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Niamh O’Callaghan, of the Love Shannon Community Council. Photograph by Eugene McCafferty on 30/03/2021

Shannon anger over failure to accept €10m offer


FRUSTRATION has been voiced in Shannon after it emerged that Clare County Council turned down an offer from the private sector valued at €10 million to develop the so called Venue facility in the town.
While it is Clare’s second largest town and is home to much of the county’s industry, there is a strong feeling in Shannon that it does not have the level of facilities it should have. Development of The Venue, which would have been a multifunctional civic and arts space in the centre of the town, was being pursued by a local non-profit group for a number of years to help redress the local facilities deficit.
At a public meeting last week organised by the Love Shannon Community Council there was much frustration that the €10 million offer, from unnamed private sources, did not come to pass, apparently because the County Council would have been left with an ongoing €250,000 bill for its running. It is understood that when the initial offer was rejected, a redesigned plan was put forward, but the council again did not want to accept it.
Those who had been involved in the non-profit group seeking to build The Venue were unavailable for comment this week.
Clare County Council was also asked about the decision not to avail of the multi million euro offer, but in their reply they concentrated on the future rather than explaining the thinking behind the decision not to avail of the multi million euro opportunity.
“Clare County Council is completing the development of a Shannon Town Masterplan with the latest draft going on public display on November 22. We are currently working with a number of stakeholders to progress specific projects in the Town Centre and it is our intention to apply for Urban Regeneration and Development Funding (URDF) to develop these priority projects.
“If successful, this URDF funding may meet up to 75% of the Council’s capital costs. If any offer of third-party funding is made to Clare County Council to support our efforts in Shannon Town Centre we will engage wholeheartedly.”
Niamh O’Callaghan of the Love Shannon Community Council said the reasons the funding was not availed of need to be outlined.
“It was a huge opportunity for the Council to turn down, and the reasons for turning it down should be made clear to the people of Shannon.”
She said that Shannon has been badly neglected over many years.
“Look at the place. We had planning permission granted for a facility that would have been like Lees Road, before that was built. It would have been at the All Weather pitch, but Lees Road got built and the All Weather pitch was forgotten. Drumgeely Hall was burned down and not replaced, the tennis courts went to rack and ruin and weren’t replaced, the community centre is gone, YouthReach is gone.”
She said that even after the original offer was rejected, the Council was given a second chance to avail of a great opportunity.
“The businessmen went back to the drawing board, hired architects and designers at their own cost, and went back with a new plan, and they were again told no. And we want to know why.”
Local businessman Darragh O’Connor is also part of the Love Shannon Community Council and he said it is striking that an offer of €10 million for a Shannon project was snubbed, while the County Council have approved a €10 million loan for the redevelopment of Ennis.
“Shannon should be a thriving town, with all the amenities that a town of 10,000 people need. It’s ironic that Clare County Council will borrow €10 million to do up Ennis, when it refused €10 million as a gift for Shannon.”
He claimed that Shannon is the economic capital of Clare, with businesses in the town providing huge sums in commercial rates, but it does not have the facilities it deserves.
At present a new masterplan is on display for the town, following on from a round of public consultation in the summer.
Among the proposals set out in the draft Masterplan is the creation of an innovation campus in the town centre, an improved Main Street, the creation of a New Street and new Town Square. It would also see the development of a ‘One Shannon Hub’ which Clare County Council says will have multiple daytime and night-time uses, and sounds like a similar facility to the proposed Venue.
Speaking about some of the elements in the masterplan, Brian McCarthy, senior planner at Clare County Council said, “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.
“Shannon Town Square will underpin a new identity for the town centre as a focal point for the community. The new Town Square will expand on the existing square with its chapel and will be fronted by a multi-purpose civic, theatre and Local Authority offices at the proposed One Shannon Hub.
“One Shannon Hub will be a place with multiple uses to ensure activity throughout the day and night. It is proposed by Clare County Council to create a civic building which will combine as a town hall, a performing arts venue, and a flexible working and innovation space.
“This three-in-one approach will merge community, cultural and civic uses, with Council offices relocated to the heart of the town, and will reinforce the commitment by the local authority for a town centre presence.
“Taken together with the proposed innovation campus in the town centre, these projects will provide a significant opportunity to create a vibrant Shannon Town Centre.”
The Council hopes to have the plan approved by the end of January and say that an application for funding under the URDF will be made to Government in the new year for implementation of the plan.

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.