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. 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 500 sq km of navigable water running from Kerry Head and Loop Head as far as Limerick City, a distance of 100 km. 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 9 ‘Strategic Sites’ on the Estuary, namely Moneypoint, Innismurry/Cahericon (Clare), Limerick Docks, Foynes Island, Foynes Port and adjoining lands, Askeaton Industrial Estate, Aughinish Island, (Limerick), Tarbert Power Station and Ballylongford Landbank (Kerry). 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 8 separate opportunity sites identified on the Estuary, including designated Shell Fish Waters at Poulnasherry Bayand 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.
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, the SIFP will also aspire to achieving a careful balance between promoting development, and protection and conservation of this natural resource.
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.
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).