Clare County Council has moved to smooth the waters in relation to visual concerns concerning the proposed completion of Lahinch coastal repair works, costing in the region of €3 million.
While a lot of protection work is almost completed opposite Seaworld and the car park, the Department of Heritage has expressed concern in relation to the visual concealment of the nearby protected structure during the second phase.
The development comprises of repair works to the existing sea walls and access steps, a new 330m rock revetment structure along the length of the existing sea defences and revised surfacewater management proposals for the N67 national secondary road that would discharge to an outfall within the new rock armour protection.
In addition, a small breakwater would be installed adjacent to the base of the stepped beach access.
County councillors are being urged to support the repair and strengthening of the existing coastal defence revetment and seawall at the Old Promenade, Dough, Lahinch, by acting director of physical development, Tom Tiernan.
In a report prepared for councillors, which will be discussed at a county council meeting next Monday, Mr Tiernan has recommended that this development would proceed, subject to the conditions outlined in the report of the senior planner.
A Part Eight application under Article 80 and 81 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 has been submitted for councillors’ consideration concerning development works, including the upgrade of steps to the beach, as well as alterations and repairs to the surface water network.
It aims to protect human life, public infrastructure and private property in Lahinch, allow for the future development of the area and repair the damage done to the coastal infrastructure in 2014.
This process is similar to a planning application, apart from one important difference – it cannot be appealed to An Bord Pleanála.
The development has been the subject of an Appropriate Assessment Screening, in accordance with Article Six (3) of the EU Habitats Directive.
In its submission to the council, the Department of Heritage noted that works are proposed to the existing sea wall, which is listed on the Record of Protected Structures in the 2017 to 2023 Clare County Development Plan.
The department expressed concern in relation to potential storm damage to the existing wall after the construction of the sea defences and the excavation of rocks in close proximity to the wall.
It recommended that appropriate mitigation measures should be undertaken to lessen the physical and visual impacts from the proposed works.
Responding to these concerns, a council planning report noted that, due to the sloping nature of this sea wall, the inclusion of rock armour, both adjacent to and atop same, is proposed.
This report noted that, after construction of the sea defences, the existing protected structure would be visually concealed by the rock armour. Repair works to this section of sea wall are proposed in advance of the inclusion of rock armour to the west of same.
These works pertain to the sensitive restoration of the wall using traditional materials and do not extend to the use of material such as shotcrete. The report pointed out that mitigation is proposed at construction stage, in relation to the excavation works and rock armour works required adjacent or on this wall.
“The current sea wall has proven to be ineffective during extreme weather events and the properties to the east of same have been extensively damaged in the past.”
At present, there are limited levels of rock armour at the base of this structure and the wall is open to the force of the waves during storm events.
“The structural integrity of this protected structure will be continually tested, should no further works be carried out at this location. The proposed additional sea defences would assist in protecting the existing wall from the rigours of the sea,” the report stated.
Having regard to the demonstrated requirement for these sea defences, the history of overtopping at this location, the current dangers to properties and human life and the nature of the proposed development, the report concluded that, while these works would increase the visual impact of the sea defences in the area and will conceal the protected structure, on balance this is acceptable.
Studies have shown that the old sea wall at Lahinch, a portion of which dates from the early 19th century, is no longer capable of protecting the town and that the only solution is the installation of heavy rock armou between the beach and town.
Senior planner, Brian McCarthy has recommended five planning conditions, including the submission of a site-specific contractor method statement incorporating construction industry research and information research to the planning authority for its written agreement.
The appointed environmental officer has to be present during all foreshore works and has to be responsible for the supervision and monitoring of works at all times, in compliance with the method statement.
This officer has to act as the ecological clerk of works and submit, on a weekly basis, a schedule of works operation record demonstrating compliance with all commitments and conditions.
Before the start of development work, a complete annotated photographic record of the existing sea wall, associated with Registered Protected Structure Number 600, has to be submitted to the planning authority.
By Dan Danaher