Saturday 27 November 2010

Seaplane base for Lough Derg approved

A NEW base for seaplanes on the River Shannon at Lough Derg was approved yesterday by An Bord Pleanála.

The board rejected appeals against the proposal from An Taisce and Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI).

Local anglers and residents had also appealed Clare County Council’s decision to grant planning permission for the the base at Mountshannon.

The base is to form part of a network of facilities by Harbour Flights Ireland Ltd for a seaplane service around the country.

Yesterday, Harbour Flights chief executive Emelyn Heaps said he was delighted with the decision, and hopes to start flying tourists in next year.

Mr Heaps said the base at Mountshannon is just one location from which the seaplane service will operate, with other locations at Foynes, Limerick city, Galway city, Inishmore, Cobh, Waterford and Dublin.

In its ruling yesterday, the appeals board gave the project planning approval after finding the proposal would not seriously injure the amenities of the area or of property in the vicinity; would not give rise to creation of a traffic hazard; would not be prejudicial to public health, and would not have significant effects on the Natura 2000 site – Lough Derg (Shannon) Special Protection Area. In its appeal, Inland Fisheries Ireland stated a plan to locate an airport on Lough Derg with aircraft coming in at high speed would pose a risk to anglers, fisheries staff and other boat users.

The IFI, incorporating the former Shannon regional fisheries board, argued the construction of an airport on the lake would be an infringement of the fishing rights or property rights on the lake.

The director of the Shannon River Basin District at the IFI, Seán Ryan, told the appeals board: “These property rights have to be defended in a clear and constructive manner . . . Anglers must have unrestricted access to the fisheries so that they are able to enjoy fishing rights throughout the lake. These rights as a consequence need to be protected.”

In its appeal, An Taisce heritage officer Ian Lumley argued: “The proposal would constitute a public safety risk, in particular an accident risk through interface with other boating users of Lough Derg in particular.”

However, Mr Heaps said: “The objectors have achieved nothing and have managed only to hold up the plan for one year, and that means delayed jobs and delayed tourists for the area.”

He added: “We have had a welcome in all of the other areas, but what we got in Mountshannon were signs saying ‘Get off our lake’.”

Irish Times

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