Plans for a new Shannon Town Park are in jeopardy following news that the project’s main contractor, the Crawford Group (County Wexford), is in administration. Clare County Council had engaged the company to deliver the €910,00 flagship project.

Three and a half hours into a marathon session at the May meeting of Shannon Municipal District the council’s director of service, Liam Conneally dropped the bombshell that Crawford Group has gone into administration. Funding of €910,000 for the long-awaited development is split between Clare County Council and the European Regional Development Fund via the Southern Regional Assembly’s Operational Programme 2014-2020. According to Mr Conneally, Clare County Council is investigating a way forward, he also acknowledged that European money is at stake for a project “in gestation for quite a long time”.

Cllr Gerry Flynn told of being contacted by a third party who made him aware of the Crawford Group going into administration. Subsequently, he contacted officials in Clare County Council. Cllr Flynn is very disappointed at this latest setback after previous statements from Clare County Council had indicated that the Town Park should have been available to the public by now. Liam Conneally said the local authority will use the administration process “to its fullest extent”  and said it will pursue all other options as well”.

The Crawford Group, with main offices near Ballymena, Co. Antrim, was placed in administration on 18th April 2018 and has ceased to trade. The company has stopped working on a €600,000 running track for South Dublin County Council and it was also contracted for a new hockey pitch in Banbridge, but work on that has not been completed.

Shannon Town Park has had a chequered history. Prior to Clare County Council taking ownership of Shannon Development lands in the town, then Minister Donal Carey formally launched a new town park with a foundation stone. Subsequently, the council disposed of town park lands to develop the Brú na Sionna complex and the foundation stone was dumped in the bushes.

A Town Park concept next featured when the council adopted the objective of a new Green Infrastructure Plan in its Shannon Town & Environs Local Area Plan 2012-2018. The project received a major boost when ERDF funding of €455,000 was made available providing matching funds were found locally.

In January of last year, the council held a public consultation in the Oakwood Hotel to announce the appointment of a design team and stated: “contractors could be on site in mid-2017”.

As no progress had been made in 2017, as had been indicated by the council’s senior planning officer, Cllr Gerry Flynn voiced his concern at a meeting in February 2018. At that meeting, senior planner Brian McCarthy told councillors that the project “is currently on schedule and continues to be project managed by senior staff in the planning department and the Shannon Municipal Office.”

On March 12th this year Shannon councillor Mike McKee posed for photos with council staff and a representative of the Crawford Group to announce that work was commencing. Once again nothing happened and then it emerged at the May meeting of Shannon Municipal District that the contractor is in administration.

The present situation creates a number of obvious difficulties if the project is to be completed during the time available for drawing down the ERDF funding. Indeed, time is of the essence, as an administration period can take up to a year.