Update on Bray Municipal District Meeting on Tuesday 1st March 2022
This was a really packed meeting, that presented lots of challenges. Different views, significant decisions and at times some heated debate.
Debate I welcome, and although at times things get heated, I believe it comes from our collective commitment to our community. Debate allows for different views and opinions. We are not a group of similar minded people and that I believe is good for our community. Our differences are our strength and I hope that we will always be able to have healthy debates.
The following tries to give a brief overview of two of the main items discussed, decisions made and my thoughts. As always please do get in contact of you need any further clarity.
Additional Public Realm Expenditure 2022
Additional public realm funding was available to Bray Municipal District this year for the first time. This funding came as a result of a decision last year to increase parking charges on the seafront from 30c an hour to 50c an hour. A total of €96,000 additional funding was generated.
As a condition of this parking charge increase, any additional funding was ringfenced for Bray MD only and did not form part of Wicklow County Councils budget.
At the Bray MD meeting on the 1st of February members were invited to submit proposals for spending of this funding for costing and consideration.
I put forward the following submissions which were approved.
Repairs to footpath and hard surface at Fairyhill - €2,000
Removal of old shrubbery in from open space in Fairyhill - €450
Purchase of Pride Flags to be installed along the seafront flag poles during Pride Month in June - €150
Clearance of ground in Dargle Riverside Park, Lower Dargle Rd which will address current overgrowth - €2,000
The following projects which were submitted by other Councillors and the District Engineer were also approved.
· Enniskerry electric charger - €13,500
· Provision of litter bins and dog fouling bins along Southern Cross Road - €5,500
· Erect directional signage for Kilmacanogue N.S. - €500
· The Bog Meadow Group is applying for a Leader Grant to do a Feasibility Study for the future use of the Bog Meadow Area that is leased out to the Bog Meadow Group. This study will include the community use for the facilities it will be including.
· This funding of 5,000 will be used for match funding for the Leader application. - €5,000
· Uncontrolled raised pedestrian crossing Albert Avenue - €10,000
· Refurbishment of ladies’ toilet block on Bray Seafront - €40,000
· Swimming Pontoon - €4,000
· Painting of a section of Victorian Seatbacks on Seafront - €12,900
There was some debate on how funding decisions are made, in particular how decisions are made on what projects are approved and what is not. From looking at previous Council meeting minutes for many years gone by, and in my experience to date submission are requested, and proposals put forward at Council meetings and a vote taking in public. Voting and making decisions in public is I believe the right way for these decisions and to ensure that they are transparent.
This money is not handed to Councillors to spend, it is managed by Council staff who are under numerous pieces of legislation around procurement and financial procedures.
Reference was made to community / groups making grant applications and the strict rules around these processes. The process of grant funding is for funds to be handed to individuals and groups outside of the procurement and financial policies and procedures that the Council must adhere to, and as such I believe that it is important to have these rules in place to ensure that public funds are managed appropriately.
My view is that it is important and valid for public representatives to raise proposed works and represent the needs of their community. To seek out solutions and identify funding opportunities within the Councils resources or at government level to support these needs being met. The projects I submitted relate directly to issues raised with me by the community and I am glad to see that these issues are being met.
Swan River Greenway
The concept of a greenway along the Swan River was first introduced during the development of the current Local Area Plan, which was approved during the last Council Term. It proposes a greenway along the Swan River forming a pedestrian and cycle track, eventually linking Kilruddery area with the Dargle, beginning with a scheme from the Boghall Road to the Killarney Road, along the river.
The proposal being discussed was part of this greenway from Boghall Road to Killarney Road. On the night a presentation was made on local consultation that had been carried out to start this process with initial community engagement. It presented responses to surveys and some targeted focus groups, highlighted participants comments on the positive and negative views raised.
In addition to these presentations, in advance, I along with many other Councillors had met on site with local residents along the proposed route and received a lot of contact through emails, phones and through social media. The level of interest in this proposal was significant.
While responses to the surveys on the general concept of greenways was very positive, feedback on the specific proposal raised significant concerns for those along the proposed route which involved a considerable number of people. These concerns were discussed in length at last nights meeting and resulted in a proposal to suspend any further design work on this project.
Councillors are very aware of the challenges that have occurred relating to the proposed bridge at the harbour. An Board Pleanála may ultimately be the ones deciding on this bridge due to the possible need for an Environmental Impact Assessment. Taking the decision out of the Councillors hands.
The impact on the existing environment and biodiversity in the proposed Swan River Greenway route was an issue of concern for me and many others. A lack of clarity on whether or not the taking of the decision out of the Councillors hands could be prevented in this case was worrying. As such I voted in support of the motion not to continue with designs.
My thoughts after last night’s meeting are as follows.
Although I stand by my vote, I don’t believe there were any winners in this.
If guarantees had of been available, we could have seen the detailed design of this proposal answering many current unanswered questions.
A full design may have allowed us to develop elements of the plan, rather than the whole plan but this option may now be lost.
Was the vote taken permitted under current planning and consultation processes within the Local Authority? I’m not fully clear on this and will seek further clarity.
What impact does this have on future projects and our commitment to making democratic decisions.
There will I’m sure be lots to learn from and consider further on this item.