*Doolin Pier. 

DELIVERY of the Doolin Pier visitor building “has gone on too long,” frustrated representatives in North Clare have said of the ongoing delays.

Clare County Council are currently liaising with the Department of Rural and Community Development to try secure additional funding to progress the Doolin Pier Visitor Services Building to statutory consent stage. An environmental evaluation of land use options and re-engagements with a design team appointed in 2023 has been completed.

Planning permission had been granted in 2019 for the visitor centre but little progress has been recorded in the intervening years. In 2022, the Council had signalled their intent to submit a planning application for the visitor centre with An Bord Pleánala at the end of 2022 with the hope of gaining approval by the second quarter of 2023. The handover of the site had previously been earmarked for 2024.

In a proposal before this month’s sitting of the West Clare Municipal District, Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG) asked that the development of the visitor centre at Doolin Pier include a high quality mobility and master plan to incorporate pedestrian and cycle access back to Fisher Street and Doolin village. A priority design objective must be to ensure “maximum access and facilitation of the local community to the amenities, shore areas and the ocean along with immediate upgrade of areas around the old pier,” he said.

Scoping and investigation of the piers to “identify where possible the development of high quality and fully accessible bathing areas and areas for leisure activity”, the installation of EV charging points and linkages for service food and beverage provision to existing local business and producers also formed part of his request.

Senior engineer in the Project Management Office of the Council, John Leahy outlined that “significant design development has already been undertaken in respect of the provision of a purpose-designed facility at Doolin pier to serve the needs of ferry operators and passengers. The provision would include points of contact/desks for ferry operators, toilets, information point and a small retail outlet serving a limited range of food and beverage and consumable essentials. Additional carparking and linkages to Doolin pier will be incorporated to facilitate embarking and passenger movement. The facility will be designed to accommodate muti-modal use by making provision for cyclists, and mixed ability users”.

According to Leahy the project allows for “the best standards in accessible travel, parking, and footpath design, where required for the facility. This would include footpaths and pavements close to the foreshore/pier area where these are required for passengers and the public using the facility whilst maintaining existing access to foreshore amenities”.

Existing access to the leisure amenities for recreational use at Doolin Pier will be maintained but enhanced bathing areas will not be provided, Leahy outlined. A proportion of carparking spaces will be dedicated to EV charging, he said. “The facility will include a small retail outlet for food and beverage, and retail goods. It is important to note that this would be a ‘Grab & Go’ retail model, the intention for which would be to provide visitors with light refreshments and basic necessities. This offering would complement rather than replace the hospitality of local businesses and producers,” Leahy added.

Acting senior executive officer in the West Clare MD, John Corry advised that “the Doolin Enhancement Strategy ,2019 can help inform pedestrian and cycle access between Doolin Pier and Fisher St and the wider Doolin village. The West Clare MD will also arrange to review any necessary upkeep works at the Old Pier”.

Lisdoonvarna based Garrihy told the meeting that €465,000 in project development funding was granted to Doolin Pier in 2019, “the greatest progress was made when our Municipal District got involved locally”. Where scope doesn’t presently exist, it needs to be brought in or expanded, Cllr Garrihy stressed.

Garrihy continued, “when it was left to the project management office I felt it was not pushed”. He noted the “massive” investment of multi-million euros by a ferry company operating out of Doolin Pier, “when something is working you keep investing in it, keep people in Doolin”. A refocus is needed “at the bigger picture to benefit the entire area,” he stated.

Taking a step back to examine the project is “timely,” Cllr Shane Talty (FF) believed. “It is a project that has gone on too long, it is disappointing the length it has taken but it is an opportune time to take a helicopter view of the whole area”. While seconding the proposal he flagged there are now “less operators” at Doolin Pier.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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