Sunday, February 25, 2007


Beach Bye-laws go on Public Consultation

The future of the Bettystown, Laytown beaches is one of most pressing issues facing the coastal communities in Meath and an issue I’m very involved in.

At our Slane area monthly meeting we agreed to ask the community for their advice and comments on the Council’s DRAFT proposals for the beach at Bettystown and Laytown.

The proposals will be put on public display from (probably) the middle of March for a period of at least four weeks, maybe longer. Members of the public can make their views known. After they do, a report will be drawn up and presented to the Councillors, who will then decide on whether or not to accept the changes the engineers are suggesting.

When the Council last spoke about them, in November, I decided to inform people in the locality about what the issues were. I sent out 3,000 leaflets to homes all along the coastal region. I wanted to make sure that people were consulted early on in the process.

I’ve had excellent feedback. Lots of people rang me up, more emailed, and I held a number of meetings with individuals and groups to talk about the beach. One thing came out of all of these discussions. No-one has a magic solution to the problem so we must work together as a community for the best possible outcome.

The issues that are concerning people include;

• Do we seek to attain Blue Flag status?
• How do we accommodate the traffic that comes to the beach?
• How do we remove the problem of speeding cars from the beach?
• How do we ensure that Laytown Races aren’t affected by what we do?
• How can we ensure that coastal erosion is limited?

The position so far:

Are we applying for Blue Flag Status?

The engineers are pressing ahead with this. There are almost 30 criteria that have to be addressed in the application and they are spending time now completing this application.

Where will people park their cars?

The Council is still committed to obtaining an off-beach car park. However, that is at least a year away and could be a lot longer. So, unfortunately we have to live with beach parking for a while yet.

The Council engineers are proposing that we restrict parking on the beach to a certain area, beside the entrance at Bettystown, so that the vast majority of the Bettystown beach is free from traffic. The Council originally wanted to provide a park for 500 cars on the beach at Bettystown, and then have a small car-free bathing area beside it. Realistically this is not big enough and would not solve the problem of parking congestion in the villages of Laytown and Bettystown. Because of representations made by myself, members of the public and other councillors they are now proposing to extend this area to just over 1,000 spaces. They will also have the ability to allow a managed overflow from this parking area for the 2%, or 3% of days (10-15 days) in the year when there are more than this number of cars coming to the coast. This will help reduce the impact of all these cars on the daily lives of local residents going about their day to day business.

It is proposed that the BLUE FLAG beach would extend for 1.6km from just beside the parking area at Bettystown right down to Mornington. Note that the Blue Flag BATHING area would only be last for 500m of this, because the Bathing Area requires lifeguards. But the Blue Flag Beach will extend for another kilometre past this Bathing Area.

Can we get extra Cleaning for the Beach?

I asked about beach cleaning and enforcement issues. The engineer told me that they intend to hire additional staff for the summer months to undertake extra beach cleaning on the beach. If this happens it will be welcome news indeed. This is something I will keep putting pressure on until we get it.

What about Laytown Races?

The engineers said that the Laytown Races will in no way be affected. They wil continue as normal this year and every year. I will work to make sure of this.

How do we stop cars coming into the parking area from Laytown Beach?

The engineer is suggesting that large lumps of stone are used at the boundary of the parking area between Bettystown and Laytown beach. I asked the engineer whether there are any “softer” engineering options that could be used instead. He couldn’t come up with any. By softer I mean “less intrusive” options. For example, HAWHAW, Vegetation, Fencing - that could be used instead. He couldn’t come up with any. YOU NEED TO LET ME KNOW IF BETTER OPTIONS EXIST.

Also, at the moment, the draft bye-laws do NOT prevent access on to the beach at Laytown. Personally, I think some retractable barriers in the ground at the main access points to the beach should be introduced. They could be operated on a time system, open during the day, closed at night. What do you think?

Consultative Group

As part of comments received a Consultative Group has been set-up including the Coast Guard, the Beach Warden, local resident representatives, County Councillors. Coastwatch, the Gardai and the Council. This group will meet every few months on an ongoing basis to discuss issues in relation to the beach.

What next?

Before the Council adopts the bye-laws they are legally obliged to get the views of the community. At the meeting last week local councillors agreed to seek the comments of the local community. (Our decision to seek community advice has to be ratified by the full council meeting in early March, but this is largely a formality). Once this happened, the plans will be put on public display. The Community has then at least a month to make comments and suggestions. Once these are received, the engineers review all comments, respond to them in a report and put this report to Councillors for their approval. So, the bye-laws have not yet been decided. If you have alternative views to those presented, it is vital that they come forward with them. Please contact me with your proposals.

