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Half a million euros is being spent on the development of the Cliffs of Moher 2040 strategy which is due to be completed by the end of this year.

Clare County Council and Fáilte Ireland are funding the strategy which is undertaken by the Cliffs of Moher Centre Ltd with Leicester based Haley Sharpe Design the consultants for the project which started in November 2019.

€500,000 is the cost of the project which is evenly split between the local authority and Fáilte Ireland. Clare County Council have “self-generated” their share through takings from the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience.

An extension of six months to the project was agreed on account of COVID-19 with the timeframe for completion now scheduled for the final quarter of this year. Currently, it is at the public and stakeholder consultation phase and is viewed as a masterplan for the country’s most visited natural attraction.

Eighteen individuals are on the steering committee, eight of which are associated with the County Council including Director of Service, Leonard Cleary, Head of Tourism Deirdre O’Shea, Cllr Shane Talty (FF) and Cllr Gabriel Keating (FG). Bobby Kerr, Chairperson of the Board of Cliffs of Moher ad Geraldine Enright, Director of Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience are also on the committee along with Fáilte Ireland trio, Paul Carty (interim Chairperson), Miriam Kennedy (Head of Wild Atlantic Way), Fiona Monaghan (New Projects Manager).

Preliminary research, on-site investigations and “desk-top studies” have been the focus of the work to date in a bid to understand the challenges facing the Cliffs of Moher and to identify the potential opportunities.

Challenges highlighted include the negative impact of large visitor numbers at peak times including the consequence for local communities, towns and villages, vehicle congestion, a poor sense of arrival and reducing the disruption for locals. The limited economic impact of the attraction which had 1.9m visitors in 2019 also needs to be addressed, short dwell times, low secondary spending and limited overnight stays are earmarked as items to tackle. Environmental damage is also under discussion by the committee, these conversations are touching on the physical damage, threats to flora and fauna plus the visual intrusion to the landscape.

Placing the Cliffs “at the heart of a world class sustainable tourism destination through the development of enhanced relationships and links with the Burren, the Wild Atlantic Way, and the Wider Hinterland,” Director of Service with Clare County Council, Leonard Cleary stated. The Cliffs can be used as “the magnet to attract and disperse visitors across the county”.

Plans are to be put together to introduce a sustainable transport system across the county to deliver sustainable access to the Cliffs and beyond, remote parking hubs and a shuttle bus system is intended to be provided to visitors. A new focus on the cliff edge experience is to be drafted, initial ideas tabled include ‘walking on the edge of the world’ and ‘creating exciting opportunities to go to the edge and over’.

Work on the strategy offers “a once in a generation opportunity for the Ennistymon local electoral area and the Burren,” Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG) maintained. The Cathaoirleach of the West Clare MD has led the call for a plan focusing on the host communities within the LEA that will align with the strategy.

Community collaboration and consultation is “key” to the success of the strategy, Cllr Susan Crawford (GP) maintained. “An elderly gentleman pointed out to me in Miltown, the people that were coming to Miltown, Kilfenora and all these places in the 70s and 80s, they hadn’t heard of the Cliffs, they were coming for the music. We really want to see this giving a bigger picture in the overall strategy”.

Clare’s tourism offering is the “envy of so many other counties in the country,” Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) stated. “We need a view of the whole area when putting the product together so the whole area can benefit”. Focusing on the broader community beyond the site is “itself as important,” Cllr Shane Talty (FF) commented.

Describing the “community piece of the model” as “a very strong leg of the stool,” Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) was adamant, “the community need to feel they have been listened to, whether that is criticism, opportunities or insight, it has to be listened to and taken on board”.

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