CLARE County Council are to upgrade or provide toilet and changing facilities at Kilkee, Lahinch and Spanish Point beaches, following criticism of the current “disgraceful” facilities.
However, Councillor Ann Norton, who called for a survey of the toilet and changing facilities at council-owned or council-run amenity sites, said she was in Doolin to see the new pier recently and was “aghast” at the state of the facilities on offer to the public there.
The Ennis councillor was also concerned over accessibility for impaired mobility users and asked where access to such facilities is deemed inadequate, that a programme be put in place for their upgrade.
“Tourism in Clare is a huge part of generating revenue and to be able to bring tourism into Clare, we have to have good facilities. We have a beautiful scenic coastline and have so much to offer people but, I have to say, unfortunately the amenities and the changing facilities really need a lot of work,” she said at a meeting of Clare County Council.
Director of services, Anne Haugh said the council acknowledges the importance of ensuring that all visitors to the amenity sites and recreational areas are adequately served by suitable toilet and changing facilities.
“This need is significantly greater in the case of those with impaired mobility. The Environment Section will shortly be commencing a procurement exercise for architectural services with a view to providing new or upgraded toilet and/or changing facilities at three of our most popular beaches, Kilkee, Lahinch and Spanish Point.
“The likely new build nature of such facilities will, of course, take into account accessibility and mobility concerns to ensure equality of access for all. In cases where adaptation of existing facilities would be required, the solution may be more complex. However, the first step needs to be a review of all existing facilities to establish the status quo and the scale of the necessary upgrade/improvements, which might be required. It is hoped that this assessment can be conducted over the coming months, subject to available resources,” she said.
Councillor Norton said she welcomed the fact that the council is looking at getting some form of procurement done and she hoped to see that done sooner rather than later.
“Obviously, I can’t see the work being done for this season but hopefully I would like to see the work done for next season, not alone in the three main areas but I hope it will go further afield, and I would be conscious of the fact that there has been a huge amount of money pumped into Doolin and that something would be done around the facilities down there as well,” she said.
She added that as well as access for wheelchair users, she is also conscious of many adults with mobility issues and this should be taken into account when putting in changing facilities.
Councillor Mary Howard supported the motion and said the lack of changing facilities for children of young disabled adults is limiting the ability of these parents to take their children to many of the amenities and scenic areas.
“Changing facilities are a real factor for them. I wasn’t aware until recently that they had to put towels on dirty floors to change their children,” Councillor Howard said.
She asked that the council would look at adding a changing area in the area reserved for disabled people when the facilities are being upgraded.
Councillor Bill Slattery supported the motion and asked that Doolin would be included, in view of the fact that they are trying to promote the Wild Atlantic Way to tourists.
Councillor Pat McMahon suggested that they consider a pilot scheme where the services at beaches would be provided by a private company, which would for a small fee improve the facilities. However, Councillor Gerry Flynn was against this and said the facilities should be free to the public.
Ms Haugh said the design of a new accommodation building and facilities to complement the new pier in Doolin is underway and she expects new toilets and changing facilities to be a part of this.