Plans to develop a seaplane tourism business with a base in Mountshannon have been met with local opposition.
The planning application was lodged by new company Harbour Air Ltd in October before it was withdrawn and re-filed with the local authority on November 11. The plans relate to the installation of a floating pontoon, mooring anchors, access gangway, reinforced concrete slipway and inspection hardstanding, workstore, parking area and associated infrastructure for the berthing and inspection of a seaplane at Dooras, Mountshannon.
Since the application was lodged, objections and submissions have been received from local organisations that use Mountshannon Harbour, including the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland, Mountshannon Community Council, Iniscealtra Gun Club, Mountshannon Angling Club and Iniscealtra Sailing Club. Meanwhile, six objections have been lodged by residents of Sandycove, Mountshannon.
The Lough Derg branch of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (IWAI) raised strong objections relating to health and safety and the environment and stated that it was unclear to them “how any operation of a float plane in the area indicated could ever be safe”.
The body explained that the harbour area cited in the plans is one of the busiest stretches on the Shannon and the proposed operating area lies directly across the approaches to Mountshannon Harbour, which falls within the Waterways Ireland management navigation.
The organisation maintained that the seaplane operation would have a detrimental effect on leisure and boating activity on the lake and would create great health and safety issues for those using the lake.
“The twin otter is a relatively large machine fitted with twin turbo prop engines and can be expected to make a lot of noise, which would be seriously detrimental to the amenity of the area. The area is included in the Lough Derg SPA, close to the Slieve Aughty SPA, and the impact of the operation on the wildlife and habitats in the area should be assessed,” the objection stated.
The IWAI also recommended that consultation with the Irish Aviation Authority would be required in respect of flight operations.
“We welcome the development of the resources to the lakeside communities, however, this must not be to the safety detriment of existing activities infrastructures…”
Meanwhile, the Clare branch of An Taisce also raised concerns. “We are aware that this is to be a commercial service. Inland Waterways has pointed out that it blocks part of the busy entrance to Mountshannon harbour. This is not desirable to local access and businesses. Being a commercial service means that there will be far-reaching impacts on boating, fishing and wildlife by their scheduled service and we request an Environmental Impact Study,” the submission stated.
The local community council, who lodged a submission said, “The concept of inter-Irish travel using Lough Derg as a base is novel and merits due consideration.”
The organisation expressed concerns relating to the impact the development would have on the swimming area in the harbour, and on the existing boat traffic, as well as the impact on residential dwellings.
Lodging their concern, the Iniscealtra Sailing Club, based in Mountshannon, said it is concerned that the proposed development would impact on the club’s use of the bay.
Six residents of Sandycove, Mountshannon also objected to the proposal, citing reasons such as noise pollution, fire and safety concerns, pollution and the impact on wildlife and sealife. Each raised issues relating to the proposed access road to the development, which has a busy and narrow entrance. The 6.45am first departure time cited by the developers was also a worry in terms of noise. Requests were also made by residents for an environmental impact study to be carried out.
Richard Creagh of Sandycove stated in his submission that “tourism in Mountshannon will be effected adversely, as anglers will not wish to come to a place where there are seaplanes landing, as this will disrupt the fishing and create noise pollution”. Ann Foley, also of Sandycove, echoed this concern and believed such a development would “be detrimental to tourism” in the area.
However, in an earlier statement to The Clare Champion, Harbour Air Ltd said that, if granted, the development could generate up to 60 jobs nationally, provide a swift means of transport serving eight Irish routes and would ultimately boost tourism in the locality.
The company shareholders involved in Harbour Air Ltd include Emelyn Heaps from Tulla and of the East Clare Golf Holiday Village; Ronan Connolly, a solicitor from Ennis; Stewart Curtis, an engineer from O’Callaghan’s Mills and Adam Cronin, an engineer from Cobh, County Cork.