Planning permission has been approved for the Donegal Bay Maritime Centre at the pier in Donegal Town.
The application was submitted by Seamus Maguire on behalf of Donegal Bay Rowing Club and Gym and Donegal Dragons. It is without doubt one of the most significant voluntary led developments in Donegal Town in recent times.
This ambitious project is envisaged not only to cater for the explosion in recreational activity at the pier in recent years including rowing, dragon boating, kayaking, sailing, recreational fishing, boat trips etc. It also has a wider ambition to bolster tourism in one of the key economic growth sectors in Donegal Town.
Mr Maguire who recently ran for a local council seat in Donegal said the inclusion of the Donegal Bay Maritime Centre as a Category 1 project in the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund for 2019 would be a key target given the building has now successfully received planning permission.
He said: “The potential exists within the project proposal to develop a unique visitor experience celebrating our coastal heritage and culture as well as developing a unique visitor experience looking at the Old Abbey and its history. The Annals of the Four Masters could be on display utilising modern technology to bring the experience to life.”
He is now calling on the Planning section of Donegal County Council and the six newly elected councillors to prioritise the Donegal Bay Maritime Centre for funding.
“We are shovel ready,” he said. “There has been a massive body of voluntary work and effort that has gone into getting this building to the planning approved stage.
“We have funded the project to this stage completely independently with a combination of the clubs’ own funding and with the kind assistance of local businessman Seamus Quinn, whose help was critical to get the building drawing and planning lodged. We are also very thankful to the team at Paul Doherty Architects. They worked with all the stakeholders to ensure the proposed design met all the criteria set out by the council.”
The plans for the building ensure use of natural stone. This is very much in keeping with historic structures such as the Old Abbey and the pier itself. It will also reflect the design of the nearby tourist office.
After years of representations to Donegal County Council regarding the need for better facilities at the pier, a site was identified in the Local Area Plan in 2018. On seeing this Mr Maguire in conjunction with both clubs set the wheels in motion for the Maritime Centre. The main purpose was to cater for the clubs actively using the pier. Plans include sanitary and changing facilities as well as storage space for equipment.
Mr Maguire liaised with Courtmacsherry Rowing Club in Cork who had gone through similar design and planning process.
The historic location and the need to offer more in terms of tourism were also important considerations.
“We have over 100,000 visitors to the tourism office each year and we have probably one of our greatest facilities i.e. Donegal Bay right beside this,” said Mr Maguire. “Donegal Town is a gateway town to Sliabh Liag and the Wild Atlantic Way but we need to build on our own attractions and increase visitor overnight stays. We need key tourism attractions that celebrate our own unique heritage and culture.
“One of our greatest tourism gems in Donegal Town in the bay itself and the history and stories that exist within its inlets.”
Mr Maguire expressed his frustration at what he said was a lack of funding being secured for Donegal Town for projects of this nature.
“We have seen massive investment in other towns and villages in Donegal in terms of marine activity,” he said. “But Donegal Town heretofore has missed out on funding.
“It takes vision and ambition to bring these projects to a stage that they are suitable for funding. Luckily the voluntary clubs involved have the drive to bring this project to a stage where planning permission has been granted.
“It is now up to the local council and public representatives to fight to ensure that funding is directed towards this facility. In my time as a councillor I was aware of the projects the council executive selected for the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund. Many of these projects require Compulsory purchase orders, planning and Part 8 to bring them to shovel ready stage. The Donegal Bay Maritime Centre is at that stage now.”
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