Leitrim County Council has approved a draft plan which aims to unlock the enormous potential of the Lough Allen area by collectively promoting its economic, social and cultural development.
A report commissioned by the Council was presented to its monthly meeting last Monday night. Councillors were brought through the report in detail and informed of the work carried out by a steering group comprising Leitrim County Council, Roscommon County Council, Leitrim Enterprise Company, Failte Ireland Northwest, Leitrim Tourism, Waterways Ireland, Shannon Regional Fisheries Board and Arigna Leader Company.
Louise Browne, from consultants Colin Buchanan & Partners, explained the potential that Lough Allen has to offer as a key driver of economic development, in particular tourism, within the region.
Prompted by the preparation of the new County Development Plan 2009-2015 the objective of the study is to identify, assess and recommend a range of actions that will safeguard the integrity of the natural resource, meet the needs of the wider community, secure economic and social benefits and establish Lough Allen as a visitor destination in its own right.
Councillors gave the report a guarded welcome. While recognising the untapped potential of Lough Allen, many felt the implementation of reports such as these was the key issue.
Cllr Enda McGloin said the lake is completely and utterly underdeveloped, apart form the hotel in Drumshanbo. He said he hopes the Dowra development will proceed and the investment by Waterways Ireland in Ballinaglera. He said they need to pinpoint certain ideas for business that could be located on the lake, that would, in his view, encourage more cruiser traffic onto the lake.
Cllr Mary Bohan, while recognising and complimenting what has been done at Corry Strand and Spencer Harbour, said in general that what has been done round the lake has been piecemeal. She said what was positive about this particular report is that all of the agencies are involved, and she called for a positive direction to be adopted after the public consultation process.
Cllr Aodh Flynn said Lough Allen has enormous potential but he noted the absence of the OPW from this plan. He said the northern shore of the lake used to have large strands but the water level has been kept high in recent years
Cllr Gerry Dolan said there is a lot of good work that can be done in the Lough Allen area while Cllr Francis Gilmartin said the lack of fish stocks in the lakes, particularly bream, meant they were losing their valuable angling tourism industry.
Clir Michael Colreavy said there is a lot of good analysis and research done in these reports but where a lot of them fall down is in their implementation because there's no funding for that implementation.
"I think it should be part of the brief of a company developing a report such as this to work with the major funding agencies to see what can be done," he said, noting that such cooperation was not there.
Clir Martin Kenny said that very often reports are used as a lever for funding but very often you find the money has been spent but there is nothing to show for it but another nice document that sits on the shelf. "It's important we don't allow that to happen here," he said.
Cllr Sean McDermott agreed and said it is no good unless it is followed through and said the Council has to work with it until things start to happen.
Joseph Gilhooly, Director of Services, Community, Enterprise & Cultural Development, said it is important to get a framework to work within which will also hopefully get people thinking about what they can do.
The draft document will be available during public opening hours for public inspection at the office of Leitrim County Council, Aras an Chontae, Carrick-onShannon and on www.leitrimcoco.ie.
The draft plan will be available until February 13, 2008. People involved in the tourism sector and anyone who has an interest in the development of Lough Allen are encouraged to examine the draft plan and forward written submissions to Joan Lowe, Administrative Officer, Leitrim County Council, Community and Enterprise Department, Carrick-on-Shannon. Submissions received by February 27, 2008 will be taken into account in the completion of the final document.