A TOILET block on the prom in Lahinch, which was sold for €400,000, could be bought back by Clare County Council if a local representative has his way.
Plans have been in place for some time for a new toilet block on the lower prom, but these stalled as the local authority waited for funding from Fáilte Ireland.
Now, in light of recent flooding, Councillor Bill Slattery has asked that the council consider buying back the old toilet block, which was located on higher ground, rather than flushing money down the toilet on a new block in an area badly flooded in January and February storms.
Seaworld in Lahinch has opened up its toilets for public use but Councillor Slattery described them “totally inadequate” for the numbers of people requiring them.
He requested that new public toilets and shower facilities be provided “as a matter of urgency”. He suggested that funds raised from car parking and traffic fines in the resort town, along with “the monies that were ring-fenced from the sale of the old toilets and also monies promised from Fáilte Ireland some years ago”, should be used to fund this.
In a written response to Councillor Slattery’s motion, at a local area council meeting on Monday, the council revealed the amount of money taken in through parking fines in Lahinch has reduced by nearly two-thirds in the past three years. It emerged that fines brought in more than €24,000 in 2011 but last year this figure had dropped to €8,300. The council confirmed fines and parking payments between 2011 and 2013 inclusive came to more than half a million euros in total.
Carmel Greene, senior executive officer of water services stated the “total income from parking fees and parking fines for the period of 2011 to 2013 was €526,000. It should be noted that costs relating to the toilets and amenity maintenance, car park and playground lease and the management and maintenance of the car park amounted to €503,000 for the same period.”
“The income from parking is applied to meet costs associated with the management of Lahinch Promenade, including the lease of car parking space and the playground lease. Any excess of parking income over expenditure is transferred to the fund for the redevelopment of the promenade in Lahinch. The amount received from the sale of the old public toilets has been ring-fenced for the construction of new amenity services building to include showers and toilets. While this sum is significant, it will not cover the full cost.”
The development of new toilets on the prom stalled three years ago while the council waited on Fáilte Ireland for additional funding.
“An application for funding for this project was submitted to Fáilte Ireland in late 2011, with further information submitted during 2012. They have confirmed to me that they have all the documentation required for the grant application. However, to date, they have not approved funding for this project. I have sent a reminder to Fáilte Ireland on the application and await their reply. In addition, a revised assessment of all proposals for Lahinch is being carried out in light of the recent significant storm damage to the Promenade,” Ms Greene concluded.
Councillor Slattery said he believed the problem could be alleviated if the council purchased the old toilets back.
“Surely with the money taken in car parking, we could buy back that block of toilets. How much are ye going to spend on toilets? Surely toilets won’t cost a million euro. €900,000 should go a long way on toilets,” he said.
He asked for consultants, previously engaged by the council in relation to plans for the new public toilet block, to “have another look at the old site because if we get a storm like we did, it is money down the drain or, in this case, down the toilet.”
Councillor Richard Nagle noted the council had spent €94,000 on a consultant’s report in relation to the toilets and said he was “not at all in favour of another consultant”, instead asking for any further investigation in relation to a suitable location to be done by the council ‘in house’. He added that management at Seaworld are “amenable” to extending and upgrading the existing toilets.
Niall Barrett, Clare County Council’s director of service and area co-ordinator, said he believed that Councillor Nagle’s suggestion to extend the public toilets provided in Seaworld “sounds reasonable enough.” He added that “it would be a pity to miss a funding opportunity from Fáilte Ireland but there does come a point when we have to say that will not happen and that will impact on the scale of the project. Do we continue to hold out for funding from Fáilte Ireland or do we try to fund it ourselves, and if we do that we would have to cut our cloth to measure.”
Local area engineer, Stephen Lahiffe told members he would follow up with the authority’s environment section in relation to Lahinch toilets.