RECREATION and sports enthusiasts in South-East Clare will be spoilt for choice if plans contained in a new strategy come to fruition.
The University of Limerick had pledged to provide additional facilities at its arena, according to the new Limerick and Clare Sports and Physical Recreation Strategy. A large number of sporting organisations in both counties are already using the €9 million all-weather sports and recreational complex on UL’s Clare campus.
The new strategy has acknowledged that South-East Clare, which is in the vicinity of the Limerick Metropolitan Area, is reasonably well served with walking routes, fishing locations, swimming pools and multi-sports facilities.
Residents there also benefit from the Limerick Institute of Technology, which plans to provide extra facilities to serve its campuses.
Limerick FC has also struck a deal with the Department of Defence to secure a long-term lease on a 6½ acre site at Knockalisheen, Meelick.
The terms of the agreement will allow Limerick FC to develop the state-of-the-art training centre that was a major element of the long-term plan put in place by new owner Jack McCarthy and chief executive Andrew Mawhinney when they came on board at the beginning of last season. It is envisaged the new centre will include two full size pitches, one of which will be all-weather, a number of five-a-side cages and car parking for 60. The site identified also includes an existing house that will be converted into offices, dressing room facilities and lecture rooms to be used for coaching seminars and courses that will be run by Limerick FC.
The site of the new training centre will be accessible from the soon-to-be-completed Knocklisheen Link Road. Construction will get underway in Meelick pending planning approval from Clare County Council. The Football Association of Ireland has welcomed this development and it is expected that the club will work closely with the organisation to develop the facilities.
The new sports strategy has proposed that local authorities, local development companies and sports partnerships should establish local forums to identify the most appropriate locations for the major multi-sport facilities identified as being required in the Limerick Metropolitan Area.
One of the obstacles identified in the strategy for the development of additional sports facilities in South-East Clare is the possible negative impact on Natura 2000 sites that would be vulnerable to inadequately treated wastewater discharges.
The strategy warns that policies for the development of sport and recreation in sensitive areas must be contingent on the provision of wastewater treatment systems with a capacity to produce discharges that will not impact negatively on downstream Natura 2000 sites.
“Where a development can’t be shown not to have a negative impact, even with mitigation measures being adopted, then the development can’t be permitted, except in the very unusual circumstances of an imperative reason of overriding public interest being involved.
“Other negative implications may be related to the physical destruction of a habitat, the impact of air emissions, the impact of traffic, noise and other general activities and light pollution.
“No sports and recreation policy can be adopted or development permitted unless it can be demonstrated through the carrying out of an environment assessment and Habitats Directive Assessment Screening that the development will not impact negatively on a Natura 2000 site or that where such an impact is likely, it can be mitigated satisfactorily.
“Developments associated with rural sport and recreation may have implications for Natura 2000 Sites because of the activity, footfall and general habitat disturbance associated with their development or due to ancillary services such as water abstraction, wastewater discharge or traffic.
“In the case of Natura 2000 Sites, no permission should be granted for any specific development unless and until an adequate assessment has been carried out and such assessment has concluded that the policy or project will have no detrimental impact on the site in question of that adequate mitigating measures are possible,” the strategy warns.
The draft strategy was considered at a recent meeting of the Housing Social and Cultural Services SPC and was adopted at a subsequent county council meeting.
Councillors recommended that the provision of public transport to existing and proposed facilities should be examined and provided where possible, as part of the objective of maximising access to sports and physical recreation opportunities.
The contribution that sports and recreation facilities make to employment in the area was also recognised. It noted they attract tourists and other visitors to the area by encouraging them to make use of the various facilities, both natural and built, which in turn supports employment in tourism-related industries.