ONE of the country’s busiest coastguard units moved a step closer to getting a station this week after a 13-year campaign.
Clare County Council announced on Monday that it has given planning permission for a new premises for Doolin Coast Guard, subject to 10 conditions.
The Office of Public Works applied for planning permission for a coastguard station, a new boat and vehicle store as well as 14 car parking spaces at Ballaghaline in Doolin back in May.
The council requested further information in June and granted permission for the project earlier this week.
“It will be a fantastic building. The new station will make it a lot easier for us at the initial stage of a callout because we have gear all over the place at the moment. This building will make it a lot simpler because everyone will go to the same centre at the start and there will be no confusion,” said Mattie Shannon, officer in charge of the Doolin Unit of the Irish Coast Guard.
According to Mr Shannon, the current building is inadequate for storage, there are no changing rooms and no toilets. The building is an old stone structure and only very basic equipment is stored there because of its size. The Doolin Coast Guard operates its control centre from a port-a-cabin and uses a tractor to transport and launch its boats.
“Doolin Coast guard has been doing wonderful work in entirely unsuitable conditions for the past numbers of years as the current headquarters site is restricted in terms of access and size.
The proposed development meets the requirements of the rescue service and I look forward to work getting underway in the near future. The new search and rescue headquarters will further enhance the ability of the coastguard to respond to and deal with emergency incidents,” said Minister for Defence and North Clare TD Tony Killeen.
Minister Killeen noted that the new headquarters facility will be “complemented in time by the proposed development of a new pier in Doolin,” if it is granted planning permission by the local authority.
Local Fine Gael Councillor Martin Conway believes that 13 years is too long to have had to wait and that work must begin on the project immediately.
“It is appalling to think it has taken 13 years, which saw the greatest economic boom this country has ever seen, for this to come to the planning stage. I commend Clare County Council for having adjudicated positively in a short time bubble,” Councillor Conway said.
The Ennistymon Councillor called on the OPW and Minister Killeen to outline how long it will take to prepare tender documents and how long they envisage the construction phase will take.
He also called for the minister to pinpoint when the volunteers “who are operating in atrocious conditions” will have the keys to their new centre.
Following the grant of permission, Clare Fine Gael TD Pat Breen called on the Minister for Transport and Marine Noel Dempsey to make “the€1.9m funding which was earmarked for this project available immediately so that construction can start straight away.”
Deputy Breen also called for the provision of a new sewerage scheme in Doolin.
“Over 3,000 tourists visit Doolin every year and the entire area is dependant on the successful completion of this sewerage scheme. That is why I was extremely annoyed that the construction of a sewerage scheme for Doolin and Ballyvaughan Schemes was not included in the Water Services Investment Programme for 2010-2012.
“I would now ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government John Gormley to review this programme and prioritise a sewerage treatment scheme for both villages,” he concluded.