations which they propose should be made in the scheme. Having considered that report, the Commissioners will submit the scheme to the Minister for Finance with their recommendation. The Minister may refuse to confirm a scheme, or may confirm it with or without alterations. Should he confirm it the Commissioners will be empowered to carry out the works. The difference between the cost of a scheme and the State grant will be payable by the promoting authority subject to such contributions by other local authorities, harbour authorities or other beneficiaries as may be arranged. At any stage before a scheme is submitted to the Minister the promoting authority will be free to decide that the scheme should not proceed and they would then be liable for half the costs and expenses incurred up to that stage. All decisions by a county council on the promotion of a scheme or withdrawal from a scheme will be reserved functions—in other words, within the compass of the elected Representatives as opposed to an Executive function of the State or the county managers.

Powers are provided for entry on lands, etc., for compulsory acquisition or interference with lands or other rights; for payment of compensation; and for the holding of a public inquiry in relation to proposals for a scheme.

Maintenance of completed works will be the responsibility of the Commissioners of Public Works but costs and expenses incurred by them on maintenance will be refunded by the authority who promoted the scheme.

Certain necessary provisions of a miscellaneous nature are made, e.g., to make bye-laws, to abandon protection works no longer capable of being maintained at reasonable cost and to employ contractors.

As the extent of the coast protection work needed is not known and as the initiation of schemes is left to county councils it is not possible to give any estimate of the expenditure which will fall to be met from the Exchequer. I can only say that in planning coast protection works, the aim of the Commissioners will be to secure reasonably effective protection at the lowest possible cost. I recommend this Bill to the House.

This Bill seems to be an entirely reasonable and practical measure. I think it lends itself more to Committee Stage discussion than to a general discussion on Second Stage. It is interesting to hear that a problem which many people think is very grave was considered more than 30 years ago not to be a matter of the first importance, and according to the Parliamentary Secretary that position still prevails. I am aware that in Wicklow and Wexford there has always been considerable talk about this problem, and considerable pressure on the Government to get something done. Outside of that I know of only one area in Waterford —which I have visited for more than 50 years—where erosion seems to be working very hard, that is, in the parish of Ring.

The procedure outlined in the Bill as far as I can see combines local knowledge with practical experience from the top, and with the assistance of the Commissioners of Public Works. I noticed that Wicklow County Council have consulted with outside experts, and we can be assured that the work which will be carried out will be worth doing. The Parliamentary Secretary made no allusion to the fact that in the Dáil the only aggrieved people seemed to be the very important people who come from the County Cork. However, I would not like to argue about these people or say anything about them or about what is happening to the coast in County Cork. Whatever is happening they are not satisfied with what the Parliamentary Secretary is doing and I am sure they will talk about that themselves. Meanwhile, the Bill seems to me to be a practical and useful one and the details of it can safely be left to further discussion on Committee Stage.

Coming as I do from a maritime county with a very big and a very serious coast erosion problem. I should like to say a few words on this measure. It is very difficult, I think, for Senators living in inland counties, or, indeed, for councillors or other people living inland, to realise the magnitude of this coast erosion problem or to understand the importance of this measure. In drawing up the measure, the Parliamentary Secretary seems to have used the expert county council Rosslare Strand works and the procedure followed there as a model for the framework of future schemes and to provide that the Commissioners of Public Works will carry out the schemes. This seems to be an ideal method of carrying out this coast erosion work, that a central agency should carry out the work required and that a pool of experience should be established here in the city.

Before I leave that, I should like at this stage to express my congratulations, and I am sure the congratulations of Wexford County Council, to the young engineers engaged on the scheme at Rosslare Strand. I believe that those young men—they are very active, very able and very keen young engineers— will be of immense value to the Commissioners of Public Works in carrying out future schemes and in establishing this pool of experience here in Dublin. Rosslare Strand has been mentioned very often in connection with the Coast Erosion Bill and the Parliamentary Secretary, both in the Dáil and here, has referred to a report received by Wexford County Council, not in 1937, I think, as he states, but some seven years earlier. Actually, in 1930, there were two reports submitted in Wexford, one report from a firm of civil engineers in Dublin, Delap and Waller in Grafton Street—I do not know if that firm are still in existence or not but that firm were asked in January, 1930 or somewhat earlier, to report on the coast erosion problem at Rosslare Strand by Rosslare Development Society. They reported in January 1930. In the same year, apparently the Wexford County Council were not very happy with the report submitted by the Dublin people and they asked an English expert to report on the coast erosion problem at Rosslare Strand. This was mentioned by the Parliamentary Secretary. This gentleman, Mr. Sidney Wilfred Moss of Lowestoft, Suffolk, reported in October, 1930. It would seem that he was quite an expert with regard to coast erosion because he did invent the groynes used in coast protection works on the east coast of England.