Your comments, Please!

I want your comments on these proposals. In particular, I want your views on the following:

1. Do you have a better proposal for parking areas?
2. Should we close off access ont the beach from Laytown during the evening?
3. What other methods could we use to enforce the boundary of the parking, as opposed to boulders?

Email me at or phone me at 041 988 6307.

Another tourist attraction in East Meath is the Megalithic tomb at Fourknocks. As this week's video explains, we need more road signage to help tourists visiting the site.

One other subject of note to mention was in relation to Donacarney school. Traffic has reached danger levels outside the school gates. According to the engineer, the cause of the problem is due to illegal parking, lack of enforcement and a need for more parking spaces to turn vehicles. It involves the Council working with the Gardai and the school authorities and parents council. I will be doing some work on this over the coming months.

On Thursday night I headed into Drogheda to attend a fundraising “race night” for Ged Nash, our candidate in Louth. The event was well-attended and I knew a lot of people at the place (McHugh’s pub on the Cord Road).

I’m not a big gambler at all, and as for betting luck, forget it. If I back every horse in a race bar one then the one remaining horse is the likely winner. Because it was for Ged I bet a few bob. Unfortunately I didn’t win anything, not on one single race!

Nash race night
But the pundits TOLD me that Brussels McGuinness was a dead cert!

I met Dermot there, from Le Cheile School in Donacarney / Mornington. He told me they were hosting a fundraiser for the school the next night. I bought two tickets from him and went along on the Friday evening to the Boyne Valley Hotel, where a large crowd had gathered for a comedy fundraiser. I managed to get a chance to speak to the School Principal, Michael, who filled me in on developments in relation to the school. They have a good team there and I’m sure they will be successful.

My Director of Elections agreed to give me the weekend off so I could fulfil a long-standing engagement with my brother. He’s a Man U supporter and had managed to get four tickets for the game against Fulham. Although I support another London side, I agreed to go for the craic.

We headed down to Craven Cottage about midday (it was an early kick-off). Craven Cottage is one of the smallest grounds in the premiership and there’s quite an intimate feel about it.

Fulham V ManU
The Red Devils attack again

The match was end-to-end stuff, although the quality of the game was not great. United got a late goal to win the game 2-1. Last week MY team came to Craven Cottage and won 4-0.

And of course, well done to the boys at Croker!

RE : Bettystown Beach


I am along with many others no doubt,very disapointed at your blog comments about our beaches.

Why not be accurate and call them what they are described in the draft plan "boulders" not "large lumps of stone" as you choose to describe the structures proposed !

Do we seek to attain Blue Flag status? - Yes when we are ready to get it first time, with all the requirements met, without destroying the amenity and with consideration for the locals.

No Blue flag is far better than A Blue flag with a Boulder strewn beach.
Remember A Blue Flag is only for three months of the year what about the other nine months ? A Beach is for generations !

Look at Donabate and Dollymount beaches, destroyed by boulders.

• How do we accommodate the traffic that comes to the beach?
Look elsewhere - there are many options including leave it as it is and manage it correctly by providing instruction and direction to vehicles. There are no signs whatsoever on the beach to assist motorists.

Not even a soft sand sign!

• How do we remove the problem of speeding cars from the beach?
Resource and Manage the beach, designate parking, car areas and have enforceable the bye laws
Close the beach after dark.
I have photos of 2 vehicles stuck in soft sand overnight on Bettystown Beach - this Saturday night alone.
Cars were racing on the beach last night - ask the guards.

• How do we ensure that Laytown Races aren’t affected by what we do?
No Boulders - No hard engineering.

• How can we ensure that coastal erosion is limited?
Read the SRUNA report and look at what the council said they would do for off beach parking.

Dominic we are concerned that you have not once voiced any opinion whatsoever on these plans and that you may indeed support them. I do hope that it is not your intention to have a car park built with boulders that looks like a builders yard ( like Dollymount or Donabate beach ) as your lasting legacy to the east meath beaches.

There are a number of blue flag beaches around the country that allow cars on them.

I can even think of one (which I will be on this weekend) very like our own Meath beaches .

I visit a beach that is 7 miles long, has a firing range, a SAC area, is close to large urban areas. This beach continues to get a blue flag year after year yet cars are allowed on it, it has no boulders or hard engineering. It uses good beach traffic management systems.
Contact me and I can fill you in, if you are interested.

