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An enhancement scheme proposed for Doolin including the construction of a service centre has been described as “a miniature of what is happening with the National Children’s Hospital”.

€235,000 from a budget of €450,000 has already been paid to consultants for the development of the visitor centre in North Clare with elected representatives of the West Clare Municipal District very annoyed with the lack of progress made since 2016.

Cllr Bill Slattery called on Clare County Council “to invite the consultants who were appointed in early 2016 at a cost of €450k to attend an urgent meeting with the West Clare councillors with a full progress report and hopefully a design for the service centre and is a design for the centre is not available promptly that the consultants contract would be terminated”.

In an official reply to Slattery at the March meeting of the West Clare MD, senior engineer of the Council’s project management office, Sean Lenihan said members were aware a multi-disciplinary design team had been appointed to carry out a masterplan for the Doolin area including a visitors services building at the pier and an enhancement strategy for the village. He stated “significant work” had been done regarding “public consultation, data gathering, flood risk assessment, wastewater treatment options and car parking requirements”.

Lenihan stressed that much of the focus to date had been on the village enhancement. “Following the successful public meeting held late last summer, consensus was reached on the way forward which allowed the strategy to be finalised towards the end of 2018”. The local authority along with Bucholz McEvoy Architects presented details on the final draft in July.

€465,571 was recently set aside to develop a masterplan to develop a new visitor and tourist centre at Doolin Pier in the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund which Mr Lenihan confirmed would allow the Council “proceed at pace with the detailed design, planning permission and tender preparation for the construction of the visitor services building and ancillary site works at the Pier”. He confirmed that he would circulate a timeline on the design and delivery in the coming weeks and would arrange a briefing with elected members “as soon as possible thereafter”.

A frustrated Slattery told the meeting, “We are now into the fourth tourist season since this masterplan was announced and it hasn’t even gone to tender. €450,000 has been given to the consultants, we are four years down the road and nothing has been done”. The Fine Gael councillor read from a three year old reply from former acting CEO Ger Dollard which stated the project was “scheduled for completion in October 2016”. He added, “Somebody has taken their eye of the ball, this is a miniature of what is happening with the National Children’s Hospital”.

Fianna Fáil’s Richard Nagle seconded the motion. “The lack of progress is a source of immense frustration”. He felt current facilities at Doolin Pier were “third world”, “there are no toilets”. Nagle continued, “It is simply not good enough. If the money had been put into the infrastructure we would have state of the art facilities and the provision of a service centre”.

Council Director, Leonard Cleary admitted, “The frustration is shared by our staff and colleagues”. “I acknowledge a huge delay occurred. We have appointed a project management office led by Sean Lenihan to take over, I am confident the fresh approach will deliver a design”. He confirmed the immediate priority from a tourism angle is the visitor centre and that he had met with both ferry operators.

“A substantial amount of work has not been done and a substantial amount of the budget has not been paid. We will not be paying until the work is done,” Cleary outlined. West Clare councillors will be briefed by the consultants subsequent to a meeting with the project management office. Administrative Officer, John Corry announced, “I can confirm €235,000 has been paid to consultants to date”.

“This is not a blame game but this has been handled very poorly,” Slattery lamented. Cllr Nagle emphasised the need for consultants to come with a design when they meet the elected representatives, “There needs to be a strict supervision of the people charged with the delivery”.

When pushed for a cost by councillors, Leonard Cleary stated, “Without design or a quantity surveyor I couldn’t guess but it will be a multi million euro project. We now have category two funding to pay for costs”. He expressed his hope that once the centre opened “it will generate funds to offset the cost”.

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