I went to the trouble of digging out both reports from the pigeonholes of the County Hall and the council offices in Wexford and I found that both reports agree on the seriousness of the problem that existed there. They refer to the rapidity of erosion on that coast and they deal with a length of coast extending from Wexford harbour to Rosslare harbour. The works carried out in recent years point to one thing and that is to the wisdom of the reports submitted by our two engineers in Dublin, Delap and Waller. At that time they suggested that a scheme could be carried out at Rosslare Strand that would help to save the village of Rosslare and that would cover 1½ miles of coast there and they suggested that that scheme might be carried out at an initial cost of £1,500 plus a maintenance cost of £500 for a number of years.

The English expert surveyed the same coastline but he gave a figure of £340,000 for a seven mile stretch of coast from Rosslare harbour right up to Wexford town. I am afraid it was that figure of £340,000 that frightened off the Wexford County Council at that time, and, as a result, they did not carry out any work there. He did recommend that a sum of £12,000 spent at Rosslare Strand would have protected the coast. Again, I feel that had that £12,000 been spent then, if there was any provision or any agency by which that work could have been carried out at that time it would have saved a very considerable amount of money that has had to be spent there at the present time.

The position, of course, went from bad to worse over the years. In 1955, Wexford County Council in desperation asked that something should be done. They agreed that those who help themselves are entitled to help from outside. They proposed that they would put up a certain sum of money annually for protection work at Rosslare Strand and, as the Parliamentary Secretary pointed out, the sum agreed on was £3,000. We were wise, of course, at that stage. We insisted that, when this coast protection measure would be introduced, Wexford County Council should be compensated or refunded——

£3,000 per year over a period of years. They insisted that if the provisions of the new measure, when it came, were more favourable to the county council than the provision of one-third of the £3,000 granted at that time that they would be compensated or refunded. That is what has happened in this case.

I should like to refer to Section 16 (a) of this measure which states that:

the Minister for Finance shall contribute, out of moneys to be provided by the Oireachtas, the amount which represents such percentage of the said moneys as is equal to the percentage shown, in the scheme as confirmed, as the percentage which the Minister for Finance is prepared to authorise.

Subsection (b) of the same section states:

the balance shall be contributed by the promoting authority.

As Senators will see, this safeguards the Minister for Finance. The promoting authority, the county council or group of county councils, will get together; they will promote a scheme; they will send it up here. A figure as to what the scheme will cost will be decided on. The Minister at that stage will decide the Departmental contribution. The position can arise that, due to several factors, increase in wages, increase in cost of materials, damage by storm and other incidental factors that may come into the picture, the cost of the job of protection of the coast may be much more than the original figure dicided upon. As I say, the Minister has already covered himself and protected himself in this section but there is no provision by which the county council can protect themselves so far as I can see. I should also like to refer to this question of maintenance.

Any provision by which the county council can protect themselves from what?

From providing increased moneys for the job that is being carried on there. The Minister is covered. In the scheme, as submitted by the promoting authority, the Minister decides on the amount of grant he will give. It is a set figure. It is decided on the overall cost of the job. If the job goes much beyond the figure provided for in the scheme, then the county council must, apparently, as far as I can see, bear the balance.

I hope I am wrong.

The same proportion continues—80 per cent by the State and 20 per cent by the promoting authority calculated on the final part.

Section 16 (a) says: "In the scheme as confirmed". That is the original scheme, as sent up— that does not refer to the final cost of the scheme. In the scheme, as confirmed, the cost may be £40,000, £50,000 or £100,000 or whatever it is but if it runs beyond that——

There is another section. I shall refer to it in my reply.

