RECENT health and safety-related work carried out by Clare County Council on the iconic Cliff Walk in Kilkee has been likened to the 1970s situation comedy, Fawlty Towers.
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Monday’s Kilkee Town Council meeting heard stringent criticism of the work, along with claims that grass, which has been removed, will never be replaced and that it will take 30 years for some species of flowers to be seen in Kilkee’s West End again. Stretches of the walk have been left in an unsightly condition, with mounds of earth and newly opened drains visible.
“There’s grass there that will never grow again. I’m just in shock that this was done and that they stand by it,” Mayor of Kilkee Elaine Haugh-Hayes said of the work.
“Some flowers won’t grow again for 30 years. It’s like something you’d see on Fawlty Towers. I ultimately hold the town manager of Kilkee responsible for this,” Councillor Lily Marrinan Sullivan stated.
Town manager Nora Kaye wasn’t present at the meeting but was represented by Clare County Council senior engineer Tom Tiernan, who told The Clare Champion on Tuesday that he rejected the tone of the councillors’ claims.
“I think their criticism of council staff was grossly unfair. I think it was completely out of order. I was disappointed with that because it seemed to repeat itself through the course of the meeting,” he said, before suggesting that the councillors might have been overcome by emotion.
“I don’t know whether it was emotion or whether it was irresponsible. I do think that they crossed a line and I’d like to think that they might reflect on some of what was said. I was a little bit taken aback by some of the things that were said, particularly of a personal nature in relation to people who were doing their damnedest, against all to odds, to provide a service. It’s not a perfect service, nobody claims that,” he acknowledged.
“I think it became personalised. More than one person was singled out. For me, three people were personalised at different times and none of them were there.
“The staff out in the West Clare area are good staff and the area engineer, Cyril Feeney, has done a huge amount of good work against all the odds in an awful lot of ways in that his staff resources have been cut very severely over the past few years.
“We’ve all been trying to do what we’ve been trying to do on a shoestring. The way the staff in that particular area have stretched the funding available to them over the past few years is exemplary,” the senior engineer added.
He said the cost of the work carried out will amount to €50,000 and most of it is to alleviate health and safety issues.
“The attention that is being given to the Cliff Walk was prompted by health and safety concerns, some of which were raised originally by some of these council members. A health and safety risk assessment was carried out. Much of the work that has been done was on foot of what came out of that,” Mr Tiernan explained.
“Huge numbers of the public are using that facility and we have to be cognisant of whatever health and safety issues raise their head,” he stressed.
However, the councillors were angry that they weren’t told the work was starting and that heavy machinery was used.
“We weren’t even informed that the work was due to begin,” Councillor Claire Haugh said.
“The diggers that went up there should never have gone up there,” Councillor Elaine Haugh Hayes added.
Councillor Marrinan-Sullivan demanded to know who was responsible for ordering the work, claiming there was no need for most of it.
“What we asked for was a railing. There was no enhancing what was already perfectly beautiful,” she said. “There was no environmental plan done back there,” Councillor Marrinan-Sullivan claimed, adding that the project is a “travesty”.
She also said Clare County Council had covered sea stones in tarmacadam. “They tarmacked over the sea stones that are there for the last 100 years,” she stated.
Several councillors criticised the placement of several new signs, which they said blocked views of the Atlantic.
However, Mr Tiernan said the work had to be carried out inside a restricted deadline.
“The allocation was confirmed very late in the year, with a very restricted deadline of the end of November. That doesn’t give much time to get into over-consultative mode. It doesn’t give time for a lot of consultation. You work out what needs to be done, get in and do it and you try and avoid the weather difficulties, which isn’t an easy thing to do when you’re restricted to doing the work in October and November, as we were in this case,” he said.
“The weather did wreak havoc with much of what was done there, thus probably this is what led to their criticism of ground conditions in places adjacent to the path. I have no doubt that was picked up in its worst possible condition and there are some remedial works to be carried out. You couldn’t carry them out at this time of the year. That will have to be done at a time of the year when it’s more appropriate to do it. Not right now,” Mr Tiernan asserted.
“Naively we didn’t ask for a schedule of works,” Councillor Paddy Collins lamented, while Councillor Marrinan-Sullivan suggested that “the trust is gone,” between the town councillors and Clare County Council.
Council accused of ‘destroying’ coastal walk
KILKEE resident Martin Corbett (Castle Field) has sent a stinging letter to Clare County Council, accusing the local authority of spending money to tarmac the Cliff Walk in the West End.
He claims the coastal walk, which takes in stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean has been “destroyed”.
“In 1970, the makers of the film Ryan’s Daughter saw the beauty of the cliff walk in Kilkee. They arranged to have the path edged with small sea stones and shot some of the movie there. Any other place in the world would protect and cherish this link and piece of heritage. In 2011, Clare County Council spent a fortune of taxpayer’s money putting tarmac over them - badly. One shudders to think what they could do with an even larger amount of taxpayers’ money. You have ploughed the whole grass area outside the path, which is incredibly sensitive. A huge amount of remedial work is required urgently to prevent the earth being washed away in jig time,” Mr Corbett’s letter read.
He also questioned the need for more than 20 signs, which have been erected.
“The signage is just unbelievably over the top. Having recently waymarked the route with discreet scenic route posts, we have industrial site signage at every turn, stating the obvious unnecessarily. Huge signs with pictures of the scenery have been erected obstructing the actual view. The one near the car park is actually between the café and the view. Trenches have been dug to drain the water from the path, which could not have been better designed to wash away the soil. The cliff walk was the jewel of the town and has been absolutely and utterly destroyed. Was no one consulted about this?” he queried.
Asking if the work had cost the council €50,000, which has been confirmed by Clare County Council, Mr Corbett said the grass, which has been removed, may never again grow.
“You are of course aware that the grass that grows here has taken a millennium to adapt and evolve and will not grow again for at least decades if at all? What do you envisage will happen to the earth, which has lost its protective sod covering over the coming winters? You have thought of these things haven’t you?” his letter to Clare County Council asked before demanding to know who supervised the work, the use of heavy machinery and who had authorised the “drainage of lands directly to the edge of the cliff in an area of special preservation?”
Mr Corbett concluded by suggesting the recent work on the cliff walk could be used by the education sector as an example of what not to do in similar circumstances.
“The only good that can come of this debacle is that it is could be used by universities and schools or people with an interest in planning or tourism or engineering, as a case study of what can be done wrong when dealing with sensitive areas of beauty, within a fragile ecosystem,” he wrote.