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AN ‘OPPORTUNIST’ could save Clare County Council from spending “hundreds of thousands of euros” on an overflow car park by one of East Clare’s most popular tourist amenities.

Clare County Council are presently assessing their land holdings in the vicinity of Two Mile Gate as part of considerations to develop an overflow car park.

Such a proposal was not necessary in the eyes of Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF) who felt there instead was potential for locals to make a quick buck while also easing the burden on the County Council.

Having visited White Strand recently where they have “lovely facilities”, Cllr O’Callaghan noted how one landowner allowed their land be used as parking while charging a fee. He saw nothing wrong with a similar approach coming into place around Two Mile Gate where “300 of the 365 days of the year are perfect”.

According to the Cathaoirleach of the Killaloe Municipal District, all that’s needed is to “get a young fella to open the gate and make a few bob”. He stated, “We could spend hundreds of thousands on an overflow car park, is there an opportunist landowner out there that could provide this on days when there is mad car parking, let him charge a few bob but get people off the road and keep them safe”.

Acting senior executive officer in the Killaloe MD, Morgan Lahiffe responded, “as a local authority we are subject to planning conditions, I won’t comment on other things going on in the county but we simply can’t open a gate”. He said the Council must “weigh up the cost benefit and see is it worth our while to spend our money on an overflow car park, we need to analyse it a bit more”.

Ballycuggeran and Two Mile Gate is regularly discussed among Killaloe MD staff, Lahiffe told councillors with portaloo toilets introduced and options to relieve pressure points under consideration. Numbers at the amenity are collated on a daily basis with the amount of cars on the road over the summer months to be analysed.

Gardaí based in Killaloe have been asked by the Council to have a presence in Ballycuggeran for traffic safety and behavioural aspects with a guarantee issued for a frequent presence over the summer.

Separate motions had been tabled by Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) and Cllr Pat Burke (FG) asking the Council to “explore” and “improve” parking options respectively with Cooney also seeking more maintenance along the Tuamgraney to Killaloe Rd.

In a written response, Lahiffe explained that 2030 Tourism Strategy “looks to build the tourism product in East Clare” with Two Mile Gate a key part of the future offering. Warm weather brings challenges to tourism amenities such as parking availability, he stated. He was hopeful of securing funding for a traffic calming scheme in the next twelve months and highlighted that the speed limit was reduced from 80km/h to 50km/h.

Pandemic restrictions forced people to ‘stay local’ and “a lot of people got to know the Two Mile Gate,” Cllr Cooney remarked. “Unfortunately the fine weather also brings problems and that is parking, a car space or some place could be made available”. He said the hot weather period at the beginning of July was “choc a bloc” in the area, “it was impossible for some vehicles to get through but it is fantastic to see the crowds.

Putting a hard shoulder on the road as a temporary measure was suggested by Whitegate-based Burke who spoke to contractors that had difficulty traversing past. “The sunshine brings its problems and it’s not every day we will need extra parking”.

This drew agreement from Cllr Tony O’Brien (FF), “It just happens to be the fine days, it is not all year round, the Gardai have a role to play, for road safety they should be notified, if the car park is at capacity it is uncomfortable for people to use”.

Current conditions at Ballycuggeran are “not sustainable” according to Cllr Pat Hayes (FF), “We don’t want it to be uncomfortable for people. The important thing is keeping people here and not having them traversing to Kilkee”. He felt a “real shortage of workers” from CE schemes were seeing communities suffer.

With Cooney and Burke having tabled motions on this and parking in Scariff at the July meeting of the Killaloe MD, it amused their colleagues. Burke advised them, “you might think myself and Joe are joined at the hip” while Cllr O’Brien speculated “there must be an election coming up”, O’Callaghan mused “or they mustn’t talk” which prompted O’Brien to enquire if The Clare Echo were taking tips on who the favourites were.

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