Headwinds for seaplane to Aran

otter.jpg

A SEAPLANE company planning to launch a seaplane service on the Shannon, which will take tourists to the Aran Islands, has run into headwinds and unexpected obstacles.


Harbourair Ireland Ltd lodged three planning application before local authorities in Galway and Clare to allow it to land a seaplane in Lough Derg on the Shannon, Galway city docks and the main harbour serving the Aran Island at Inis Mór.
The service is a joint venture with Harbour Air Malta, which will be supplying expertise and the aircraft, a 14-seater single-engine Otter seaplane.


In a letter to the Department of the Environment, Emelyn Heaps of Harbourair Ltd has demanded that the department issue a letter of retraction over its request that Clare County Council seek an environmental study over the application to establish a seaplane on the Shannon.


The Clare dimension has attracted a large number of local objections, prompting director of Harbourair Ireland Ltd Ronan Connolly to say this month: "There has been total overkill on this. We are not planning to land a jumbo jet. We are talking about a nine- to 12-seater seaplane."


The Department of the Environment is demanding that the council seek a comprehensive environmental study into the plan as "birds are likely to be disturbed and possibly injured by the operation of seaplanes in Mountshannon bay".


However, this has prompted a stinging rebuke from Mr Heaps. In the letter, he is demanding a letter of retraction over the demand.


"I strongly suggest that you carry out an in-house investigation of the productivity of your staff and attempt to stop them from wasting other people's money, time and effort, especially those who are trying to develop tourism."


Mr Heaps said the company was requesting a letter of retraction from the department to include an apology to Clare County Council for the inappropriate and unprecedented request for an environmental impact statement (EIS).


He said Harbourair was appalled by the demand for what is "a walkway and jetty at Mountshannon as it is not within the remit of the planning authorities to give planning for a seaplane operation.


"This decision will be made by the Irish Aviation Department and not any planning authority. The EU directive states that an EIS is required for freshwater marinas for 100-berth plus. It is inconceivable that an EIS should be requested for a single pontoon and walkway."


He added: "Shannon Development and Fáilte Ireland have endorsed this innovative tourism project and while we have spent over two years in its creation, with a sizeable investment of our own, the Department of the Environment's reaction to promoting and creating much-needed tourism and jobs in the region is to seek an EIS.


"If they have concerns on the impact a seaplane may have on fauna and bird life, they should take time in doing a little research on seaplane operation worldwide.


"They would have found the following: there is no recorded incident of a single-engine light aircraft being associated with bird kills - this is a limited occurrence that is associated with jet aircraft.


"River cruisers cause far more noise and river pollutants than a seaplane would ever cause, and more birds are killed on Irish roads every day than are killed in a year by aircraft."


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