Why cant we do the same ? thats what people want after all management, not a do it , ruin it and run mentality as proposed!
Alan - thanks for that feedback. Let me be clear. At the moment nothing is decided, so it’s important that you let me have your comments and suggestions.

You mention a beach which allows cars on it and gets a Blue Flag year after year. Where is it? I’d like to take a trip to it.

I wasn’t trying to be disingenuous when I referred to “large lumps of stones” – I can refer to it as a boulder instead if you think that makes things clearer.

I have spoken to the engineer again for clarity – he says that the Laytown Races won’t be affected as the proposed location of the car parking starts away from where the horses run. If you have any evidence to the contrary then let me know.

He also says that once a permanent location for an off-beach car-park is found, we can then remove any car parking completely from the beach.

I think you are right about closing the beach after dark. I think we should look at ways of doing this.

This seems to boil down to the issue of safety and traffic management on the beach. The engineers are trying to find a solution that provides a safe, car-free area for bathing. Is there a better solution? Let me know if you think have a workable solution.

I cannot believe that in the time for auction politics you could be so daft as to agree with this farscial proposal. Like Alan im a frequent beach user and being a meath resident i spend alot of time along the gold coast. Its amazing to me that the council can even consider taking one of the countys best amenities and turn it into a car park using tax payers money whilst the area has much more pressing issues.

Spending as much time as do im familiar with the complete lack of signs - Im also aware that there is sewage outlet right in the middle of the proposed blue flag area.

How on earth can a big pile of outsized boulders help obtain the blue flag status.

As alan has so eloquently stated, all thats required is some common sense. Why anyone would want to mimic the dollymount fiasco is beyond me.

Its time that you took some leadership on this issue and realise that this plan will ruin the a large part of the meath gold coast.

Get off the fence and help ensure common sense prevails. The so called blue flag status whilst an admirable quest is impossible whilst a raw sewage outlet exists.

The proposal has had little or no thought given to it and needs to be stopped before the beach is ruined.

The testimonies given by the people who know and understand the beach needs to be incorporated, as its clear the county engineers have no ability for lateral thinking
Councillor Dominic Hannigan

I whish to high light my concerns over the proposed use of rocks (stones) as a method of containment for the beach.

I fell that the use of such items would be a disastrous decision for the council and hope that it is one which is not carried through with.

The use of such a hard engineering approach for a resource which is really only managed by the council for a few months of the year (summer) is overkill. One of the best resources the council has implemented to date is that of the coastal warden, which works very well and is also a resource offered by other councils. Having said that I know of other councils who employ additional wardens along with lifeguards during the busy summer months to help manage the volume of people, traffic and activates which take place during these months.

Other countries in Europe for example France during the busy summer months only, use yellow floating markers or bouys to section of areas for swimmers, water sport users (launch & recovery areas for jet ski and wind surfers) and car parking. These markers are attached to weights buried in the sand. These markers rise a fall with the tide and are removed at the end of the summer season providing open access to all beach users. This is a system which works very well in France as they receive plenty more visitors /tourist to their beach due to the popularity of camping in France.

It is also importance to note that they provide plenty of signage informing people of dangers, lifeguard areas and parking arrangements. They also work very closely with clubs and associations who use the beach.

I hope from the above you can see that there are other 'soft' methods which can be used during the busy summer months to assist in the management of the beach and do not require a hard engineering approach.

On the mater of gaining a blue flag for the beach, other beachs in Ireland have a blue flag with parking on the beach and no need for rocks etc. L&B is is and should be no different.


Adrian Phelan
Donacarney Little

Bettystown village is a place, as a local resident, I avoid in the summerdue to traffic congestion & vehicles parked on the footpath blocking both pedestrians & buggies.

Bettystown can not manage the current traffic in summer & MCC are planning to put more onto the streets & footpaths.

I would love to be able to walk on the beach with my children without worrying or being on guard for traffic/boy racers etc. This is not going to happen without an alternative designated area for off beach park.

I feel that obtaining the Blue Flag is a PR exercise for MCC & another box ticked without dealing with the main problem. MCC's time would be better spent trying to purchase land for off beach parking or trying to Compulsory Purchase Order some land for same.

Yes curtail traffic on the beach, better still stop it altogether but not at the expense of local residents.

P.S. MCC employ a traffic warden for afew hours to manage the current system in Bettystown in the summer!
Dear Dominic,
Many thanks for bringing the proposed beach Bye-laws to the attention of the public. As a regular beach user and resident of Laytown for over 30yrs, I am appalled at the Councils proposals for the beach.

