Leadership is needed to maximise the potential investment for West Clare from the Shannon Estuary.
These sentiments were echoed by Cllr Ian Lynch (IND) at a recent sitting of the West Clare Municipal District where he called for the re-establishing of a Strategic Integrated Framework Plan (SIFP) committee for the Shannon Estuary to identify potential developments.
He also wished to see the Moneypoint task force reconvened to lead a consultation process “on how best to develop land banks” in the Municipal District “to ensure an early input into any potential planning applications ensuring maximum benefit of the natural resources available”.
Chief Executive of Clare County Council, Pat Dowling currently chairs the SIFP Steering Committee, Director of Service Liam Conneally outlined. He confirmed that a SIFP marketing group has been set up while SIFP data “will be made available to the ESB and other commercial interests intending to invest in the Estuary. This material will be of particular assistance to all parties seeking planning consent for on/offshore development in the Estuary”.
Briefings from the ESB on the Green Atlantic development at Moneypoint are to be held with West Clare councillors at least every six months, the Director stated in response to the suggestion to reignite taskforce.
Recent plans announced for Moneypoint were acknowledged by Cllr Lynch, “while it has been very positive it comes with a caveat that we need to be prepared”. He was confident numerous developments would appear along the Shannon Estuary but stressed that open and honest discussions were needed. Plans of the Shannon LNG and Shannon Foynes plus that of ESB were referenced by the Kilrush representative, “if we let one group run away with it we could damage the potential of the Estuary. We need to be very proactive on this.”.
Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Lynch stressed, “This asset doesn’t belong to the ESB, it belongs to the people of Co Clare, unless we step up to protect it for people of Clare we will lose it and it will stop all future development. I want this Council to lead it, we were quick to lead when we wanted investment, now we need to manage the investment”.
Agreement was echoed by Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF). He described the Shannon Estuary as one of the most contested but protected places on the west of Ireland. “It’s going to be the sum of all the parts that take place in the Estuary that will end up being a constraining factor on what goes on in the Estuary”. He added, “Unless there is a cohesive comprehensive collaboration of the communities sharing the resource, it will hamper this”.
Both aspects of the proposal were “major economic opportunities for West Clare,” Director of Service, Leonard Cleary noted. There is input from senior management of the Council to the SIFP, he assured elected representatives.
Concluding the discussion, Cllr Lynch said the conversation on their concerns must be had. The potential of a trans-shipment port “won’t be possible unless the plans are backed,” he warned.