CORK County Council has been accused of backing the wrong horse when it came to picking which of two major tourism projects to support because neither is now going ahead, which led to a senator calling it an ‘unholy mess.’
The Council backed the Dursey Visitor Centre project over a development for Schull Harbour, which had full planning permission. Rural regeneration funding was to be drawn down for one of these projects, but ultimately no funding was received and now neither project is going ahead.
Planning was refused last May for the Dursey centre (which was to include a gift shop and 84-person café on the mainland, with parking for 80 cars and buses, as well as replacing the existing cable car) after Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) sought a judicial review into the matter, which was not contested by An Bord Pleanála.
Meanwhile, permission for the Schull Harbour project, involving the construction of a breakwater and the construction of a 225-berth marina and car park, lapsed after the Council withdrew its support.
FG Senator Tim Lombard said: ‘Council management were in favour of the Dursey project while the majority of elected members were pushing for the Schull project, with a planning permission which was running out and was the best option to go for.
‘For some bizarre reason they went with the Dursey project which had no planning permission. And because of that, their application for rural regeneration funding was refused because the first line in the application asks if you have full planning. If you’re looking for a mess, this is an unholy mess.’
Cllr Paul Hayes, a member of the Tourism SPC (strategic policy committee) said they were told at a meeting last week that officials will review the original plan for Dursey and see what areas they can proceed with, without interfering with the judicial review.
‘This might be with a view to putting toilets and some few facilities on the Dursey side, but the main project for Dursey is pretty much shelved for the moment,’ said Cllr Hayes.
A Fáilte Ireland spokesperson confirmed to The Southern Star that they have not withdrawn funding for the centre.
‘Planning permission for the project is a requirement to allow Cork County Council to proceed to apply for Stage 2 funding under Fáilte Ireland’s grant scheme for large tourism projects.’
Chair of the Schull Community Harbour Development Company, Tim O’Connor said at the time they were shocked at the Council’s decision.
Repairs to the Dursey cable car are currently progressing and are due to be completed by Easter, having missed the November deadline last year. The island has been without its cable car connection to the mainland since last March.
The Southern Star contacted Cork County Council for a comment.