LOCAL Councillors gave their backing to the Shannon Town Masterplan at a meeting this week.
The masterplan has provoked a lot of local discussion in recent months, and was the subject of many submissions from the public after the initial draft became public.
At Tuesday’s meeting director of services Liam Conneally said that there are two aspects to delivering the plan, one being statutory and one related to funding. He said that the plan will yet have to be incorporated into a review of the County Development Plan.
Regarding funding, he said that Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage ahd rejected an application for URDF funding for the Venue development, due to concerns about the location and with making a significant State investment without the masterplan being completed.
“The Masterplan is now nearing completion and a new funding application will be made to the Department in 2022,” he added.
He said that the Department are anxious that an application be lodged, as quickly as possible and added, “This is “only the start of an exciting journey for Shannon Town Centre.”
Independent Gerry Flynn said that he wanted to “acknowledge the great work done by the officials”. He said that there has been a “long road, which could have been shortened,” had there been more consultation at an earlier stage.
However, he said that there has been a lot of engagement since, and that “the plan is not perfect, but it’s going in the right direction”.
Councillor Flynn said he had reservations about having less connectivity between the motorway and the Town Centre, while he also said he would oppose any downgrading of the R471. He also said he would have concerns about apartments fronting Dernish Law and Bóthar na Rinne.
The independent representative said that he didn’t want to disrupt the process of acquiring a site for a civic centre or disrupt applications for funding, and that there will be other opportunities to refine the plan. “What I’m saying to you is that I won’t stand in your way”.
Fianna Fáil’s Pat O’Gorman spoke in favour of the plan and said that with developments at the Comprehensive school and the industrial estate as well as the provision of the Town Park, there are a lot of positive things happening in the town.
Independent Councillor and Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council PJ Ryan said that huge work has gone into the plan, and all views have been taken on board.
He said a meeting with the management of Shannon Town Centre on Monday had been “fruitful” and that they had acknowledged they were protecting their interests in the submission they had made.
Councillor Ryan said the elected representatives have to stand up for the people of the town and county, while he said a vibrant Shannon is hugely important to Clare.
While he endorsed the plan, he said it would still be open to change in the future.
Councillor Michael Begley also backed the plan, while saying aspects can be revisited. “Nothing is ever cast in stone, there are always ways of changing.”
Mr Conneally welcomed the support from the councillors and said the plan will now be brought back to a stakeholders forum, representing various sections of the Shannon community.
There was some friction over who would propose and second the motion, but ultimately it was proposed by Councillor Flynn and seconded by Councillor McGettigan, as the only two Shannon-based representatives.
Brian McCarthy, Senior Planner, Clare County Council, explained some of the key Masterplan proposals.
“Building on the history of innovation and training in Shannon, the creation of an innovation Campus in the town centre is a unique proposition for any town centre creating the potential for 1,000 employees and 1,500 students providing vitality and life with activity during the day and evenings.”
“Having a large quantity of students and future workers within the town centre Innovation Campus will be a huge boost for supporting the social, educational and economic development of Shannon Town.
“Shannon has always had a history of innovation at a range of locations from the airport to free zones, and this area identified in the town centre will continue that innovation, merging the needs of industry and enterprise with further education and apprenticeship training on a town centre campus.
“It is envisaged that the improved Main Street will be an innovative take on the traditional main street of Irish towns and will contribute to a sense of place for Shannon. It is proposed to improve and make the existing R471 road passing through Shannon Town Centre more pedestrian friendly while also continuing to provide for car and bus routes.
“The enhanced Shannon Town Square will underpin a new identity for the town centre as a focal point for the community and will expand on the existing square with its chapel and will be fronted by the proposed One Shannon Hub.”
“This will be a multi-purpose civic, theatre and community space with multiple uses to ensure activity throughout the day and night. It is proposed to create a civic building which will combine as a new Clare County Council town hall, a performing arts venue, and a flexible working and innovation space.”