I accept that. Now in regard to this question of maintenance, in his statement in the Dáil the Parliamentary Secretary did say, in a two sentence paragraph, that maintenance of completed works is so important that it is proposed to make it the responsibility of the Commissioners of Public Works. That is the first sentence. I agree fully with that. He goes further and says that the costs and expenses incurred by the Commissioners on maintenance will be refunded by the authority who promoted the scheme. That is all right. The thing is in the second sentence. The costs will be refunded. It does not seems as if the county council had to carry out the maintenance themselves. I agree that the people who did the job in a case of coast erosion are the proper people to maintain it and look after it. I feel that there will be many difficulties arising in the future as to where construction work ends and maintenance begins.

This coast erosion problem is not like the building of a house or the construction of a bridge. It is not something with finality to it at any particular stage. It is a type of job that will go on for years. To illustrate my point, I should like to refer to a paragraph in the Delap and Waller report that I referred to. It says: "The method I suggest as the cheapest, simplest and quickest for securing the sand as it comes in is to form low groynes of concrete bars which can be raised again and again as the sand level rises, moved in position or in alignment as experience shows how best results can be attained." That is right, of course. It is what is really happening in Rosslare. You are building up one set of groynes on top of another. You are planting this type of grass known locally as "bent grass", which holds the sand and builds up the coast line.

As I pointed out, it is a continous process and where the construction work will end and the maintenance begin will be a very big question in those jobs in the future. I said, at the beginning, that I had certain reservations with regard to the measure. One of them is this. I feel that this should have been made a national charge. I agree that inland counties will find it very hard to become enthusiastic about paying for coast protection works. They will not realise the problem, but I feel that the preservation of our coast is really a matter for the country as a whole. Possibly, I am looking a long way ahead. I can conceive of a time when, if something is not done now and done on a very large and a very big scale, that some Senator Nolan of the future or some Senator Fitzpatrick or L'Estrange will come in here asking that we carry out protection works on the coasts of Carlow, Westmeath or Cavan or some place else.

Now, that may be 500 years hence but that position can arise and I think we should have made it a national charge rather than put any portion of the charge on the local authority. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary will say to me that a maritime county, as a result of its coastline, has certain advantages, and I agree. I have the greatest sympathy for people who are 60, 70, 80, or 100 miles inland and are so far removed that they are unable to get to the beautiful resorts and beaches of a county like Wexford but, nevertheless, I will say that having a long coastline also has its disadvantages. If you meet a year like last year the losses to hoteliers and traders and people living in those seaside resorts can be even as great, if not greater, than the losses in agriculture. If you are like Wexford and have a good football or hurling team going to Dublin or some inland centre nine or ten Sundays in the summer bringing all the people of the county with you then, again, the loss in such a year will be considerable to the seaside people who depend on their visitors for their livelihood.

If you keep talking like that, the standard of the Wexford hurling team will go down.

I am not suggesting that we should give up hurling support of seaside resorts. It happens and did happen seven or eight times in the past 10 years.

The resorts will be in Carlow in 50 years anyway.

It has its disadvantages as well as its advantages. However, I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary that the present measure is a very big improvement on the measure introduced by the previous Government and which fell by the wayside when the election of 1957 came along. We in Wexford and possibly the people in the other seaside counties concerned with coast erosion problems should be very grateful to the late Deputy Allen of Wexford and to Deputy Corry of Cork for the manner in which they held up that Bill in the other House and prevented its going through until such time as the general election of 1957 intervened, which meant that it fell by the wayside.

In that measure the State contribution was up to 50 per cent and a State contribution of 50 per cent would be of no use and certainly would not encourage a county like Wexford, or any other county with a coast erosion problem, to tackle that problem. As I have said, coast erosion is a very big problem and a very difficult one. It is not confined to one area in Wexford alone. It certainly is not confined to any one county in Ireland. Actually in Wexford we have a coast erosion problem on the whole east coast. During my lifetime I have seen large stretches of the Wexford coast between Wexford town and Courtown—a very long distance up—disappearing with its houses. I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary when he said that it would be unwise to spend huge sums of money to save a small portion of land or to save a few houses. That suggestion is also made in one or other of the two reports before me. As I see it, the big problem that arises is that you must save the cliffs or banks by the seaside in a lot of cases. On the Wexford coast some huge sea banks are being eaten away year after year and if you go out you will see large tracts of low lying country on the inland side of these cliffs or banks being gradually washed away by the sea.

As I said in the beginning, I welcome the measure and I would express the hope that the present Parliamentary Secretary next year, or the year after, or possibly in future years when he becomes Minister for Finance, will amend the measure so as to provided 100 per cent State aid to counties carrying out coast erosion works.

