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#SaveOurFloodplain Campaign

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New volunteers, a revamped website - and a New Petition!
(Update 29/08/2017)

This is a crucial time in our campaign, and locals have responded to it with enthusiasm.

We have had several new - hard-working and skilled - volunteers from Little Bray join us. As a result, we have a new communications team, and you'll soon be seeing SWAP's 'SaveOurFloodplain' campaign gain a lot of momentum.

One of the more obvious on-line changes will be a revamped website, so that www.braywatch.com will have an entirely new and exciting face, while this website will become a useful archive to be found at www.archive.swap.com as soon as the new one goes live. So watch this space!

We've also been garnering some publicity. Paul Melia, environmental correspondent for the Independent group, did a great job of covering our story in the Herald on August 21.

Then Declan Meehan on EastCoast fm gave SWAP's Noeleen McManus a chance to explain our campaign again on Monday on his Morning Show, where it will be available to listen back to for another week.

And there's lots more publicity lined up...

Now we want to get the most important publicity of all lined up - your voices. We have put up a new petition on Change.org addressed to Wicklow County Council, and to the Ministers for Finance, for Housing, Planning & Local Government, and for the OPW & Flood Relief.

Petitions, if they are signed by lots of people, are a very powerful tool in campaigns, so, please, get behind us and sign our petition NOW! Then email it, FaceBook it, tweet it, and ask anyone you can to sign it for us - please!

...The only really bad thing that has happened in our campaign over the last week has been the reason that we have been listened to more closely - because of the terrible flooding in Donegal and Derry, and now in Texas. We would have much preferred to have been listened to for other reasons, and we extend our heartfelt sympathy - and empathy - to those unfortunate people.

  Save Our Floodplain on photo of flooded Golf Course Lands

Our Floodplain in Full Flood

(click here to enlarge)


Will only 8 out of 32 Wicklow County Councillors get to hear our story?
(Update 29/08/2017)

While preparing our submission for this final stage of the Local Area Plan, we are also continuing to appeal to Wicklow County Council to allow us to make a presentation to the entire Council. So far we are being told that they do not normally accept presentations from groups - although we know one of our own community groups made a very successful presentation to them regarding maintenance access to the Dargle River. Perhaps because it was successful, it was considered unwise to allow another group from our neighbourhood to do the same?

We are also being told that generally the majority of county councillors just go along with the recommendation of the local representatives. 32 votes decided by 8 councillors! We were urged then to contact our local Municipal Group and ask them if we could present to our own councillors. They seemed to miss our repeated assurances that we had already made this presentation last October.

Some of our local councillors, including Cllrs. Joe Behan and Brendan Thornhill, consider this unfair and are making representations on our behalf. We are grateful to them.

We have also been in direct contact with the Cathaoirleach of Wicklow County Council, Edward Timmins, who is 'thinking about it', having first suggested that we should simply email all of them.

We hope Cllr. Timmins' thoughts become positive and fair very soon.


Publication of Draft Local Area Plan
(Update 29/08/2017)

The Draft Local Area Plan for Bray and Environs was published on August 1. This Draft Plan is produced by the Planning Executive of the local planning authority (Wicklow County Council) and they do not have to follow any recommendations from councillors.

We were therefore not too upset or surprised that our submission was totally ignored in the Draft, as local planners have been completely supportive of high density building on this floodplain from the beginning. In fact, planning permission was given immediately to Pizarro Developments on application in 2005, in contravention of the Development Plan then in existence which stated that no development should begin until flood defences were in place. They hadn't even been agreed at that time.

The next stage of the process, however, requires the planners to compile and submit recommendations on all submissions made to the councillors - and it is the 32 Wicklow County Councillors who will decide whether or not our floodplain will be rezoned, regardless of the recommendation of the planners. It is up to us now to convince the councillors that the floodplain should be rezoned.

To this end we are now preparing a submission for this stage of the Local Area Plan.


Pizarro in Receivership
(Update 29/08/2017)

Since our last update on Pizarro going into receivership at the beginning of April, we have been in touch with the office of the Receiver, and have been assured that they will meet with us.

