That Seanad Éireann
—condemns the decision by the Government to include a multi-lane motorway, running through the centre of Dublin from Whitehall on the north side to Booterstown on the south side, in its transportation plans for Dublin City;
—further condemns the failure of the local authority, Dublin Corporation, to conduct a feasibility study or environmental impact study of the proposals prior to adoption;
—recommends that the estimated £200 million cost, involving EC Structural Funds and taxpayers' money, should be invested in the development of an attractive public transport system to relieve congestion in the city caused by the uncontrolled use of private transport;
—and calls on the Government to rescind its decision immediately.
I welcome the Minister to the Chamber. I am sure he will be, as usual, understanding and willing to co-operate with any request we make on this matter.
The motion is extremely important dealing with an age old problem in the city of Dublin. It is unfortunate that it should rear its head at this time. There were a number of years when there was tremendous emphasis on the development of Dublin as an attractive, vibrant, cultural capital and in the Millennium year of 1988 tremendous strides were made. I would like to pay tribute to the then Lord Mayor, Carmencita Hederman who is now a Senator, for focusing so strongly on the whole issue of the environment in the city of Dublin and indeed in the nation generally. Certainly there was tremendous focus on the city at that time.
In the years 1989 and 1990 we debated in this House the Derelict Sites Bill and the Building Control Bill. We put in place legislation to protect our city. This year, 1991, Dublin has been designated cultural capital of Europe. In the last couple of years we felt that the tide was turning in relation to prioritising the culture, the environment and the community of the city and that things were moving positively rather than negatively. In the same period the Custom House Docks development took place, a desirable development in general terms. In its structure there were plans for the development of a very attractive marina going down to the Liffey. This is one of the major causes of this problem with the eastern by-pass. In developing the marina, access to the port and docks on the north side of the Liffey was cut off.
Presumably it was in that context that the Government, in co-operation with the European Commission, decided to agree to allocate £96 million to the Dublin port access route which stretched from Whitehall, the junction of the northern motorway from Swords, the airport and the North, down as far as East Wall. That gave birth to the extension which became the eastern by-pass. There were further proposals to cross the Liffey, proposals made at the time of the Dublin transport study in 1971.
What was proposed, and what we had thought had been killed off in 1980, was that a multi-lane highway would go right across from Whitehall, tunnelling under houses in Griffith Avenue, across grounds in Drumcondra partly owned by the Archbishop of Dublin and through the football grounds of Rosmini community school, a school for the partially blind. It was intended that the laneway would cross the football pitch of that school before going through open cut and tunnelling underground past Fairview and the flats in Ballybough. Imagine having a four lane highway and all the noise it would generate underneath one's house. You would need one of Saddam Hussein's bunkers to escape all that noise. That highway is to continue along the Tolka river. How it will take place we still do not know. It will then go into Dublin Port and there is a feasibility study as to how it will cross the Liffey. It crosses over then to Sandymount and there is now a change from a previous proposal for an undercut which was originally there to keep it out of the view of passersby to new proposals for a tunnel. It changes all the time. There is a proposal for a further tunnel under Sandymount Strand and then a further feasibility study as to how it will go through Booterstown. This proposal has been made by Dublin engineers, not by Dublin planners. The planning section in Dublin Corporation had almost no say in the Eastern by-pass project and the plan went from the engineers to the General Purposes Committee in Dublin Corporation — not the planning committee — which would have been the normal and proper body to have dealt with it.
The original plan was amended to include the present plan incorporating the total length from Whitehall down to Booterstown; the only provision was that it would be subject to a feasibility study and an environmental impact study. The ludicrous situation now is that the plans are before the public who have until 8 March to make their submissions objecting to these plans. At the very same time, this month, we are embarking on a feasibility study which does not cover the entire route, only part of the route, and an environmental impact study, neither of which can be completed, even if they were comprehensive. We all know they are not intended to be completed until the exhibition is taken back to City Hall. Any objections were made subsequent to us possibly seeing the broad nature of the environmental impact or of any other feasibility issues. The studies will come out in the middle of summer, July at the earliest, and the plans will be taken off exhibition by 8 March. What a ludicrous set of procedures. How could any decent planners with concern for the city, particularly when you think about the quantity of area, the extent of the possible problems that could arise and the number of communities that will be affectd by a highway going right through the city centre of Dublin, operate in that fashion? These are not just bad procedures, they are illegal.
This is not something that the corporation should be doing because section 69 of the Environmental Protection Agency Bill that we were discussing today makes a specific reference to procedures that have to be adopted in relation to environmental planning. It specifically refers to two Statutory Instruments to which I refer the Minister. Statutory Instrument 349 of 1989, the environmental impact assessment is a general Statutory Instrument in relation to planning and environmental impact. Statutory Instrument No. 221 of 1988 specifically deals with the European Community environmental impact assessment on motorways. That instrument, which I took the opportunity of perusing in the Library, is very specific. Section 3 says that section 4 of the Act should be amended by the following section: Before making a scheme under this section a road authority shall have regard to the preservation of scenic and natural amenities and shall prepare an environmental impact study of the proposed motorway which shall identify, describe and assess the direct and indirect environmental defects of the construction of the proposed motorway before making the scheme. What are the areas to be covered by the environmental impact study? First, human beings, fauna and flora; secondly, soil, water, air, climate, landscape; thirdly, the interaction between the matters referred to above; fourthly, material assets and, fifthly, the cultural heritage. It goes on to describe in considerable detail the proposed motorway and refers to the emission of pollutants and the creation of nuisance. In relation to the environmental impact study, it states that when the scheme is being prepared a copy of the scheme and the map referring to the environmental impact study may be inspected and submissions can be made to the Minister and so on.