Coming from a maritime county, I welcome the Bill and the only objection I have to it is that it applies really to large works and possibly some of the effects that I would like to see arising out of the Bill cannot be achieved in my own county. I notice that the measure is designed to protect in cases in which property is progressively damaged by continued encroachment of the sea as distinct from occasional and abnormal storm damage and where encroachment is liable to endanger the safety of the harbour, the buildings or amenities of a substantial area or very valuable property.

The only loophole I see would direct me to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to be generous in his interpretation of what constitutes valuable property. In a poor county like mine people who live on the coast and who have the only pieces of arable land which they possess being gradually washed away by the sea from year to year look on that piece of property as being very valuable. I do not think it comes within the scope of the Bill. What the Parliamentary Secretary has in mind is property which would be of considerable national value or considerable value to the State rather than to the individual property owner.

As a person who has had to carry out works under various Bills and who has seen the difficulties of operating measures introduced and passed through the Oireachtas. I can really commend this measure from the point of view of covering every possible eventuality in connection with its implementation. I think the difficulties that have arisen in connection with the implementation of other Bills have been fully taken into account in connection with the preparation of this measure and for that reason I see that the measure can apply and be brought into operation and carried out with the minimum amount of delay. Furthermore, the local authorities are consulted at every step. In the beginning, the local authority initiate the scheme. It is sent forward to the Commissioners. The Commissioners make a report after a casual examination. That report goes back to the local authority. It is sent back again to the Commissioners who carry out a more intensive examination and prepare an estimate.

This is a point on which it is absolutely unnecessary for me to delay because the Parliamentary Secretary understands as well as I do that there is no such thing as a rule of thumb in dealing with coast erosion or the measures to be adopted to counter it. Every single problem is a problem in itself. If you are to have success in dealing with and counteracting coast erosion in any particular area, you must have the most intensive investigation before you prepare a scheme and estimate. You must take into account all the consequences which may arise from the work you propose to do. You must take into account also the effects of slowing up the currents along by the coast and take into account also whether, in fact, drawings which have been successful in one case will be suitable for use in another. In some places drawings are effective; in other places they are completely and entirely ineffective. It all depends on the direction of the currents along the coast.

All that will, I am sure, be dealt with. There is not very extensive work to be carried out in my own county but, at the same time, there is coast erosion which is of considerable importance to the local people.

One of the things that strikes me as being quite inequitable is that the cost, as another Senator said, of any scheme should be 20 per cent of the local charge. The problem of the western seaboard and all the maritime counties is a problem of a high density of population in restricted areas. For the most part the counties are wild and mountainous and vast areas have very few people, and then there is a concentration of people in small areas with high valuation. In addition to that, the cost of our services are relatively high as compared with inland counties for the reason that we have vast distances to travel and vast areas with low density of population. If we examine the rates, we find that in all the maritime counties they are higher than in any of the inland counties. In my own county at the present time the county rate stands at 63/- in the £. Even at that, the amount available per head of the population for health services is considerably less than the amount available per head of the population in any of the inland counties, so that we are really at the present time completely at a disadvantage and I do not know that the fact that a short journey can take us to the enjoyment of the seaside compensates for what we have to put up with in the matter of heavy rates and poor local housing.

There is one point in connection with the implementation of measures of this kind which has always given me trouble and has given trouble in my own county. That is not exactly when a job finishes and when maintenance begins, but to accept that, when the Commissioners of Public Works say a job is finished, that it is finished. For this reason the Commissioners of Public Works have the responsibility for carrying out the particular job; at the time they complete the job the county engineer is authorised to go along to inspect the work and he is supposed to be satisfied with it before he takes it over on behalf of the county council. If the county engineer from his local knowledge considers that the work is not complete, that it does not 100 per cent meet the requirements of the county council, that it is not 100 per cent satisfactory from his point of view, the Commissioners of Public Works can say: "Yes it is. It is quite satisfactory. Your objection is of no avail." This matter should be dealt with. It is not a matter in the Bill but it is one which arises in connection with works carried out by the Commissioners of Public Works for county councils. When the Commissioners say "that is that" any points the county engineer may raise are of no avail.

There is only one other point which I should like to mention. Although county councils have to pay half the cost of examination and preparation of a scheme right up to the time when the work comes to be done, the Commissioners of Public Works may come along and say the job is not satisfactory and abandon it. The local authority have already contributed to it half the cost of investigation up to the point where work is started. They have contributed 50 per cent possibly or more towards carrying out the job. Then something happens and the Office of Public Works say it is no longer possible, it is a failure, they are drawing out of it and the local authority has no redress.

I agree, of course, that the maintenance of any scheme that is satisfactorily completed should be carried out by the Commissioners of Public Works because, having carried out the scheme in the first place, they should have a better knowledge of its maintenance requirements and they have suitable machinery. The full cost of maintenance, however, has to be met by the local authority. Coming from an unfortunate western county. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to see if any relief could be given in connection with maintenance to the maritime counties.

A point which is not covered in the Bill but which is of very considerable importance in our county is the erosion which takes place on rather a smaller scale but which is very serious for people who have only a small portion of arable land.

That is covered in the Bill.

If a portion of arable land is taken I understand—and I think I am right—that the Land Commission can re-assess the amount of rent to be paid. They can make a reduction in respect of land attacked by erosion. I think that is correct but what strikes me, however, is that notwithstanding the fact that a considerable portion of land may be washed away the valuation of the holding remains the same. The valuation is never reduced so a person continues to pay rates on the original valuation, on a portion of land which no longer exists.

Can they not appeal?

No, I do not think there is any provision for appealing.

Yes, I think there is.

They cannot appeal on this Bill. It is wide of the measure.

They cannot appeal under any Bill. I do not want to say any more on the measure except that it is wrong that there should be no reduction in valuation where there is a considerable amount of erosion if I am correct in stating that land annuities can be reduced.

I think it is generally agreed that this measure is over-due and I am glad that the Parliamentary Secretary has brought it in because we can all see how necessary it is to deal with coast erosion. Every year, every winter in particular, some portion of the soil of the country is eaten away by the sea. It depends on the weather. If we get a mild winter it may not be just so bad but mild winters are really scarce. People living in counties bordering on the sea, as quite a lot of people do and people living inland who at some stage visit the seashore, all know that portions of valuable land are disappearing and it is a good thing that an attempt is being made to prevent it. Even so, we are still bound to suffer coast erosion to some extent.

Now that arrangements have been made to try to prevent it and public funds used, the Department should see that seashore which is used by the public in summer time and at other periods will be safeguarded. I have no doubt that it will be so that people will still be able to visit these places. These places should be protected so that there will be no interference with their use by the public. It is very valuable for people to be able to visit these seaside places even though they may not be as good as they were in previous years. I hope that this investigation which is to be made now will not be prolonged and that at least the places with a prior claim will be attended to immediately or as soon as possible.

In the first place, I should like to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary for the practical and generous manner in which he introduced the Bill and on the substantial improvement in the financial position as far as local authorities are concerned in comparision with previous measures.

This is a Bill which has been sought for many years. There are quite a number of acute problems of coast erosion in various parts of the country. In this statement to the Dáil, when introducing the Bill, the Parliamentary Secretary referred to a number of problems but mentioned only three places, all on the eastern coast, Bray, Wicklow and Rosslare. I am quite sure it is unnecessary for me to remind them that on the west and south west coast there are a number of very acute problems too.

From time to time complaints have been made to his Department—which seems to have been the only Department in a position to give at least advice—in connection with extensive damage in Ballyheigue, Ballybunion and the Magharees. I hope those complaints which have been registered and which have been followed up in various ways over the years will now get some priority from the Office of Public Works when claims are made by local authorities.

The co-operation of local authorities, particularly of the engineering staff of local authorities, is very essential in this matter and I was inclined to avail of this opportunity to suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that he should arrange a conference at the earliest date possible after the Bill becomes law for the county engineers of the particular local authorities which seem to be involved in this matter. I feel there is quite a lot of explanation which could best be given by a verbal exchange of views in connection with the various provisions of the Bill and the interpretation of certain passages contained in the Bill.

I fully appreciate that the Parliamentary Secretary had to insert a section to provide for the payment of the expenses incurred in preparing the schemes on a 50/50 basis. That in itself, will bring home to the local authorities the necessity for submitting schemes which come strictly within the terms of the Bill, and are likely to commend themselves to favourable consideration when they reach head-quarters.

