Can't afford loss of Lough Key investment
The Council for the West has called for an enlightened approach to the impasse over the Lough Key Forest Park development near Boyle in Co Roscommon.
An Bord Pleanala has rejected two sets of plans by the Newfound Consortium to create an estimated 500 jobs and put the area, the county and the region on the international tourism map.
The Canadian company, the Newfound Developers Group, had hoped to develop a 100-bedroom hotel, leisure and conference facilities and lodges in the park. Not so many years ago the Lough Key Forest park attracted many visitors annually but it has lost much of its appeal as other leisure amenities have come on stream.
Mr Sean Hannick, Chairman of the Council for the West, said while efforts by Coillte and Roscommon County Council to upgrade amenities at the park were to be welcomed, major investment was needed to tap into the tourism potential of the park.
"It should be possible to create jobs and inward investment and tap into promotional and marketing skills which will benefit the whole region, and which, no doubt, the Canadian consortium would employ at the Lough Key Forest Park project." said Mr Hannick.
He said a wide range of interests would benefit from the proposal in the tourism related field, especially around Boyle and North Roscommon, and nearby Ireland West Airport Knock which was an ideal gateway for the region.
Mr Hannick said it should be perfectly feasible to plan the project in a way that would protect the interests of all, the local community and its needs, the wildlife, the ecology and the much-needed investment of the consortium.
"With precious little investment in tourism in the region, we badly need to encourage inward investment. We need to be able to sit down with investors with plans to create jobs, especially clean jobs, and to work though all the issues in a rational and informed manner.
"It is to be hoped that An Bord Pleanala and the Department of the Environment find ways for this project to proceed. It would be most disappointing for Boyle and the region generally if the message were to go out that the West of Ireland does not want to deal with would-be investors in tourism.
"The sad reality is that the performance of the tourism measures under the National Development Plan has been exceptionally poor in the BMW region. In fact, expenditure under the Tourism measure to the end of 2004 in the BMW region has been just 1% of forecast. This has been over a period when revenue from overseas visitors to the BMW declined by 4.6% and the BMW's share of total tourism revenue fell from 26.5% to 21%."
"Surely we have the capacity to sort out the Lough Key panning issue and ensure the benefits are not lost to a region so seriously haemorrhaging in the tourism stakes," said Mr Hannick.