Clearly the intent, both the spirit and the letter of that Instrument, is that feasibility and environmental studies would be made prior to possible objections being lodged because it is simply impossible to lodge comprehensive objections, with the full knowledge of what may be the nature of the objections, until the legislation, as prescribed by the European Community in 1988 and which is the law of this land at present, has been adhered to. This development by the corporation, with the support of the Government because of their initial decision to put taxpayers' money and Structural Funds into it for this purpose, is not just a white elephant, it is in flagrant breach of the law of the land.
It is intended that this roadway will have the capacity to take 70,000 cars, each car can, in the course of one year, produce approximately four times its own weight in pollutants through exhaust and gas omissions. That is a frightening consequence and at the same time the public do not have available to them a scientific properly researched study of its impact. The Minister must immediately address this very serious matter.
The second part of the motion relates to the amount of money to be spent, estimated at £200 million; indeed many commentators estimate it to be at least £300 million or £400 million, it could easily be double the original costing. Is there an alternative? We have a problem with Dublin Port which must be addressed. A number of proposals have been made and they should certainly be the subject of an independent study. That is what I mean when I talk about a feasibility study. I am not just talking about a feasibility study that covers parts of the motorway to see whether they are feasible in terms of the routes and so on. I am talking about the feasibility study which is required to see what is the best way of dealing with the problems that the corporation and the Government have identified in relation to access to the port and in relation to the gross congested overcrowding that takes place in the city of Dublin.
A major contribution was made to the debate by the Electricity Supply Board with their set of proposals to transfer Dublin Port to a location at Lough-shinney on the north side of Dublin at a cost of £160 million, which would have ready access to the various areas to which the traffic goes. Dublin Port conducted their own study and found that the cost was approximately double that proposed by the ESB. Whatever the cost there is a feasible proposal meaning that all the problems created in relation to the development of Dublin in terms of transport problems and in terms of access to the port and heavy containerised traffic could be dealt with very simply in that fashion. That proposal was made by a major body and costed by them. It deserves an independent assessment.
It is also possible that a tunnel could be constructed under the quays because, according to the plans, much of what we are talking about is going to be underground. Therefore, why not build a tunnel along the western, southern cross or northern by-pass routes? How come this option was not considered in the feasibility study? Can the existing railway line to the port be examined to see if it could be used to transport cargo to a central depot on the outskirts of the city from where it could be distributed nationwide as required?
Those possibilities have not been the subject of any study and have not been considered. We have decided to follow the straightforward policy which has existed for the past two decades and which has been revamped with a few minor alterations in relation to tunnelling. It has been dropped upon us again two decades after it was initially proposed and one decade after it was rejected out of hand by the city council. Now, because of a majority on the city council, it has been accepted.
On the issue of commuter traffic, we have to examine whether what is being proposed will lead to an increase or a decrease in traffic. On the one hand, Dublin Corporation say this will be a fast lane for container traffic heading for the port and straight out on the southern side while, on the other hand, they tell every community in the city it will get rid of the problem of commuters cutting through small areas in East Wall, Ballybough and on the south side. They are pretending that it will solve the two problems. On the one hand they say only through traffic will be allowed while on the other they say it will relieve congestion. It will not solve both problems. What is going to happen? Nobody seems to know. All we know is that the old plans have been brought in again.
The only effective commuter transport system we have designed so far in Dublin is the DART system. Indeed, it has been so successful that more than 50 per cent of the workforce in the areas in which it operates use it whereas in other areas roughly 28 per cent of the workforce use public transport. If we are to solve the problems in the city we must use a rapid light rail system, but this has not been considered either by the Government or by Dublin Corporation. Approximately £27 million of taxpayers' and EC funds has been put aside for the development of the public transport system while approximately £300 million has been put aside for the construction of roads in the city. This is ludicrous and anti the development of a vibrant city.
This city could be developed like Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool where all the old buildings were knocked down and highways constructed or we could develop the city as other European cities have been developed, where inner cities and their communities have been preserved intact and restrictions have been placed on commuter traffic in and out of the city. That is the choice we have to make. Either we are going to have a living, attractive city or a city of bricks and mortar and roads. We have now reached the critical point.
If this development goes ahead a highway will run through the centre of Dublin, traffic congestion will worsen, there will be an increase in the number of private cars in the city, resulting in heavier pollution and emissions, a decrease in the quality of life and the environment of the city, and an undermining of the city as a cultural capital. These are matters we have to address. It is not only a matter for the local authority, the Government must also accept some responsibility. I ask the Minister for the Environment to look at this matter again and tell the local authority that they must have a proper exhibition, subsequent to the feasibility study and the environmental impact assessment. This road scheme and its purpose should be reviewed and all the other possibilities should be the subject of an independent examination and review.