In their last email to us, dated July 12, we were told that:

"There are numerous assessments currently ongoing by third party professionals engaged by the Receiver to ensure that all matters affecting the lands are fully understood both from a strategic and operational viewpoint. This process is likely to be ongoing for a minimum of another 8 weeks."

The writer went on to assure us that: "... once our review has been completed and we fully understand all matters relating to the lands, we will ensure to contact you to arrange a meeting as soon as possible."

That 'minimum' 8 weeks brings us up to September 6.




Procedure for Local Area Plan
(Update 29/08/2017)

We wrote to our local councillors at the beginning of May asking for help in understanding the procedure around the passing of a Local Area Development Plan for Bray, particularly since our Town Council became a Municipal District. Sometimes, throughout this 12 year campaign, we have been temporarily beaten simply because we didn't understand official procedures.

Cllr. Joe Behan helpfully passed on our request to Sorcha Walsh, a senior planner with Wicklow County Council. Ms. Walsh then came back to us with a detailed and very helpful explanation of the procedure involved.

You can read it by clicking here.



Pizarro goes into Receivership
(Update 16/05/2017)

Last month we received unexpected news in response to our continued requests to meet with Pizarro Developments in order to try to come to a mutually agreeable plan for the lowlying area of the old Bray golf course, ie. its all-important floodplain.

Having continually copied our correspondence with Pizarro to both NAMA (who own the loan) and the Minister for Finance (responsible for NAMA), we received notification from NAMA that a receiver has been appointed to the assets of Pizarro Developments - a Mr. Ken Fennell of Deloitte.

What this will mean for us we are still not sure. Obviously what we fear is that it will be sold to a vulture fund who will have no compunction in using the planning permission currently in place on this land till 2020. We have written to Mr. Fennell, as recommended by NAMA, but todate have had no reply. We will continue to seek a meeting with him, but meanwhile emphasise that we need - even more urgently - to persuade our councillors to rezone this floodplain in the upcoming Local Area Development Plan.

So, please, CALL, EMAIL, OR MEET THOSE COUNCILLORS! You'll find full contact details by clicking on this link, along with templates of emails or letters to Bray councillors, whether you are a local resident or whether you simply support our cause. Please continue to share the link, by FaceBook, Twitter, or email - and thank you!

We'll keep you informed of developments with Mr. Fennell.


SWAP makes submission to Local Area Plan for Bray Municipal District
(Update 29/03/2017)

On November 11th last, SWAP sent a 25 page submission (with ten pages of photos or scanned documents) to the Planning Dept. of Wicklow Co. Co. for Bray's upcoming Draft Local Area Plan, requesting - with arguments supporting our request - that the zoning on the floodplain be changed back to its safe open space category.

We're proposing that the People's Park be extended right down to the harbour, along the floodplain, giving more community recreational space in Little Bray while, at the same time, leaving a 'corridor' along the floodplain between our community and the sea in case of future flooding.

Will we succeed? Well, a lot depends on how many calls our councillors get, supporting our submission so PLEASE CALL, EMAIL, OR MEET THOSE COUNCILLORS!

You'll find full contact details for Bray Municipal District councillors by clicking on this link, along with templates of emails or letters to Bray councillors, whether you are a local resident or whether you simply support our cause. Please share the link - and thank you!


Bray at 'Very Low Risk' of Flooding - from the Newcourt Stream!
(Update 29/03/2017)

On October 12th last, a Public Consultation Day was held in Wicklow County Buildings on CFRAM's 'Draft Flood Risk Management Plan' - which gives Bray a Very Low Risk Grading! CFRAM is the section of the OPW responsible for flood risk management in Ireland.

Some very helpful members of the OPW, however, listened to our concerns on the day. We explained that we felt you have to read in its entirety the 295 page document that covers all of Wicklow very carefully before you realise that no flood risk assessment has been done on the Dargle yet for this plan, due to the ongoing changes in the river caused by the erection of flood defences.

The grading applies only to the Newcourt Stream...

They re-read the parts relevant to Bray, confirmed that the grading does not apply to the Dargle and that they stand over their own assertion that flood defences help to minimise flooding but do not eliminate it. They then asked us to submit our concerns in writing, and promised to clarify their unintentionally misleading report.

