*A camper van making its way through Corofin. Photograph: Páraic McMahon
Clare is not designed for camper vans and suitable locations need to be found to accommodate such visitors, members of the West Clare Municipal District have said.
Councillors Ian Lynch (IND) and Cillian Murphy (FF) both tabled motions relating to overnight camping, caravans and camper vans to the MD’s September meeting. Lynch asked for bye laws to be developed “to regulate and control the influx of temporary overnight visitors” and to identify “safe and suitable locations” for them to reside at. Murphy requested a feasibility study on the number of sites for overnight rental “on a twenty four hour basis using existing public car parking facilities”.
“There is merit in improving/increasing the provision of these tourism services tailored to demand and appropriate regulation,” Leonard Cleary acknowledged in his reply. The Director of Rural Development confirmed the County Council would “develop a proposal for a feasibility study to address this tourism need and also associated issues acquiring bye-laws”.
Waste left behind by guests to the county in camper vans is causing problems for residents and the Kilrush Tidy Towns who “are having to clean up their waste,” Cllr Lynch said. “Every time we look at doing something in West Clare we say tourism is going to be a saviour but we are not set up for camper vans”. He added, “We’re a bit behind the curve but before it passes us out, we might come up with the infrastructure for it”.
Cllr Murphy stated, “Ireland in general and Clare specifically is extremely poorly served by serviced overnight parking for motor homes”. In Ireland, the local spend per day of motor home owners is believed to be in the region of €30-€40. To highlight the differences in spend, he referred to a New Zealand study on the subject which estimated that the stay length of domestic renters was 9 days and international visitors 19. €115 was their average daily spend.
“I am a firm believer in two concepts, firstly, ‘build it and they will come’ and secondly ‘use what we have, where we have it’. We have many public car parks, owned and managed by Clare County Council, they are ideally located to serve as overnight motor home parking facilities, many of them are in extremely scenic remote locations, like the Bridges of Ross, with its dark skies and would be highly desirable overnight stops offering a very special Wild Atlantic/West Clare experience. It will create an opportunity for Clare County Council to earn revenues from what would otherwise be dead spaces at night,” the Kilkee representative added.
Supporting the duo in their request, Cllr Joe Garrihy quipped, “Come up to Lisdoonvarna and you’ll see the challenges” when it comes to camper vans.
Fine Gael’s Gabriel Keating insisted the problem has been ongoing for over a decade. “I remember ten years ago having lunch in Kilrush, I’ve had lunches since, I met a man and his family about to get back into their camper van who said they were going to Lahinch instead because there was nowhere to park it. There is a great opportunity there, there’s so many opportunities for developing tourism”.
Acting senior executive engineer, John O’Malley agreed that “it is not something we should wait for”. He warned that some sites such as Kilkee may not be suitable due to various challenges such as wastewater and flooding”.