George’s Dock in disrepair. A denounced white-water facility is planned to fix it

dcc white water facility

The white-water facility of €23 million will be constructed in George’s Dock despite criticism.

It was early December 2019. While Dubliners were in a hurry doing their Christmas shopping, councillors met to vote on a proposal to develop a white-water facility in George’s Dock.

Soon after a short presentation by Dublin City Council officer Derek Kelly, councillors flaked him with numerous questions: Why will not there be a public lido? Will the project pay for itself? How about the insurance? Will a wider community benefit from it? Would the money not be better spent elsewhere? And it went on and on.

Out of 59 councillors, 37 eventually said yes to the white-water facility, 19 voted no, and three abstained.

The project of almost €23 million could have been seen as a great Christmas present. Nevertheless, the public has opposed to it due to millions of euros to be spent on the project from public money even though Dublin has still not tackled its housing crisis.

WHITE-WATER RAFTING COURSE ELEMENTS

  • central flat-water training facility including water polo amenity,
  • white water course,
  • kayak/raft conveyor,
  • pumping station and water treatment plant,
  • mechanical control centre and electrical substations,
  • enhancement of existing public lighting and provision of low illumination level floodlighting for water-based activities, and
  • swift water rescue centre with floodable urban street and mock enclosures forming a ‘rescue village’ 

Useful for emergency services

Dublin City Council (DCC) presented the first outline of the project in May 2018. It said it wanted to build up a white-water rafting course, a swift water rescue training facility for Dublin Fire Brigade and a kayaking and water polo pool in the George’s Dock basin.

George's Dock DCC

George’s Dock (Source: DCC)

Those who supported the proposal claimed the investment would make George’s Dock more attractive to the community and tourists, and local businesses would thus benefit from it as well. Fáilte Ireland, the country’s tourism development authority, was one of the organisations that welcomed the project.

In addition, the facility would create an accessible centre of excellence for water-based sporting and leisure activities.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Greg O’Dwyer said to councillors, on December 2, there was no facility in Ireland that would suit their needs and trainings. Today, Dublin Fire Brigade train in the Upper Liffey area as that is the only place with swift water. However, the water quality in this area is not good, and a number of people were taken ill.

“It’s not just for ourselves,” he said, adding civil defence and other emergency services across Ireland would make use of it.

A first look at the new facility was revealed at the end of last November. The project will result in the demolition of the former Dublin Docklands Development Authority office building and removal of several trees at Custom House Quay (CHQ). New Quayside Buildings will be constructed instead.

Housing vs white-water rafting facility

Critics of the project, however, said George’s Lock was not the appropriate location for the facility as it would disrupt a peaceful nature of the area. Rowing and kayaking could be done in the Liffey, they said.

“Dublin City Council is actively engaged in promoting the increased use of the Liffey by water sports groups,” the Council said in its report. “The City Council supports numerous events on the water such as the Liffey swim, the annual ‘All in a Row’ charity race, the annual ‘Parade of Sail’”.

George's Dock white water facility

George’s Dock white-water facility (Source: DCC)

Some said the facility was a waste of money, and long-term costs were also seen as an issue.

“The plan indicates that we will run a surplus by year 2,” Kelly said. He added the rafting element of the facility would subsidise the community use of the facility. For now, it is expected 36,000 people should visit the centre a year. This is less by half compared to similar facilities in Glasgow and Cardiff.

The Council went on to say, based on a noise report, the area was not a noise sensitive area, adding Christmas Markets and Oktoberfest took place in the space in the past.

Money, money, money

On the other hand, the project caused anger for its high costs. In January 2019, the facility was projected to cost €12 million, excluding VAT, two new buildings, and other fees. Twelve months later, the costs are predicted to stand at €22.8 million without insurance.

The DCC said €13 million will come from grants, mostly from central government, almost €5 million from development levies and €4 million from the Council’s capital reserves. Kelly said in December the facility will be owned and operated by the DCC.

“How are two thirds of Dublin councillors in favour of spending €22 million on a white-water rafting centre rather than helping the thousands of homeless?” Matthew Pierce asked on twitter.

This money could have also been used to save the Markievicz pool and gym, some said.

“Dublin City Council needs to be funding community pools, not a silly, costly, white-water rafting centre,” Karlin Lillington tweeted.

History of George’s Dock

One of the reasons why the Dublin City Council approved the proposal to build up the  white-water facility is the fact that George’s Dock has lacked investment and is visually unattractive compared to the surroundings.

Extract from First Edition OS Map 1837

Extract from First Edition OS Map 1837 (Source: DCC)

The Dock was built in 1821, the year when George IV visited Ireland, to the designs of Scottish engineer John Rennie. It formed part of a complex of docks and warehouses.

The Docklands area has changed since then. It all began in the eighties when the Irish Financial Services Centre (IFSC) was built to the west of George’s Dock. The CHQ building stands to the east.

Extract from a View of Dublin, Illustrated London News, 1846

Extract from a View of Dublin, Illustrated London News, 1846 (Source: DCC)

Different public events have taken place here on a few occasions. The DCC has owned George’s Dock since 2016 when Dockland Development Authority was dissolved.

About the author

Peter Dlhopolec

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