We did, and received the following reply:

"As construction was under way on the Dargle scheme we were unable to survey or map the Dargle in the CFRAM Study. We did, however, map the Newcourt Stream and this was found to have a low flood risk attached to it, and the inclusion of Bray in Section 5.6 (Communities of Very Low Risk) of the draft Plan is in reference to this area only. The text in Section 5.6 does not relate to the area of Bray affected by the Dargle. This will be clarified in the final version of the Plan.

"Sections 2.6.2 and 8.4.12 describe the works being undertaken to address the risk from the Dargle.

"While the issue of residual risk is not covered directly in the Plan, it is recognised from a Planning and Development point of view in Section 2.25 of The Planning System and Flood Risk Management GuidelinesFaceBook and these Guidelines are referenced in Section of the draft Plan."

Now that's what we call a fair and comprehensive reply. Fair dues to CFRAM!

  Flood Hazard Map for Newcourt Stream

Flood Hazard for Newcourt Stream

(click here to enlarge)


Flood Defences can Fail, we tell Bray Councillors: October 4, 2016
(Update 29/03/2017)

On October 4 last, exactly eleven years to the day after our first presentation to the then Bray Town Council regarding the rezoning of the floodplain on the old Bray Golf Course lands, SWAP representatives made another presentation to Bray Municipal District councillors.

Following Mr. Des O'Brien's walk-out at the beginning of our presentation, we went on to give a brief history of our campaign for newer councillors - and explanations and examples of how flood defences can, and do, fail.

We told a very attentive and courteous group of councillors about the OPW's warnings that 'flood defences can only reduce the risk of flooding, they cannot eliminate it', and 'the presence of a flood defence indicates an area at risk, not one that is safe and that lands should be categorised accordingly'. We showed them examples of flood defences like ours failing, such as those in Cumbria in the winter of 2015.

Cumbria, like much of the UK and Ireland, suffered catastrophic floods in 2009. Their response was to put in place 1/100 year flood defences, like ours. Those defences failed last winter, six years after their installation, as can be seen in the photo on the right.

We also showed them photographs of our own flood defences failing in October 2015 and again last August, as shown below.

And, while expressing our very real gratitude for those defences - as we believe they will ensure 'less frequent, less deep, and less extensive' flooding - we emphasised the need for a 'belt and braces' approach, re-iterating the vulnerability of so many in our community.

Finally, we appealed to the councillors for help in getting Pizarro to sit down with us to discuss any future plans for the floodplain, so that we can all work together like good neighbours.

The response from the majority of the councillors was very positive, with many of them saying they were grateful for the well-researched information, and the local knowledge, SWAP had provided.

We look forward to them honouring those responses now that we are allowed to talk about rezoning.

  Rescue in Cumbria Floods

Rescue in Cumbria Floods

(click here to enlarge)


Drama in the Council Chamber: October 4, 2016
(Update 29/03/2017)

There was no lack of drama at our presentation to Bray Municipal District on October 6th last - and it wasn't all on our flood slides.

First there was the ancient a/v connection (perhaps fitting in a beautiful old Council Chamber!) that had to be held in place in our laptop by hand. It didn't help in manipulating slides!

Then, when we were invited by the Chairman to start our presentation, Mr. Des O'Brien, District Manager for Bray, interrupted to say that he had been following our online activity, and knew that we intended to ask for a change of zoning: this is not allowed outside the formal Development Plan process, which hasn't yet begun. Luckily, we had been warned of this prohibition while preparing the presentation, and had, naturally, obeyed it.

We simply gave a brief history of our campaign for newer members of BMD, and explanations and examples of how flood defences can, and do, fail.

Mr. O'Brien didn't hear any of it. He had gone on to announce that he had also checked the register of lobbyists, formed under a new Act brought out late last year, and that we were not on it. It would therefore be illegal for him to allow himself to be 'lobbied', he said, adding that our presentation in Leinster House had also been illegal on those grounds. He then walked out of the meeting, without giving us a chance to reply.

Fortunately, he walked out alone, and Chairman Steven Matthews decided that, as we had asked permission to make a presentation, and had been granted that permission, he intended to let us go ahead. He warned us, however, that he would stop the presentation if we strayed into any appeals about the upcoming Development Plan or zoning. We didn't - and it's a pity Mr. O'Brien didn't get the benefit of what we did say about the possibility of flood defence failing, even when well maintained.

