Thursday 9 April 2009

Doolin Cave visitor centre plan lodged

THE PROMOTERS of Doolin Cave, Co Clare, have relodged plans for a visitor centre to serve people going to view the Pol an Ionáin stalactite.

However, the owners of Ailwee Cave, a nearby rival, quickly lodged an objection against the plan by Doolin Cave Ltd.

The new plan by John and Helen Browne of Doolin Cave Ltd attracted one other objection, from a Michael Scanlon of Lissycasey, Ennis, Co Clare.

A previous application by the Brownes earlier this year was invalidated on a technicality and the plans have now been relodged.

The planning application argues that the cave, which contains reputedly the largest free-hanging stalactite in the world, is not viable without a visitor centre.

The Brownes opened Doolin Cave to the public three years ago.However, stringent conditions were imposed on them and tourists had to be bussed to the cave, where there were no onsite facilities.

In a letter accompanying the application for a visitor centre, Doolin Cave Ltd states: “The developers did not anticipate that the ‘park-and-ride’ operation at Doolin Cave would present any difficulty when it was first proposed by them in their planning application.

“They tried it over three tourist seasons in 2006, 2007 and 2008 in good faith and have found to their disappointment that it does not generate enough revenue to be viable into the future.”

The letter states that the cave itself is very successful and visitors have been overwhelmingly positive.

It says there is no other visitor attraction in the State “which operates on a park-and-ride basis and a chemical toilet system”.

The application argues that Doolin Cave “has huge potential to become one of Ireland’s top visitor attractions” in a sustainable way.

It says the lack of visitor facilities on the site “will never allow it develop to its full potential”.

However, in his objection, Mr Scanlon states: “An Bord Pleanála has always insisted that no buildings or toilet facilities be erected on this site.

“This is undoubtedly to safeguard the stalactite.”

Mr Scanlon expresses his opposition to what he calls the “built-up environment and commercialism of the Doolin tourist industry invading this far into the unspoilt countryside”.

He adds: “There is a showcase/ visitor attraction employing 100 people in the area already. Is another viable in this economic climate?”

A decision is due on the application by Doolin Cave Ltd later this year.

Irish Times

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