Thursday 7 January 2010

Seaplane plan for west meets with 'fierce opposition'

THE PROMOTER of plans to commence a scheduled commercial seaplane service for tourists in the west of Ireland said yesterday he “is taken aback by the ferocity of opposition” against locating in Lough Derg.

Director of Habourair Ireland Ltd, Ronan Connolly said: “There has been total overkill on this . . . We are talking about a nine to 12 seater sea plane.”

Harbourair Ireland Ltd has three planning applications before local authorities in Galway and Clare to develop facilities to allow it land a seaplane in Lough Derg, Galway city docks and the main harbour serving Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands.

The service will also serve Foynes in Co Limerick in its first phase. But Habourair’s plans for a berthing facility at Mountshannon in Lough Derg have provoked vehement local opposition.

Local opposition was underscored yesterday as the Department of the Environment made a submission to Clare County Council stating “birds are likely to be disturbed and possibly injured by the operation of seaplanes in Mountshannon bay”.

The bay is located in a special protection area for birds.

The department, along with An Taisce, is demanding that the council request a comprehensive study from Harbourair on the impact the seaplane will have on protected birds and other wildlife in the area.

Separately, the Lough Derg branch of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland has told the council: “It is unclear how any operation of a float-plane in the area indicated could ever be safe.

“The area indicated is one of the busiest boating areas on the Shannon and the proposed operating area lies directly across the approaches to Mountshannon harbour.”

Mr Connolly said the planning applications for Galway city and Inis Mór attracted no objections , in contrast to the application for Lough Derg.“Tourism is in serious decline and you would think that initiatives like this would be welcomed.”

Mr Connolly said that it was “nonsensical” to claim the seaplane would disturb birds in the area. “The planes won’t be disturbing birds at all . . . A lot of the objections from a factual point of view don’t hold up.”

Mr Connolly said the cost of processing the planning applications and foreshore licences was about €250,000.

He said that it would cost between €75 and €100 for a one day return ticket between the various destinations.

A decision on the application is expected later this month.

Irish Times

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