He also missed our explanation that we had, in fact, written to the Standards Commission setting out exactly who we are and what we do, and asking if we needed to register. They replied, basically saying they didn't know and it was up to us. So we re-read the Act and decided we didn't fit in there, mostly because we don't have any (even part-time) paid staff and none of us stand to make any monetary gain from a change to Open Space zoning again - just safety.

We wrote to Bray Municipal District, attaching copies of that correspondence, and quoting the parts of the Act that convinced us it didn't apply, but, unlike Mr. O'Brien, we were prepared to listen to the response.

A second 'you have to decide that for yourselves' therefore decided us to register as lobbyists - another job taking a great deal of voluntary time that could be put to far better use - and we have been filling in that register ever since...

At least it keeps us out of mischief - like spending more time on campaigning to keep our 'safety net for the flood defences' floodplain free of development.

  Register of Lobbyists in Ireland

(click here to enlarge)


A Flooded Floodplain: August 20, 2016
(Update 29/03/2017)

On the 20th August last year, we had yet another vivid demonstration of how flood defences can fail. Ironically, they again failed on the floodplain at the old Bray Golf Course lands, zoned for high density development.

To the right you can see how it produced a 'dual river' effect, with the flooding on the golf course as wide as the river itself...

This was the second time for these lands to be flooded within a year with the flood defences already in place.

You can see the earlier episode (October 2015) captured in these three photos below:

  Dual Dargle River

Dual Dargle River

(click here to enlarge)

  Flood Defences fail on Floodplain on October 29, 2016

Flood Defences fail
on Floodplain:
11am, October 29, 2015

(click here to enlarge)

Flood Defences fail on Floodplain - flood spreads

Flood spreads
over Floodplain

(click here to enlarge)

Floodplain completely flooded: 2pm October 29, 2015

Floodplain completely flooded:
1pm, October 29, 2015

(click here to enlarge)


Full House - our Wicklow TDs Cross-Party Alliance!
(Update 29/03/2017)

Well, we certainly have an update on this one!

On September 14 last, we met with Deputy Stephen Donnelly, just after his departure from the Social Democrat party, who 'signed up' to our campaign, promising to use his NAMA expertise to further our cause. Deputy Donnelly has since become a member of Fianna Fail, giving that party two representatives in Wicklow - and on our campaign.

On November 4, the "last man standing", as he described himself, Minister Simon Harris, met with us and also pledged his support to our cause.

They are both welcome additions to Deputies John Brady, Pat Casey, and Minister Andrew Doyle, making our TD support in Wicklow a 'full house'. Incidentally, in our report on our presentation in Leinster House on July 27, we remarked that Deputy Pat Casey had explained he had to attend a meeting that morning, and didn't know if he could make it. What we failed to realise until later is that he covered his possible inability to attend by sending along a representative, who kept Deputy Casey fully informed. Fair play to them!

  Stephen Donnelly,TD

Stephen Donnelly, TD

(click here for 'full house')

Minister Simon Harris

Minister Simon Harris

(click here for 'full house')


Wicklow TDs Cross-Party Alliance
(Update 19/08/2016)

On Tuesday last, August 16, our cross-party alliance got off to a great start when Deputies John Brady, Sinn Fein; Pat Casey, Fianna Fail; and Fine Gael Minister Andrew Doyle's Parliamentary Assistant, Liz Dillon, sat down with us to work out a strategy for our campaign.

We don't want to pre-empt that strategy by laying out our plans in advance: we simply want to express our appreciation of the years of political experience that were laid at our feet by these seasoned campaigners.

We really appreciate it, as we do the continued support of the Royal Hotel in facilitating us with a meeting room, free-of-charge, in which to learn, and to plan.

Community spirit, and a demonstration of the new politics, at its best... Thanks, people!

  Wicklow TDs 2016

Wicklow TDs 2016

(click here to enlarge)


The Third Man at Leinster House
(Update 26/07/2016)

More good news today...

Last Tuesday we forgot to pass round a contact sheet at our meeting in Leinster House, and so failed to realise that Deputy Pat Casey was well and truly represented there by John Mullen - who had to leave the meeting slightly before the end because of the same housing meeting that had prevented Pat from being there himself!