• Do we seek to attain Blue Flag status?

Not if 'large lumps of stone' have to be used to section off a parking area.

If Blue Flag status is being sought then it should be for the whole beach, not just a section of it.

There are many Blue Flag beaches throughout Ireland and Europe that I’ve been to which allow cars, and don’t have 'large lumps of stone' sectioning off parking areas. Duncannon in Wexford, Inch in Kerry, and Magilligan or Benone Strand in Derry, to name just a few. They use a system of beach management including signage and removable markers. Laytown/Bettystown Beach doesn’t have one sign on it indicating soft sand, or parking area, etc.

The section of beach for which Blue Flag status is proposed contains a sewage outfall pipe which is still in use and a pretty dangerous stretch of water i.e. within 500 mts of the 'training walls' at Mornington

• How do we accommodate the traffic that comes to the beach?

The proposal only seeks to address the problem of beach traffic at Bettystown. By providing a 'parking area' on the beach, people may be lulled into a false sense of security. What happens when the tide is coming in and 1,000 cars are scrambling to get off the beach at the same time?
Where do all the cars go when the tide is in?
What traffic management system is being proposed for Bettystown Square?
What is being proposed to manage traffic coming onto the beach at the 2 entrances in Laytown?
What's to stop people driving onto the beach at either of these entrances, driving down and parking on the Laytown side of the 'large lumps of stone'?

• How do we remove the problem of speeding cars from the beach?

Introduce a proper beach management system with signage and close off all the entrances at night.

Sectioning off Bettystown leaves the rest of the beach open to abuse.

If there is no traffic management at Laytown, it is most likley that the stretch between the 'large lumps of stone' at Bettystown and the entrances at Laytown will just become a roadway, making this part of the beach unusable.

• How do we ensure that Laytown Races aren’t affected by what we do?

By NOT putting 'large lumps of stone' on the beach.

Laytown Races are already under threat from the increase in surface-water drainage from Inse Bay and Bettystown Village developments, and the ‘drain holes’ dug at Bettystown. These problems need to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

• How can we ensure that coastal erosion is limited?

By securing sufficent funding from Central Government to address the problem.

It is my belief that the proposal to divide the beach will do nothing to address the above problems, but will in-fact only exacerbate them for reasons stated above. Apart from the above problems the 'large lumps of stone' will not only be unsightly, but will themselves need constant adjustment due to the natural movement of tide and sand.

Bye Laws in themselves mean nothing unless they are enforced. At present, cars are banned from the beach between midnight and 5am, yet every night of the week there are cars racing up and down, and doing 'doughnuts' on the beach. Horses must be off the beach by 11am, yet they can be seen on the beach at all times of the day. There is hardly a day goes by that there isn’t a car stuck in soft sand, yet there isn’t one sign warning of soft sand!

Meath's beaches are not only one of its greatest tourist resources, but also one of its greatest natural amenities. 'Large lumps of stone' will do nothing to protect this. What is needed to protect and enhance this great natural amenity is simply, proper beach management.

All of the issues are already addressed in the extensive and exhaustive SRUNA Report, funded by the EU’s Terra Programme. What is needed is for the Council to adopt those recommendations and carry them through.
Jim Gilna
Dominic, I feel that your incitement of this debate should be applauded and it is great to see so many people posting comments. I also love to walk on the beach regularly but was totally horrified at Easter weekend by people racing in their cars on the beach, people playing loud and crude music from their cars close to where children are playing, (I am not an old fogey by the way but there should be some boundaries to what music children are exposed to), rubbish strewn everywhere and the general menacing feel to the place. I'm all for people having a good time but the current Irish attitude is 'I can do whatever I want' and I would suggest that they would ignore signs anyway 'no parking beyond this point' as they did in previous years. In fact it looks like that sign has been removed! I feel the only solution is to have parking off-site but close by. Some people cannot be trusted to use common sense and they are spoiling it for the majority. I agree a compulsory purchase order should be issued as a matter of urgency. I do believe that it will take someone to be killed or seriously injured before action will be taken. WE ALSO NEED MORE BINS, LOTS MORE BINS, EVEN DARE I SAY RECYCLING BINS FOR CANS AND PLASTIC BOTTLES OR AM I DREAMING.
There's a lot of negative comment on your blog. And I know that the council accepted it. Because being a humble and a good listener to your negative comments it makes you improve your work and personality. So, keep up the good work guys.
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