A public representative has called for Lahinch to be taken off the Wild Atlantic Way, in what he described as an “extreme” response to a lack of adequate public toilets in the seaside resort.
“It is time the council peed or got off the pot, we are eight years waiting for toilets,” Councillor Bill Slattery told a meeting of the West Clare Municipal District on Tuesday.
The Fine Gael councillor had called for an updated report on plans to provide “much-needed toilet and shower facilities on Lahinch Promenade”.
“The present facilities are sub-standard and totally unacceptable,” he said, highlighting that Clare County Council disposed of the old toilet block for a figure in excess of €400,000, with a commitment that the money would be ring-fenced for the provision of a new facility.
Councillor Slattery claimed, “The toilets had to close on Monday at 4pm, the Monday of a bank holiday weekend, because the pipe was all backed up. The sewer wasn’t freed until Tuesday morning. I went down there myself and it was locked. This is sending a very bad message.”
A written response from Clare County Council said, “The Environment Section is examining options to provide new modern toilet facilities at Lahinch, Spanish Point and Kilkee. It is most likely that the new facilities will replace the existing facilities. Given the nature of the facilities required and the high profile locations, we are examining options to appoint consultants to design appropriate facilities for all three locations. It is likely that the facilities may take up to two years to design and build. In the meantime, we are renovating the existing facilities for the 2015 season.”
But Councillor Slattery said he was not satisfied with this.
“It is like the experience of people in Doolin recently. People came to the village and when they were there, they couldn’t use the toilet. It gave a bad name to a nice place and now the same thing is happening to Lahinch.
“I think they should consider taking Lahinch off the Wild Atlantic Way until proper facilities are provided for visitors, in order not to give the place a bad name. It is giving a negative impression of this beautiful seaside resort,” he said.
Councillor Slattery told the meeting that he had raised the issue with the council in February of last year. He said he was told the money from the sale of the old toilet block had been set aside for new toilets in Lahinch but that this would not be enough to complete the project, which would also include showers.
The response also stated that the authority had applied for funding for the shortfall to Fáilte Ireland in late 2011; further information was requested in 2012 and Fáilte Ireland subsequently confirmed that sufficient documentation had been submitted by the council for the grant application, but no decision had been made on this.
“The council are taking in €1.2 million in parking fees and fines in the last five or six years in Lahinch and we were told when the parking restrictions came in first, that all the monies taken in would be used for the maintenance of the promenade and facilities.
“I am wondering at this stage where is the money going?” Councillor Slattery said.
Councillor Richard Nagle said he found it difficult to believe that building a public toilet in Lahinch would take a further two years adding, “while I support the importance of facilities in Kilkee and Spanish Point, I don’t believe any project has been in the pipeline for as long as the toilets in Lahinch”.
He also requested that plans be presented at the next area meeting, stating what is needed and a timeline for progress.
Councillor Nagle said he had “grave reservations about the idea of appointing consultants”, while Councillor PJ Kelly described consultants as “a handbrake on progress”.
Director of services, Anne Haugh, said the council had hoped that because three areas require public toilets, one consultant could be used for the overall project, to decrease costs.
However she said, “We may look at decoupling the Lahinch ones”.
Ms Haugh also pointed out that the toilets were due to be built close to the prom but that “there is no point putting new facilities in there if it is not going to withstand another storm”.