In February Fingal County Council announced their plans to demolish the two shelters on Balbriggan Beach. Public uproar followed as there was no consultation and the huts are an important piece of Balbriggan heritage, there was a huge public protest on Sunday March 3rd. Fingal County Council issued a very brief report justifying its plans on March 5th. The report was in my view grossly inadequate so for the purposes of transparency and for the people of Balbriggan on March 7th I submitted a Freedom of Information request on a variety of issues relating to the Council decision to demolish the shelters. Following huge efforts from a variety of groups and public representatives on March 9th Fingal County Council stated they would not be demolishing the shelters.
The initial Council report stated the following:
Discussions have taken place over the last two years with stakeholders in the Balbriggan Swords Operation Unit with regard to the future of the Lifeguard station and shop on Balbriggan beach. Both structures which are only operational for 3 months every year regularly attract anti-social behaviour including vandalism and graffiti
My Freedom of Information request revealed that there is only a record of one internal Council staff meeting where the shelters were mentioned on May 24th 2011. There are no records of reports of anti-social behaviour from the public or Gardai.
The initial Council report also went on to state:
On several occasions over the years when the lifeguards have been on duty youths have gathered on the embankment behind both shelters and have thrown stones and other missiles at the lifeguards. In addition given that both structures are flat roofed they can be easily accessed from the embankment resulting in a serious health and safety risk…if the very significant health and safety concerns and serious risks cannot be…there will however be no option but to demolish the shelters
My Freedom of Information request revealed that there is no record of such incidents and no documents relating to health and safety risks of the shelters.
While I have no doubt that the incidents referred to in the Council report did happen the regularity of such incidents and problems is very questionable seeing as there is no record of them in Fingal County Council. This then raises serious questions in relation to the thoroughness of how Fingal County Council (FCC) did their business with the decision making process related to the intended demolition. It is quite troubling that the decision seemed to be based on unrecorded and anecdotal evidence with no recorded input from external parties outside of Fingal County Council staff. To add there are no records of consultation with the FCC Heritage Officer, the FCC Architect or the FCC Conservation Officer. Neither were there any recorded reports from the Gardai, the public, the lifeguards or the shopkeeper. The sum total of records on plans to demolish the beach huts are a reference to ‘Old Shelters’ on the Agenda for the staff meeting of May 24th 2011 and in the notes from that meeting the following text ‘ Old shelters – anti-social behaviour – demolish?’.
As local Green Party representative I will continue to do my best on a voluntary basis to oversee the work of Fingal County Council and hold it to account on behalf of the people of Balbriggan, Skerries, Rush, Lusk and Rural Fingal. The documents I received in response to my Freedom of Information request are now open for the public to view below: