A DECISION by An Bord Pleanala to refuse permission for a 16-berth marina near the village of Dowra in Co Cavan has angered local politicians who say the move will thwart commercial development and hinder tourism in the area.
The Waterways Ireland proposal would have involved dredging a stretch of the Annagh River to create a 3.5km navigable channel north of Lough Allen to within 2km of Dowra, where the mooring facilities were to be constructed. Supporters of the scheme point out that building the marina would make the Shannon River navigable from Limerick right up to Dowra and claim the new facilities would significantly increase tourism and commercial development.
However the planning board ruled that the proposal would be at variance with the general provisions of the county development plan and would be "contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area". The board also expres - s ed concerns that dredging the river could destroy fish spawning grounds and would facilitate the spread of an invasive species of mussel which damages fish stocks.
"To say people round here are outraged by this decision would be putting it mildly, " says Cavan councillor, John Paul Feeley. "Dowra is the first village on the Shannon and it makes perfect sense to extend the navigable channel to that point. Other towns and villages along the Shannon waterway have benefited hugely during the Celtic Tiger years. Pubs, restaurants and service industries in places like Drumshanbo, Carrick-onShannon and Leitrim have all experienced commercial spinoff effects. But even though it's at the heart of an area earmarked for urban renewal, Dowra has missed out."
Dowra straddles counties Cavan and Leitrim with most of the village located in the Ulster county. "Colleagues of mine on Leitrim County Council are quite adamant that An Bord Pleanala is absolutely wrong in its interpretation of the county development plan. You have to remember this was a carefully considered application from a state body with a mandate to ensure that the waterways of Ireland are accessible to the people."
According to Feeley, the vast majority of local people are in favour of extending the waterway and building the marina. He claims a small group of locally based objectors consistently oppose any proposals for development in the area.
"I believe people who object to An Bord Pleanala should have to prove they'll be directly impacted by a proposed development. And I also think the local authority should be able to seek clarification of any decision arriv - ed at by the board."
Paschal Mooney, chairman of Failte Eireann Northwest, believes the decision to refuse permission for the marina will mean the area's tourism potential remains unrealised.
"I would strongly urge Water ways Ireland to look at the judgement in detail and to address the objections with a view to resubmitting a further application. The propos - ed canal forms part of a tour ism development plan for an area that is socially and economically disadvantaged and if completed would generate significant income for the local economy and the wider Leitrim, west Cavan and north Roscommon region."
A spokesperson for Waterways Ireland says the state body will "study the planning board inspector's report before we comment on the decision".