#foreshore – The Irish Marine Federation (IMF) has given a cautious welcome to much heralded changes to the foreshore bill that is designed to streamline the development consent process.
The government has published its Legislation Programme for Spring/Summer 2015 and the Maritime Area and Foreshore (Amendment) Bill is among a list of key Bills of interest which currently before the Houses of the Oireachtas.
The Bill will streamline the development consent process for the foreshore, including the integration of certain parts of the foreshore consent process (under the Foreshore Act 1933) with the existing on-land planning system.
The IMF, the national federation of the marine leisure industry in Ireland, has long held out that the failure to manage Ireland's natural resources "in a consistent or coherent manner" has led to serious setbacks in the support of marine tourism on the island.
The IMF has long argued the State must develop a clear and simplified pathway for the licensing of offshore and foreshore activity - in marina development, aquaculture, and energy exploitation. Currently, there is no timeframe for the granting of permissions leaving many developers facing a lifetime of unneccesary bureaucractic hurdles that stymies development, according to one marina developer.
In 2002, there was an attempt to address this when the Marine Institute published 'A Development Strategy for Marine Leisure Infrastructure'. Shortly afterwards, however, the responsibility for marine tourism research was transferred from the institute to the then Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism. It would appear that during this move, a disagreement over how this new responsibility for marine infrastructure was to be resourced led to its not being resourced at all.
In 2007, the Marine Institute followed up with another report - the Marine Tourism and Leisure Development Strategy 2007-2013 - which valued the water-based tourism and leisure sector at €630m and anticipated it would grow to €1bn by 2013.
That report identified a failure to manage Ireland's natural resources "in a consistent or coherent manner" in support of marine tourism. That report, and and its recommendations, was left to gather dust alongside its 2002 predecessor.
So it is something that the Government's new marine plan, 'Harvesting our Ocean Wealth' aims to develop a national maritime spatial plan, and recognises the need to engage with experts and stakeholders. But it is imperative that government does not overlook the various barriers and pressures that exist in our various sea areas.
Above all, the key to unlocking Ireland's marine potential, according to the Irish Marine Federation is to complete the necklace of marinas around our coast - marinas which can provide a lifeline for struggling coastal communities with the sort of jobs that cannot be shipped abroad.
Ireland has a chronically underdeveloped marina system. The single marina in La Rochelle, France, for example, has the same capacity as our entire island. There are more berths in North Wales alone than there are in all of Ireland.
Marinas create small hubs of marine enterprise, supplying services to cater for the boat owners gathered there or just visiting, and bringing massive spin-off benefits for the neighbouring coastal communities. Studies show that for every €10 spent by a yachtsman in a marina, €100 is spent in the local town in shops, pubs and restaurants.
A visiting overseas boat leaves €132 per night. A visiting Irish boat leaves considerably more at over €300 per night. The average spend of a boat owner in a marina berth is in excess of €8,000 per annum. Most of this stays in the local community. One full time job is supported by every 3.7 marina berths according to Federation reports.