Shannon is “losing a community” because of the lack of housing options available in the town.
Such sentiments were expressed by elected representatives at the May meeting of the Shannon Municipal District.
For the second meeting in succession, Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) highlighted the development of private housing in Shannon. He urged Clare County Council to be more considerate to the need for “mixed accommodation choices” in the town. The local authority took over responsibility for the town from Shannon Development in 2004, he flagged that it has been over a decade since the last private residential development was built there.
Means of “activating and proactively facilitating the delivery of private residential development on a number of potential sites in Shannon,” has commenced, senior executive planner Helen Quinn confirmed. A number of privately owned residential zoned sites have been added to the Vacant Sites Register for 2020 and will be subject to a levy next year. A review of the existing residential profile also forms part of the upcoming Shannon Town Masterplan, Helen outlined.
Reflecting on the era of Shannon Development, Cllr Flynn recalled that they were “innovative” in how they went about managing the town. “Young people are having to move out of Shannon because of the lack of housing options, we are losing a community. We are catering for social housing and the elderly who are looking for step-down housing,” he stated.
In seconding the motion, Cllr PJ Ryan (IND) agreed, “We are losing out on a type of client who wants to live in Shannon”. He maintained the onus was on the Council to invest in the sites throughout the town. “People who came working for Jaguar Land Rover wanted to settle in Shannon and wanted to build a house close enough to the Airport but they couldn’t find a site,” Cllr Ryan commented.
“Shannon is an industrial town whether we like it or not, people need to be served by that whether it is social or affordable housing,” Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF) remarked. Cllr John Crowe (FG) praised the investment made by Shannon Commercial Properties in the area and declared, “now is the time to start looking at it and be serious”.
Plans need to be put in place for the county’s second largest town, Cllr Pat McMahon (FF) believed. “There is a huge vacuum there,” he stated and said potential residents were put off by inability to build a big site. “We have to start making plans for Shannon to provide sites at a reasonable cost for growing families, they find it is impossible to build an extension”.
A new way of looking at Shannon was suggested by Cllr Pat O’Gorman (FF). “Older people are looking to step down, younger people are looking to step out and single people are looking for their own place, from my own observations there are parcels of land available”. He lamented the fact that the Council missed out on the purchase of units in the Ballycasey Craft & Design Centre, “they were there for small businesses starting off in the region, they are gone now”.
Cllr Flynn replied, “Hopefully they won’t be gone but they are gone in the sense than an investor has purchased it”. Over 150 acres are available with over 100 acres zoned from the County Development Plan 2012-2017, the Chair of the Shannon MD pointed out. He noted that lands of commercial value in the town went to Shannon Group and described the situation as Clare County Council being the biggest landlord in Shannon as “unique”.
Director of Economic Development, Liam Conneally agreed, “Shannon is unusual in that there was one major landlord in Shannon for many decades”. He acknowledged the frustrations of councillors and outlined that they are assessing the potential of low density residential zoning, “it’s limited in size but we are looking at in terms of how we can design and layout service sites for sale. We need to be long term, we need to be aware that we need a housing mix which is befitting of Shannon Town, that we don’t have too much affordable, too much social or too much private”. The local authority is taking the approach “in a holistic manner,” he said.