One Senator said that it would be too bad if, after a local authority in their wisdom had submitted a scheme, that scheme had to be withdrawn, particularly after some investigatory work had been carried out. The local authority would be, so to speak, stuck for 50 per cent of the expenses involved if, due to no fault of their own, the scheme had to be abandoned. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will give a reasonably wide interpretation to the provision and that the local authorities will not be disappointed too often.

The position in regard to coast erosion in the west and south west has worsened considerably within the past 10 years. I disagree to some extent with the Parliamentary Secretary when, in introducing the Bill, he suggested that it was probably true to say that the conclusions reached by the inter-Departmental committee, set up 30 years ago, largely still held good. That may be so in certain parts of the country, but in at least two of the places I mentioned there is a very great problem. The village of Ballyheigue, with 1,100 people, is in danger of being washed away. Various efforts have been made to get the local authority to do something about it, but the only contributions they were able to make was to erect a wall in part of the threatened area under, I think it was, a Local Authority (Works) Act scheme. They probably got around it by saying they were preventing flooding, but they were preventing coast erosion. That, in itself, was only a very interim arrangement but it did a vast amount of good in keeping the sea at bay in that area. Further down, the damage still continues to take place and the position is very serious.

I suggest again that conferences with the county engineers of the counties which will have schemes forth-coming would be a very good arrangement, and would help to short-circuit a lot of the anomalies and difficulties that may otherwise present themselves.

I want to pose one question to the Parliamentary Secretary. We have heard instances and complaints in recent years about the foreshore being closed to the inhabitants in certain areas. I should like to be assured that, as public money will be spent under this Bill for the prevention of erosion, when the protective work is finished the foreshore which will have been saved by the spending of public money will be kept open to the general public. I want to ensure against public money being spent to preserve private beaches for latecomers to the country. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to reassure me on that small point.

I should like to thank Senators on both sides of the House for the co-operative manner in which they dealt with this Bill. Senator Hayes mentioned the problem that exists in Ring in County Waterford. We have had representations in the past in that regard. I want to say to Senator Hayes and to the House that it is not a question of having conferences with county engineers—which were mentioned by Senator Moloney— but it is a question of each county council concerned ascertaining if there is progressive encroachment and erosion in their areas. I suggest that they should make an examination of any case within their own bailwick. It is possible that at this stage a considerable sum of money could be saved if action were taken now. No matter how small a scheme may be, we will be prepared to have it examined and to pay our contribution, because we appreciate—and I have no doubt the Minister for Finance appreciates also —that a substantial saving can be made by taking early action in regard to what might in years to come prove to be very costly and serious erosion.

It is true, as Senator Hayes said, that local knowledge and practical experience from the top do count. The local knowledge of individuals and the knowledge of the county engineers will be of great assistance.

In regard to the point raised by Senator Browne, it is not possible to have a hard and fast rule or a system of design in coast erosion. Each case will be, like a medical card, dealt with on its merits, and I trust that we will be successful in coming to an equitable solution. While a system of groynes and the planting of grass may be appropriate in Rosslare, that type of construction might not be appropriate in Kilkee or in Ballybunion or on the west coast.

I should like to endorse Senator Browne's compliments to the young Irish engineers engaged on that work in Rosslare. They are definitely very deserving of congratulation. The experts who advised us spoke very highly of their capabilities. I should like to take this opportunity—as I said in the Dáil on one occasion—of pointing out to Senators that the standard among Irish engineers, and particularly the engineers in our public services, is very high indeed. So much so that Governments from abroad, from the Continent, from Britain and America, have sent their engineers here to see what they could learn from our Irish engineers, with particular reference to arterial drainage. We can be justifiably proud of that fact.

Senator Browne mentioned Section 16. The Senator might read the section agains carefully. The Minister might, for example, confirm a scheme costing £200,000. It might be that when the job was finished, throught wage increases, increases in materials and unforeseen circumstances the job might cost £250,000. The same proportion will obtain. The State will contribute up to 80 per cent and the local authority will contribute 20 per cent of the final cost.

Senator Browne and other Senators also regretted the fact that we could not see our way to give 100 per cent of the cost of these schemes. In the first instance, he said that, when the previous Government brought in their measure, they gave only 50 per cent of the cost of a scheme and that the present Government were giving 80 per cent but that was not enough. I am sure the Seanad will appreciate that were this to be a national charge and the local authority were not under a statutory obligation to make a contribution, we would have a flood of feckless schemes with no merits, economic or otherwise. The question of the local authority having to pay a contribution of 20 per cent of the ultimate cost will certainly, in our opinion, be a reasonable restraint and they will think twice, possibly, before they will send us stupid schemes—at least that is what we hope. If they send us stupid schemes they will not get much assistance from us. We will deal with them and send them back again.

