Clare County Council is seeking to resolve issues involving car parking and access at the iconic Cliffs of Moher. However when an item concerning plans to upgrade the car park appeared on the Clare County Council’s May agenda, several councillors expressed concern regarding the possibility of legal implications given that a case is due to be brought before the High Court.
Fine Gael councillor Bill Slattery favours the upgrade but sought clarity on whether the matter could be discussed pending court proceedings. His concerns were echoed by councillors PJ Kelly and Gerry Flynn.
Cllr Flynn also asked whether the proposal before councillors was intended to regularise the status of the present temporary car parking at the Cliffs of Moher. Noting that ‘regularise’ is terminology used by the council when enforcing planning conditions, Cllr Flynn said he is aware of instances when the local authority acted to close premises where planning conditions were not adhered to. “I don’t want a situation arising here where we are saying ‘do as we say, but not as we do’”, he said.
The Shannon councillor voiced concern at what was proposed by the council executive saying he has always been an advocate of sustainable car parking arrangements at the Cliffs of Moher and described the present arrangement as akin to a “covert operation”. Illustrating his point he referred to the Cliffs of Moher website where it clearly states that visitors may be stopped and asked to produce tickets.
Having clarified the fact that a public right of way still exists, Cllr Flynn challenged the executive to ‘regularise’ this situation so that people parking cars are charged a fee relative to the length of time a vehicle is parked and not a charge on the individual visitor. “How is it,” he asked, “that we still have a situation where we charge people to exercise their entitlement to walk on an established public right of way to see the Cliffs of Moher?”
Cllr Flynn emphasised that he has no issue with people paying for facilities if they want to enter the visitor centre nor does he object to having a permanent car park at the Cliffs of Moher.
In response deputy CEO Gerard Dollard noted that the council has proposed a Part VIII development to improve the existing car park. In relation to the timing of the proposal vis a vis any legal proceedings, Mr Dollard said councillors are members of the planning authority and are legally entitled to deal with any planning applications. Mr Dollard also stated that the party who has taken proceedings against the council had been made aware that an application would be put before the council for consideration but no action had been taken.
CEO Pat Dowling told councillors that council management is keen to regularise matters while attempting to find a resolution that is suitable to all parties. Mr Dowling added that it would be in everybody’s interest to resolve the matters of parking and access at the Cliffs of Moher.