Council revenue from Cliffs of Moher car park under threat

Park-and-ride firm Diamrem seeks closure of Clare County Council temporary car park

Cliffs of Moher: Diamrem argues there could be no question of the public interest favouring retention by a planning authority of an unauthorised development so close to an ecologically sensitive site.

Cliffs of Moher: Diamrem argues there could be no question of the public interest favouring retention by a planning authority of an unauthorised development so close to an ecologically sensitive site.

 

Clare County Council’s annual €7 million revenue from its car park at the Cliffs of Moher, one of the country’s most popular visitor attractions, is under threat.

Private firm Diamrem Ltd, which has built park-and-ride facilities at Doolin and Liscannor to serve the cliffs, is taking High Court action seeking the closure of the council’s temporary car park at the tourist hotspot, claiming it is an unauthorised development and unlawful.

Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre Ltd, a council subsidiary, opened the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience 10 years ago. Adults are each charged €6 to access the cliffs through the 481-space temporary car park, which is the only one currently serving the cliffs. Last year, a record 1.42 million people visited the site.

The council argues that revenues taken at the entry points to the temporary car park are crucial for the retention of the 65 council jobs at the cliffs.

Council director Ger Dollard has made a commitment to An Bord Pleanála that it was the council’s long-term objective to eliminate car parking at the site.

However, instead of moving to shut it down, the council currently has a planning application with its planners to upgrade the car park.

The council sought to stop the High Court action by seeking that Diamrem Ltd lodge the costs of the action into court before the case can begin.

However, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan has dismissed the council’s “security of costs” application, paving the way for Diamrem to proceed with the High Court case.

Temporary designation

In his ruling, Mr Justice Noonan said: “There is no dispute about the fact that the car park in issue has ever been other than temporary. Although it has existed for over a decade, its designation as temporary clearly implies that it must be closed sooner or later.”

Mr Justice Noonan said “special circumstances” exist in the case that warrant the court to refuse the council’s costs application.

Diamrem argued before the court that “the council is making substantial profits from the use of this unlawful car park which it does not wish to forgo, despite assurances given to An Bord Pleanála”.

The council told the High Court it is not in the public interest to close the car park. It also argued that the planning permission for the centre contains no condition that the principal access to the cliffs should be by way of park and ride.

However, Diamrem argued there could be no question of the public interest favouring retention by a planning authority of an unauthorised development so close to an ecologically sensitive site.

Director for Diamrem John Flanagan has claimed the council refusal to shut down its temporary car park has rendered his park-and-ride business unviable.

Diamrem also argued nobody is going to use its park-and-ride system to visit the Cliffs of Moher when they can simply drive their car there and park in the council’s car park.

Mr Dollard said on Tuesday that the High Court ruling relates to the security of costs issue only. “A full hearing of the substantive issues will take place in due course. The council will not, therefore, be commenting on a matter that is before the courts and on which a hearing has not yet been held.”