DETAILS have been announced of a major strategic plan for the future development and management of marine-related industry and tourism along the Shannon Estuary.
Jan O’Sullivan, TD, Minister of State for Housing and Planning launched the Draft Strategic Integrated Framework Plan (SIFP) for the Shannon Estuary.
The minister also launched a new website that has been developed to coincide with an eight-week public consultation that extends to February 15, 2013.
“What we need to do is to ensure that everybody goes forward on the same page in terms of the estuary because you have a number of local authorities, you have two regional authorities on either side of the estuary, you have other authorities involved in the waterways,” said Minister O’Sullivan at the launch in Limerick’s Radisson Blu Hotel.
“I think this is very positive and I would like to commend everybody who has brought it together. We have a very unique attribute in the estuary for the whole region - fantastic deep water ports, wildlife etc and the land on either side. While there is quite a lot of activity in one way or another, it hasn’t been developed to its full potential and I think this is the basis for doing that. We certainly need that in the region,” she added.
The land and marine-based plan, the first of its type to be developed in the country, has been commissioned by a multi-agency steering group comprising Clare County Council as lead authority, Kerry County Council, Limerick city and county councils, Shannon Development and Shannon Foynes Port Company.
The Shannon Estuary features 500km2 of navigable water running from Kerry Head and Loop Head as far as Limerick city, a distance of 100km.
The estuary is Ireland’s premier deepwater port, routinely catering for ships up to 200,000 deadweight tonnage, with key ports at Limerick and Foynes.
It is home to a number of large industries and employers, including ESB Moneypoint, Aughinish Alumina, Tarbert Power Station, Shannon Airport, and NORA Fuel Reserve.
Meanwhile, the estuary supports a variety of economic uses but is also rich in natural resources, wildlife and ecosystems.
The newly launched SIFP identifies nine ‘strategic sites’ on the estuary, namely Limerick Docks, Foynes Island, Foynes Port and adjoining lands, Askeaton Industrial Estate, Aughinish Island (Limerick), Moneypoint, Innismurry/Cahercon (Clare), Tarbert Power Station and Ballylongford Landbank (Kerry).
For the most part, these sites are zoned for ‘marine-related industry’ with Askeaton zoned for ‘industry’ and Limerick Docks zoned for ‘mixed use’.
In some cases, the zonings confirm existing large-scale developments but additional lands for expansion and some new sites are also identified.
There is a similar approach to fishing and aquaculture with eight separate opportunity sites identified on the estuary, including Long Rock in Limerick, Rinevella Bay, Killimer and Clonderlaw Bay in Clare, and Carrig Island in Kerry.
The plan recognises the tourism potential of the estuary and includes objectives to further develop the cruise ship industry, while it highlights the potential of the islands on the Fergus Estuary.
Meanwhile, the strategy features objectives relating to aviation and supports the future development of Shannon Airport, including acknowledging the importance of the 2000-acre land bank zoned for aviation uses in the new Shannon Town and Environs Local Area Plan 2012-2018.
Public consultation events are to be held in relation to the plan, details of which will be advertised in January and made available on www.shannonestuarysifp.ie.