Thursday, 20 October 2011

Master plan under way for Shannon estuary

A STRATEGIC integrated framework plan – claimed to be the first of its type in Ireland – is being drawn up for the Shannon estuary, with the involvement of all the local authorities and other stakeholders.

Ultimately, the plan “will be used to direct and guide the sustainable management, development and environmental conservation of the Shannon estuary and its environs into the future”, says the steering committee’s brief.

The estuary is the largest in Ireland with an area of some 1,500sq km and extends for 100km from Limerick city to Loop Head. However, jurisdiction for what happens around it is split between four local authorities – Clare, Limerick and Kerry county councils and Limerick City Council.

The marine aspects of the estuary are controlled by a variety of statutory authorities, including the Department of the Environment, the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Despite the presence of installations such as Moneypoint power station and Aughinish Alumina, the entire estuary is a special area of conservation under the EU habitats directive and much of it is also a special protection area under the birds directive.

“These designations impose considerable obligations on those charged with their protection,” the brief says. Thus, the strategic plan “should not impact negatively on the favourable conservation status of a designated site, either by itself or in combination with other plans”.

When completed, the plan is to be incorporated into the four local authorities’ development plans, and it will be up to them to implement its policies and objectives. It will also become part of the Shannon Foynes Port Company’s master plan, now being drafted.

Port company chief executive Patrick Keating said it was “one of the key economic engines” of the region, with trade valued at more than €6 billion a year, and needed a “clear vision for making sure the company can continue to deliver for the estuary, region and nation”. Clare County Council planning officer Gordon Daly said the port company was “totally on board”; its chief executive is a member of the steering committee and the company is also part-funding the overall project.

A public notice has been published to encourage the public and all interested parties to bring forward proposals and ideas to help shape the plan for the estuary.

All submissions will be taken into consideration prior to publication of a final draft, expected next June. Submissions should be sent to RPS Consulting Engineers, Mulkear House, Newtown Centre, Annacotty, Co Limerick, or e-mail Sheila.Downes@rpsgroup.com

Irish Times

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