Kilkee cliff walk a mess after works, says mayor


A PROGRAMME of “improvements” to the cliff walk in Kilkee, Co Clare, carried out at a cost of €50,000, has been described as a “horror show” by leading architect Hugh Murray, a frequent visitor to the area.

“How could so much damage be done to such a scenic natural setting in the name of improvements?” he asked, citing the “disgraceful destruction of the grassy areas on the path edges which will take years to recover and the absurd billboard signs blocking the view with an image of the view!”

Mr Murray added: “This is but the latest in a sequence of publicly funded acts of gross ugliness on the seafront in the west end of Kilkee – the clunky utilitarian steel barriers that would not be out of place at the entrance to a dump, and the random splatter of almost hysterical ‘no diving etc’ signage at Newfoundout.”

Mr Murray, formerly a principal of Murray O’Laoire Architects, which went into liquidation last year, was referring to the removal of diving boards at Newfoundout in June 2010, on health and safety grounds, and their subsequent reinstatement, along with an array of warning signs.

Mairéad Mason, who has a holiday home in Kilkee, said there had been no consultation and no approval sought for the improvement works to the cliff walk, nor had there been an environmental impact study or tender process “and no thought given to damage limitation”.

In a request to Clare County Council under the Freedom of Information Act, she has asked what it intends to do about “massive unsightly earthworks, tarmacadam crudely spilling over ancient cobblestones, large chunks of concrete at the bottom of the signage and, most importantly, the removal of sea grass and sea pinks”.

Mayor of Kilkee Elaine Hayes said she was informed last October that Clare County Council had been allocated funds under the Department of Transport and Tourism’s Smarter Travel scheme to upgrade the cliff walk, but she “never envisaged what was going to happen” as a result of the works being carried out.

“We are all horrified,” she said after a closed session of the town council.

“I was away for two weeks’ holidays and when I came back, most of the work had been done . . . If they had only got in professionals in the first place and put a plan together, we would not be in this mess . . . What a waste of time and money!”

However, Kilkee town manager Nora Kaye said she was “satisfied that the standard of work carried out complies with the normal standards”. It included a tarmacadam overlay on the existing coastal walk, some strengthening works, the installation of a handrail along a steep incline and erection of new signage.

“An assessment was made and, as well as dealing with the repair element, further works were proposed to increase usage and to promote the attractiveness of this amenity,” she said.

Most of the work was carried out by the county council, with the provision of the handrail and signage “outsourced” to private contractors.

“The justification for spending the money includes the improvement of a unique coastal walk in Kilkee, the need to effect safety aspects, to attract additional walkers/groups and generally to promote tourism and delivery of objectives in the county tourism strategy,” Ms Kaye told The Irish Times.

The Department of Transport and Tourism did not respond to queries about whether it had inspected the work carried out in Kilkee or whether there were any quality standards laid down for local authorities to meet when funding is being provided by the department under its Smarter Travel scheme.