*Shannon Chamber President, Eoin Gavin. Photograph: Eamon Ward

INVESTMENT in Shannon and the wider Mid-West region remains under threat due to the shortage of housing, the President of Shannon Chamber has flagged.

Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien (FF) was the keynote speaker at a lunch organised by Shannon Chamber which took place in Dromoland Castle on Friday.

Addressing the Minister, Shannon Chamber President Eoin Gavin detailed that the dearth of housing in the region was continuing to pose a serious risk and turning off potential investors.

A survey completed by member companies of Shannon Chamber found that 87% of respondents said the lack of housing in the area was “having a significant impact”.

CEO of Shannon Chamber, Helen Downes outlined that the invite was issued to the Minister in July. She said housing scarcity remained a “pressing issue” in the region.

Referencing these figures, the Shannon Chamber President commented, “the impact of the lack of housing is having too big of an impact to be ignored”.

“We are too familiar with the impact of a lack of housing on our society,” he stated. Positive announcements are proving to be “futile for our existing workforce never mind an expanding one”.

Ireland’s “housing crisis and infrastructure problems represent a risk to investment,” the Sixmilebridge man commented.

Shannon Chamber have held many meetings with their members on the subject of housing and its lack of, Gavin outlined. “Members outlined issues and offered solutions such as a flexible mechanism to transfer unoccupied units to residential”.

How Atlantic Aviation Group have had to acquire property in Sixmilebridge to develop it as housing for its staff was referenced by the haulier. He said he was aware of another company currently in discussions with Clare County Council “to take serviced lands to build houses”.

During his address, Eoin also noted how Shannon proved to be an industrial powerhouse for raising standards in the country since it became Ireland’s first new town in the 20th century. He said a “major investment programme” is ongoing to reinvigorate the Shannon Free Zone.

Support needs to be given to the upcoming application from Clare County Council for Shannon in the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF). “We have expressed concern that in spite of 10,000 people living in Shannon and 10,000 people working in Shannon and that it accounts for 30 percent of the rates in Clare that Shannon lacks a natural town centre and streetscape and an absence of public buildings which are normal in most town centres”.

Turning to the subject of offshore energy, Eoin admitted he couldn’t understand why the first development of this nature in Ireland would occur off the south coast and not where the work of the Shannon Estuary taskforce was focused.

“In a short presentation Eoin has given me a long list of things to do for this region,” Minister O’Brien remarked when he took to the floor. Commitments to invest €5bn on housing over the next five was given by the Minister for Housing. “In 2022 we delivered more social homes than we did in the last 50 years,” he added.

Praising his work as Minister, the Dublin Fingal TD said he has delivered the “largest overhaul” of the planning system in Ireland which will see An Bord Pleanála fully resources “to the level that they haven’t been before”.

URDF funding is expected to be opened in the next two to three months, Minister O’Brien highlighted. “I’ve seen the work in Ennis and it has been to the forefront”.

On the subject of businesses buying properties to house their staff, Cllr Pat O’Gorman (FF) commented, “that is all good and nobody is against but when these business are bought up by the companies, it would be small hotels or guesthouses bought up and the bednights are gone for people visiting this area, this is a holiday hotspot, every big business that buys up a restaurant or pub to put it into housing for staff is bednights gone from the system”. He appealed to the Minister to look at land use in Co Clare.

“That is the whole challenge about increasing supply,” Minister O’Brien replied. There has been a 77 percent increase in new homes in the region since 2020, he said. “There is a balance, we changed legislation in that regard to have an owner occupied guarantee but the challenge is to deliver more private homes”.

Clare County Council have “led the way with social housing but we need to see more private housing and I’d love to see more affordable housing applications from Clare,” the Minister added. “We’re going in the right direction in Clare but the outlook is good for this region”.

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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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