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Meeting to discuss Ballyalla future

THE potential for the creation of an environmental and tourism hub at Ballyalla Lake is set to be discussed at a public meeting in Ennis next week. A meeting has been organised for next Thursday in the Auburn Lodge Hotel with the aim of setting up a working group to progress the development of the local attraction.

Speakers at the meeting will include Councillor Johnny Flynn. He explained, “Over the last couple of years I have been approached many times and found from public opinion polls and private discussions, that both Ennis and Clare people and businesses  have a huge interest in reviving and invigorating the Ballyalla Lake amenity.

“There is a couple of hundred acres of land there in public ownership on the Western and Eastern lakeshores. As a result, I am hugely delighted that we are now moving forward with a public meeting, with the aim of forming a working group for improved access and facilities at Ballyalla Lake.

“This can only be done successfully by  working with Clare County Council and local residents. There will be presentations at the meeting to explore the biodiversity, environmental, physical recreational and water-based activities opportunities at Ballyalla.

“There will be an opportunity to hear the needs of residents , the wider community, potential investors and businesses with their potential setup at Ballyalla and about the process of Blue Flag application.”

Alan Coote, who runs the water activity company Clare Kayak ‘is going to outline to the meeting the role that recreational and water based activity at Ballyalla Lake could have on job creation.

He states, “The scourge of emigration from Ennis and Clare needs to be urgently addressed. This project with a large population in Ennis and Mid Clare, proximity to the motorway system and Purple Flag status in Ennis town is a good example of using our resources for new jobs.

“My experience is that there would be a sustainable market for environmentally sensitive supervised activities such as kayaking, paddle boarding, etc at Ballyalla Lake. With over 5,000 schoolgoing population in Ennis this would provide for all year healthy outdoor activity.”

The meeting follows a recent proposal to Ennis Town Council by Councillor Flynn to look at achieving Blue Flag status for the lake. The proposal was discussed at a recent meeting of the council, where town manager Ger Dollard insisted that while there is “no lack of desire” from the executive to improve Ballyalla “We have to be realistic with the resources we have.”

At the meeting, Councillor Flynn requested that a report be provided to the council for discussion of the progress on improving “the quality and quantity of public access facilities, water activities and biodiversity at Ballyalla Lake in lands in public ownership.” He added that the report should look at the feasibility of achieving Blue Flag status to complement the recently achieved Purple Flag status of Ennis.

Responding to the motion, Alan Morrissey, executive engineer stated, “Ballyalla Lake is designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Area (SPA) under the current Ennis and Environs Development Plan. It is a National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) wild bird sanctuary with nationally important numbers of wintering waterfowl. Clare County Council along with a Ballyalla residents association submitted a proposal to Clare Local Development Company in December of last year, to upgrade the public amenity area at Ballyalla Lake. The proposal was to be considered for LEADER funding. However a letter was received from Clare Local Development Company at the end of February stating that the programme had been frozen until further notice, to facilitate a national review of remaining funding. There have been no further updates from Clare Local Development Company.”

Paul Moroney, acting senior engineer outlined the EU’s regulations regarding bathing water and stated the council do not envisage they could comply with present Blue Flag standards at Ballyalla within the resources available.

Councillor Flynn expressed his disappointment with the responses stating he believes that Ballyalla is an “amazing resource”.

“I believe for small money and a certain amount of commitment we could bring Ballyalla back to what it was, the Lahinch of Ennis. Ballyalla is a resource. We can bring people to, town’s people and tourists, to show we have amazing resources here. We need to go after this, we got the Purple Flag and we can also become a Blue Flag town as well.”

He expressed his intention to bring together a working group to further discuss the potential for the site, adding that members of the business community have already outlined their support for the redevelopment of Ballayalla.

Councillor Mary Coote Ryan lent her support to her colleague stating, “I would love to see it restored to its former glory. I don’t think it would take a lot, it would be mostly clearing brambles and briars. It’s a wonderful place and it would be lovely to see it restored.”

Councillor Michael Guilfoyle commented, “I support the spirit of the motion, we were in Lagenfeld in Germany and we saw a facility similar to what could be done with Ballyalla.”

However, he added that the council need resources to put a plan in action, adding the county’s Oireachtas members should be pushing to ensure there is funding available.

Councillor Mary Howard voiced her support for developing the site saying, “the first step is the hardest step”.
Councillor Tommy Brennan insisted all the councillors would like to see the facility upgraded, adding that it should be linked with Lees Road.

Mayor of Ennis Councillor Peter Considine commented that many Ennis people would have “experienced the value of Ballyalla”. Responding to the councillors, Mr Dollard stated that when Ballyalla “was at its peak” the facility was not classed as a Special Area of Conservation. “We are operating in a different environment,” he stated before reiterating, “there is no lack of desire from the executive”.

He added that a number of improvements have been made to the facilities in recent times and the potential of a link from Lees Road to Ballyalla is being explored. Councillor Flynn acknowledged the responses and outlined his intention to bring together a working group.

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