There is another thing. While the State pays 80 per cent and the local authority pay 20 per cent of the ultimate cost it should be borne in mind that that 20 per cent contributed by the local authority can be obtained by borrowing from the Local Loans Fund.

Or from local beneficiaries.

Or from local beneficiaries.

Landowners if they want——

If the Kerry County Council or any other county council can get a contribution from the local land owners or beneficiaries, as Senator Moloney says, all the better but the county council, the local promoting authority, as far as we are concerned, will be the body which will provide us with the 20 per cent. Now it is of no concern of ours if the Kerry County Council can collect half that sum, 10 per cent, from the people who are benefiting. For instance, in Wicklow, there is a railway which was being threatened by the sea and if the local authority could get a contribution from the Board of CIE, I am sure——

That would become a national charge, too.

Perhaps the analogy is a bit strained.

(Interruptions.)

The question of maintenance is, I think, quite clear. It is only right that the Commissioners of Public Works, a completely outside independent body, having contributed in the main a high proportion of the cost, should see to it that the work will not be brought to nought through lack of proper maintenance. It might be asked why the local authority, with their local knowledge, are not empowered to carry out this maintenance work. Human nature being what it is, when the annual rate is being struck— and we are all trying to bring them down to round figures and reduce them by 8d. or 1/- —the local authority might be of the opinion that the provision for maintenance charges should be cut, if they were to do the work themselves or the work might be done in a skimpy manner. That is the reason the Office of Public Works do the work themselves and recover from the local authority.

Senator, Flanangan mentioned the position in Mayo. It is not a question of the area of land in respect of which we will consider contributing. As I said before, each case will be dealt with on its merits and the consideration will not be on the basis of the size of the scheme a local authority put up. We are quite satisfied, in the main, that county managers, city managers, county engineers and responsible members of local authorities will not send up schemes unless they are of reasonable economic merit.

Regarding the question of valuation, it was suggested by Senator Flanagan that where a coast erosion scheme is carried out, the Land Commission might come along and increase the valuation fixed on a holding.

A Senator

Increase the land annuity.

Increase the land annuity? The Senator is wrong whatever he meant. There is no case. The Land Commission might do a lot of things but it does not do that. We can use the same argument in respect of the Arterial Drainage Act. It does not arise. I am glad Senator Flanagan raised the matter because it is of interest.

Senator Desmond urged us in certain areas, such as important beaches generally, to carry out works as soon as possible. We have not the right of initiating any scheme, much as we might wish the Office of Public Works to do so. We shall give all the co-operation possible but the proposal in the first instance must be initiated by the local authority and we will be only too glad to examine any suggestion by the local authority that would not cost very much.

Senator Moloney suggested that we should have conferences of the county engineers dealing with maritime counties. I do not think really that there is such a great number of coast erosion cases in the country and certainly if the Kerry county engineer or Cork county engineer wants to have discussions with our officials at any time, he is very welcome. I do not know what would be achieved by the county engineers of Wexford, Wicklow, Kerry or Clare coming together. As I say again, each case is dealt with on its merits.

A standard pattern of operation.

We have a standard pattern of operations. I do not understand how you could have a hard and fast rule. Perhaps the Senator might let me know what he has in mind. As I say, each case is definitely different and you could not have a hard and fast rule. The only hard and fast rule here is the method of procedure by a local authority. With regard to the actual construction work, it would not be feasible.

Senator Murphy wished to have an assurance that the rights of way for the public to the beaches will be kept open when work is done. "Kept open" would suggest that they were open at one time. I presume what he means is that if the State makes a substantial investment or carries out substantial works, no landowner could, as has been suggested has happened in fact, keep people from enjoying the amenities of the beaches. That is a sentiment with which we all agree.

I think it does not need any amendment to ensure that such is the case, but I can assure Senators that so far as our Department are concerned, that will be a primary consideration. I am very glad the matter was raised.

I very much appreciate the valuable contributions and suggestions made. I intend to look into the matter to see if any further action is necessary. I do not think it will arise. Again I wish to thank Senators for their suggestions.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 24th April, 1963.
Business suspended at 6.15 p.m. and resumed at 7.30 p.m.