Our apologies for failing to recognise a representative from the third Wicklow deputy who accepted John Brady's - and ours - invitation to attend.

And our thanks for the encouragement we received from his office when this misunderstanding was cleared up on the phone today.

Four out of five of our deputies represented there - as we said on our FaceBook page 'Wicklow Abu!'

  Introduction to #SaveOurFloodplain presentation

Introducing our Campaign

(click here to enlarge)


SWAP at Leinster House
(Update 24/07/2016)

Just two days short of the final Dail sitting before the summer recess, a delegation from SWAP presented our case to a group of interested TDs in Leinster House. All TDs had been invited to attend by John Brady, our local Sinn Fein TD, but - in fairness - it was short notice, as we'd asked for the meeting quite late, and it was a busy week in the Dail.

Despite the short notice, two more of our Wicklow TDs - Andrew Doyle and Stephen Donnelly - took the trouble of having someone from their office there to take notes and report back, and we really appreciated it. Pat Casey's office had explained that Deputy Casey had to attend a housing meeting at 11am but would try to get to us after that. Unfortunately, the meeting obviously went on longer than expected, but we hope to speak to Deputy Casey separately, and to Minister Simon Harris, who was not able to attend.

No fewer than five Sinn Fein TDs turned up, in addition to John Brady, to hear us out - Mary Lou McDonald, Maurice Quinlivan, David Cullinane, Denise Mitchell, and Martin Kenny - along with representatives from the latecomers among them, and a representative from Gerry Adams office. Again, we really appreciated their support.

What was even more heartening was the reaction we received from the three parties represented there. We got excellent feed-back and a lot of encouragement, and we hope to build on this right across the party divide.

Using a lot of graphics in a PowerPoint presentation, we laid out our case, explaining who we are, the vulnerable nature of our community, our history of flooding, and the 10 year planning permission finally granted by An Bord Pleanala in 2010 to build 603 residential units; 57,967sq.m. of retail and 5,797sq.m. of office space; an 8 screen cinema; a 103 bedroom hotel; 6 bars; 11 restaurants; and various other amenities, including 3,591 car parking spaces - all on our 8.6 acre floodplain, while retaining over 16 acres on the high ground as open space.

We emphasised, as we always do, that we have never objected to the development in itself, simply asking that the planned lay-out be 'swapped', ie. the buildings on the high ground and the open space beneath preserved as floodplain.

We also emphasised how grateful we are that flood defences are almost complete now along our river - but we were equally emphatic that flood defences in place do not mean that floodplains are no longer needed. We quoted the OPW's dictum that 'flood defences can only reduce the risk of flooding, they cannot eliminate it. Therefore, the presence of a flood defence indicates an area at risk, not one that is safe and that lands should be categorised accordingly', and showed examples of where flood defences have indeed failed. These included defences that were built in Cumbria to withstand the kind of flood that should happen only once in every one hundred years (the same level of defence we have in Bray): they were put in place following the disastrous floods of 2009, and they failed last Christmas.

Closer to hand, we showed how our own 'still in the process of being built' flood defences failed last October, luckily - and ironically - along the floodplain of the old golf course lands, and not alongside our homes.

On October 29 last, around 11am, one of the non-return valves in the flood defence walls alongside the floodplain failed, allowing the river, during a particularly high tide, to enter the golf course. Within two hours the entire lower lands of the golf course - our floodplain - was completely covered in quite deep water, as the photographs below show.

  Delegation from SWAP outside Leinster Hse

Delegation from SWAP
outside Leinster Hse

(click here to enlarge)

Introducing Bray - Big & Little

Introducing Bray
- Big & Little

(click here to enlarge)

Liam McGarry speaks for Bray's Retailers

Liam McGarry speaks
for Bray's Retailers

(click here to enlarge)

  Flood Defences fail on Floodplain on October 29, 2016

Flood Defences fail
on Floodplain:
11am, October 29, 2016

(click here to enlarge)

Flood Defences fail on Floodplain - flood spreads

Flood spreads
over Floodplain

(click here to enlarge)

Floodplain completely flooded: 2pm October 29, 2015

Floodplain completely flooded:
1pm, October 29, 2015

(click here to enlarge)


Flood defences make flooding less frequent and less extensive, but they can, and do, fail. When they do, we need our open floodplain to allow the waters to at least move downstream, we explained.

