By Jessica Quin
WITH the 200th anniversary of the quay in Clarecastle approaching next year, its potential for attracting tourism to the region has been recognised. The Strategic Integrated Framework Plan (SIFP) for the Shannon Estuary has highlighted that Clarecastle has “plentiful opportunity” to raise its tourism profile.
Preparation of the SIFP was commissioned by Clare County Council, Kerry County Council, Limerick City and County Councils, Shannon Development and Shannon Foynes Port Company.
Responding to a motion at a recent meeting of Ennis East electoral area councillors, senior planner, Gordon Daly stated, “The SIFP for the Shannon Estuary published in November 2013 recognises that the village of Clarecastle with “its rich heritage and historical importance as a military base, commercial port and fishing village, provide plentiful opportunity to raise its tourism profile.”
“The SIFP is a high level plan that it is intended will be incorporated into the Clare County Development Plan 2011 – 2017 by variation in 2014. Clarecastle is currently part of the area of the Ennis and Environs Development Plan 2008 – 2014, which is due to expire in December 2014. The preparation of a replacement plan, an Ennis and Environs Local Area Plan, will commence in mid 2014. This plan will include Clarecastle and is the best vehicle to examine the opportunities of its piers and the potential of tourism generally highlighted in the SIFP.”
He was speaking in response to a motion submitted by Councillor Johnny Flynn urging that Clare County Council prepare a development plan for piers under its control at Clarecastle “to unlock the social, economic and environmental opportunities”. And that the plan would include “actions to maximise its employment potential in marine and leisure tourism.” He commented that many people are unaware of the potential of Clarecastle’s historic quay, saying that 200 years after it was built the quay is being “under utilised”.
He explained that this potential has been protected by the removal of “set aside” clauses in the draft SIFP. The September 2013 draft identified the Fergus Estuary, including Clarecastle’s quay, as “areas which should be set aside and within which future development should not normally be permitted.”
He continued, “The draft ignored Clarecastle completely in the chapter relating to Marine Tourism, Leisure and Recreation, thereby disregarding the quay and other facilities already built there. Fáilte Ireland’s Tourism Product Development Strategy 2007 – 2013 highlighted the huge demand among tourists for marine sports, localised sea angling and small tourist vessels, water themed facilities etc. The Mid-West in 2007 received two million visitors who spent €518 million, with over 50% using Shannon Airport.”
Councillor Flynn said he had intended voting against its adoption at a meeting of Clare County Council if the plan was not altered to remove the set aside clause and if the potential for development of Clarecastle for marine tourism was not included.
Adopted recently, the SIFP removed the clause, and Clarecastle is now written into the strategy on Marine Tourism Leisure and Recreation.
The strategy states, “Forthcoming proposals for the redevelopment of the Clarecastle Quay as a valuable tourism amenity and the Strategic Improvements Plan for the core urban area present exciting opportunities to enhance the historical features, and create a strong basis for the development and marketing of the area for tourism and marine leisure.”
The strategy continues, “The focus going forward is on optimising opportunities for economic and social development within the estuary to provide local employment.” According to Councillor Flynn, “This means once adopted, it will last for 30 years and will dictate where scare funding will be allocated in the areas that could generate jobs in six key areas including marine tourism, leisure and recreation, commercial fishing and aqua-culture.”