Sunday, May 19, 2024

TWO DEE GROUPS ISSUE ACTION ‘WAKE UP CALL’

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AN URGENT call for action has been issued to save Donaghadee’s historic harbour and seafront from the threat of rising sea levels and storm surges.

Donaghadee Community Development Association and Donaghadee Sailing Club have joined forces to compile a ‘wake up call’ report that states ‘doing nothing is no longer an option’.   

The volunteers revealed their report’s findings at a public meeting yesterday afternoon and called for Ards and North Down Council and the Assembly to take action without ‘further delay’.

The report claims the town’s harbour, lighthouse, seafront housing and businesses are all under threat of extensive flooding given that climate change is causing an increase in sea levels combined with growing storm surges.

The report states that ‘quite clearly the harbour does not represent a safe haven for vessels’ with ‘wave action within the harbour’ and ‘storms over many years have left craft sunk or damaged beyond repair’.

It also reveals the human cost with one local resident sustaining ‘several life changing injuries when a wave broke open her front door and knocked her over’. Her home was flooded and rendered inhabitable for over a year.

It stresses Donaghadee harbour and seafront is already experiencing flooding, with associated risks to lives and property, at least two to four times each year.

In terms of a providing a solution to ‘protect the seafront and protect the harbour’ the report states there is compelling evidence that the creation of new breakwater outside the mouth of harbour could ease the town’s storm and climate change ills.

The report explains that studies carried out by Queen’s University, as far back as the 1980s and by environmental consultants RPS as recently as 2020, demonstrate ‘the construction of a breakwater will remove the problem of wave action in the harbour’.

Stating there is ‘no further need for delay’ the report calls for the council, which took ownership of the harbour in 2015, to arrange a ‘business case/economic appraisal’ which should include the updated cost of construction; the potential savings through damage to lives and property and the economic benefit of having a safe harbour. 

In addition to concerns for properties and businesses which will be affected, the likelihood of widespread disruption to the greater Ards peninsula down the A2 and A48, including access to emergency services, schools and healthcare was raised.

Denis Waterworth, association chair and report co-author, led the call for action.

“This report is a wake-up call to our local Ards and North Down Borough Council who own the harbour and to the Executive that ‘doing nothing’ is no longer an option,” he said.

“The harbour and its lighthouse are listed buildings and much of the town centre is a Conservation Area.  The surrounding area is protected as an area of Special Scientific Interest and Outer Ards Special Area designations.

“Last year the Sunday Times declared Donaghadee the best town in Northern Ireland in which to live and this year we were still in their top three. That reputation will be literally undermined by climate change if there is no action by the authorities.”

Ross Bennett, joint report author and Donaghadee Sailing Club commodore, echoed the need for action.

“We have made recommendations that in the short term would improve the facilities and safety of the harbour.

“These include improved signage and a floating fendering system for visiting boats and a floating pontoon at the south pier for the safety and convenience of local berth holders.  

“But the real substantive work, for the longer term, requires the council to undertake an economic appraisal of measures to protect the harbour and seafront walls from rising sea levels and storm surges.”

Mr Bennett added: “The Executive also needs to make money available to protect the entrance to the harbour with an outer breakwater to make the harbour safe and to protect seafront businesses and houses.

“Overall, the Executive and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) need to place a stronger priority on climate change and its effect on coastal erosion,” he said. 

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