We closed our presentation with an appeal to all parties to work together to help us fight to have the planning permission revoked, and the zoning changed, while this land is still in NAMA. If it is sold to a vulture fund, or indeed back to Pizarro, we could well face an economic and human disaster further down the road. And the people who will suffer most will be the elderly, the very young, the disabled, and the poor.

We quoted the argument of the Master of the High Court, Edmund Honohan, in relation to housing when he told the then Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly, and the Dail committee on housing and homelessness, that the Constitution puts 'the Common Good' above all other rights, including property rights. Therefore, he said, the Government would be acting well within the law to CPO unused property belonging to developers in order to build social housing. If the Government can CPO such property from developers outside our National Asset Management Agency, surely it must be possible to do so with property already in the control of the nation?

Our presentation was interspersed with the stories of some of our group's own personal experiences of being flooded, and with one member's account of how she had volunteered for the emergency flooding response team which was formed around eight years ago - and which the Council was attempting to 'resurrect' as the waters of the Dargle were rising last Christmas.

The final speaker was Liam McGarry from Bray's retail group, who support our campaign and who spoke about the necessity of ensuring that any building that does take place - on the high ground - is compatible with our traditional town centre. He addressed the problems of traffic, which the Inspector from An Bord Pleanala had quoted, along with flooding, as one of his reasons for recommending refusal of this permission. And he told the meeting that the long-awaited Florentine Centre had been given permission to go ahead in the centre of our town, and welcomed this news as finally, hopefully, putting the heart back into Bray town.

It was a good day, and an interesting day, and hopefully one that will give our campaign a new impetus at decision making level. We are very grateful to John Brady, who has supported us as a councillor and now as a TD, for arranging it, and for our other two TDs for sending along their representatives. We look forward to working with them, and with all interested deputies, to #SaveOurFloodplain.


#SaveOurFloodplain Campaign remembers Martin O'Brien, one of our own
(Update 14/07/2016)

We decided to start this new page on our website for two reasons. The first was to mark a new chapter (since the beginning of this year) in our eleven year battle to get flood defences while retaining our floodplain, downstream of our community on the lowlands of old Bray Golf Club.

Thankfully, our flood defences are almost complete: that battle seems to be won. But flood defences can, and do, fail a) in extreme weather conditions, which we are experiencing more and more, and b) if not properly maintained. That's when we'll need our floodplain, and that's why we're petitioning the Government, NAMA, and Wicklow Co. Council to #SaveOurFloodplain.

The second reason for this new page was to honour, with our record of this chapter of our campaign, the memory of one of our core group, Martin O'Brien, who sadly died on June 16 - two days after the photographs below were taken. We have lost many good friends and neighbours over the past eleven years, but this is the first time we have lost one of SWAP's core group.

Martin and his family - like many people in Little Bray - knew what it was like to be flooded. Their home, just across the park from the river, was destroyed in '86, and it was Martin's extremely skillful hands, with his wife, Pauline, and their two sons, Alan and Colm, as 'labour force', that put it back together again into a warm and loving home (see photo on right).

Martin also knew what it was like to fight to see that this kind of disaster never happened in Little Bray again. With Pauline, he campaigned with SWAP from the very beginning, and, just two nights before he died, he was out with our group posing for these photographs.

  Martin rebuilding from the floor up

Martin rebuilds
from floor up

(click here to enlarge)

  Martin's Flood Protection


(click here to enlarge)

Pauline reaches 'dry' land

'Dry' Land

(click here to enlarge)

Herbert's Flood Protection


(click here to enlarge)


On left and right you can see Martin and Herbert trying their hands at some unusual forms of 'flood protection', while the middle one shows Pauline demonstrating how easy it is to end up in the water! Our idea was to ask people to caption them - and Pauline asked us to go ahead and do that as on that evening Martin was at his funniest and happiest best.

Can you come up with a suitable caption? If you can, email them to us at swap@braywatch.com and we'll publish them here in memory of a good friend and warrior.

Ar dheis De go raibh do anam, Martin. You are sorely missed...


e-mail: swap@braywatch.com