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*Photograph: Martin Connolly

Opportunities are being missed when it comes to the future development of Roche, a former Mayor of Clare has said.

March 2020 saw pharmaceutical operations cease at Roche, thirty six years after its construction by the Syntex Corporation in Clarecastle. A search to find a buyer for the site proved unsuccessful when its closure was announced in November 2015.

Planning permission for a phased demolition of all existing buildings, structures and infrastructure at the Clarehill site was granted by Clare County Council in March of this year.

On Tuesday, councillors in the Ennis Municipal District approved a Section 38 for traffic calming in Clarecastle which include the clearing of Roche and additional parking at Church Drive.

Traffic calming and minor road improvements are referred to as a ‘Section 38” development. This is reference to in the Road Traffic Act, 1994 (as amended) which sets out the procedure for carrying out such developments. A road authority may, in the interest of the safety and convenience of road users, provide such traffic calming measures including footpath and cycle track improvements as they consider desirable in respect of public roads in their charge.

Speaking on Tuesday, Cllr Pat Daly (FF) voiced his concern that the local authority was failing to look forward when it came to the future of the Roche site. “When you are looking for enterprise, you have to do it years beforehand,” he commented and criticised the lack of organised visits with the IDA to try put in place a new factory or significant employer in Clarecastle.

Management of Roche have their “finger on the pulse,” Cllr Paul Murphy (FG) stated in response. He believed there was “no point talking” until the decommissioning and clearance works were completed and predicted it would take four to five years before detailed discussions with the IDA would commence.

Director of Service, Carmel Kirby acknowledged that the location was identified as one of the transformational sites in the Ennis 2040 and was anxious that it be developed in time.

Costs associated with the shutdown and decommissioning of the plant contributed to pre-tax losses soaring to €35.5m at Roche Ireland last year. New accounts revealed that environmental, decommissioning and demolition costs associated with the closure last year totalled €11.39m. The loss also arose from Roche Ireland incurring a €11.5m exceptional cost concerning a wind-up of the company’s defined benefit pension scheme.

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