Released: 17 December 2012
Details have been announced of a major strategic plan for the future development and management of marine-related industry and tourism along Ireland’s largest estuary, the Shannon Estuary.
Jan O’Sullivan, TD, Minister of State for Housing & Planning launched the Draft Strategic Integrated Framework Plan (SIFP) for the Shannon Estuary on Friday, December 14th 2012. The Minister also launched www.shannonestuarysifp.ie, a new website that has been developed to coincide with an eight week public consultation period that extends from 17th December 2012 to 15th February 2013.
The land and marine-based plan, the first of its type to be developed in the country, has been commissioned by a multi-agency steering group comprising Clare County Council as lead authority, Kerry County Council, Limerick City and County Councils, Shannon Development and Shannon Foynes Port Company.
The Shannon Estuary features 500km2 of navigable water running from Kerry Head and Loop Head as far as Limerick City, a distance of 100km. The Estuary is Ireland’s premier deepwater port, routinely catering for ships up to 200,000 deadweight tonnage, with key ports at Limerick and Foynes. It is home to a number of large industries and employers, including ESB Moneypoint, Aughinish Alumina, Tarbert Power Station, Shannon Airport, NORA Fuel Reserve. Meanwhile, the Estuary supports a variety of economic uses but is also rich in natural resources, wildlife and ecosystems.
The newly launched SIFP identifies nine ‘Strategic Sites’ on the Estuary, namely Tarbert Power Station and Ballylongford Landbank (Kerry), Moneypoint, Innismurry/Cahericon (Clare), and Limerick Docks, Foynes Island, Foynes Port and adjoining lands, Askeaton Industrial Estate, Aughinish Island, (Limerick). For the most part, these sites are zoned for ‘Marine-Related Industry’ with Askeaton zoned for ‘Industry’ and Limerick Docks zoned for ‘Mixed Use’. In some cases, the zonings confirm existing large scale developments but additional lands for expansion and some new sites are also identified.
The SIFP identifies Moneypoint and Tarbert Power Stations as ‘Key Energy Sites’ in addition to Ballylongford Landbank, the site of the permitted liquefied natural gas (LNG) Project. The Plan identifies Kilconly Point, Carrig Island, Tarbert Bay (Kerry) and Moneypoint (Clare) as opportunity sites for renewable energy, with opportunities for servicing offshore renewable energy developments also identified.
There is a similar approach to fishing and aquaculture with eight separate opportunity sites identified on the Estuary, including designated Shell Fish Waters at Poulnasherry Bay and Carrigaholt Bay in County Clare. Other areas of opportunity include Rinevella Bay, Killimer and Clonderlaw Bay in Clare, Carrig Island in Kerry, and Greenish Island and Long Rock in Limerick.
The Plan recognises the tourism potential of the Estuary and includes objectives to further develop the Cruise Ship industry, while it highlights the potential of the Islands on the Fergus Estuary. Meanwhile, the strategy features objectives relating to aviation and supports the future development of Shannon Airport, including acknowledging the importance of the 2000-acre land bank zoned for aviation uses in the new Shannon Town & Environs Local Area Plan 2012-2018.
Speaking at the Strategy launch, Minister O’Sullivan said: “I very much welcome that all the various local authorities and other key agencies have come together to develop an integrated plan for this most important asset. It represents collaboration and joined up planning at its best and I have no doubt that it will be emerge as an example of best practice for others to replicate.”
“This is a very exciting initiative for the Shannon Estuary and for the counties of Clare, Limerick and Kerry as for the first time a single Strategic Plan for the entire Shannon Estuary, including the lands immediately adjacent to the Estuary, is being developed,” added the Mayor of Kerry, Cllr Terry O'Brien.
“This Plan is the culmination of months of work and represents the commitment of those with a role in the management of the Shannon Estuary in ensuring that future development takes place in a coherent and sustainable manner. I hope that many new opportunities will be afforded to the people of Kerry, and the wider region, as a result of this Plan”.
Paul Stack, Senior Engineer with Kerry County Council’s Planning Department outlined that the aim of the SIFP is to identify the nature and location of future development, economic growth and employment that can be sustainably accommodated within the Shannon Estuary. However, as the estuary is designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the EU Habitats Directive and also partly a Special Protection Area (SPA) for Birds, Mr. Stack noted that “the SIFP will also aspire to achieve a careful balance between promoting development, and protection and conservation of this natural resource”.
“The Estuary is multi-functional as its waters and adjoining lands support a range of functions, uses, communities, activities and environmental resources and assets. Although the SIFP attributes a very strong weight to the growth of shipping and safe guarding the commercial shipping lanes it also has objectives for marine tourism, leisure and recreation as well commercial fishing and aquaculture, energy and renewable energy as well as aviation,” Mr. Stack concluded.
According to Mr. Pat Keating, CEO of Shannon Foynes Port Company (SFPC), which is responsible for all maritime activities and port management on the Estuary: “The publication of the SIFP is the result of significant research and collaboration by all the agencies involved over the past 12 months and will set out a clear vision for the future development of the Estuary.”
Mr. Keating added: “The identification of the Strategic Sites is a significant step forward in the positioning of the Shannon Estuary as a centre of excellence for future marine and port related investment. The SFPC is currently in the process of finalising its 30 year master plan for the Port of Foynes, Limerick Docks and the Shannon Estuary having regard to this Estuary Strategy.”
The SIFP for the Shannon Estuary will be on display from December 17th 2012 to February 15th 2013 to give the public an opportunity to view the proposals and put forward their opinions to the appointed consultants, RPS Consulting Engineers. Public consultation events will also be held, details of which will be advertised in January and made available on the website www.shannonestuarysifp.ie. On completion later in 2013, it is anticipated that the SIFP will be incorporated, by means of Variation, into the relevant County and City Development Plans. Further consultation with the public will take place as part of that statutory Variation process.
To coincide with the public consultation process an amateur photography competition has also been launched. With two categories, ‘Adult’ and ‘U18’, photographs submitted can feature any aspect of the Estuary, including people, places, biodiversity, work and recreation activities. Further details can be obtained from www.shannonestuarysifp.ie.
Other organisations represented on the steering group include the Mid West Regional Authority, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, Shannon Airport, Limerick Clare Energy Agency, OPW, National Parks & Wildlife Service, National Monuments Service, Shannon River Basin District Project, Marine Institute and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).