23 Jan 2022

Enterprise centre among proposals for Offaly town

Enterprise centre mooted for Offaly town

The Dalton Centre at Shannonbridge – has potential to be developed as a community enterprise centre.

The Dalton Centre – currently used for ESB archive material at Shannonbridge – has potential to be developed as a community enterprise centre.

The ESB is in talks with Offaly County Council on the matter, a webinar on land use has heard.

The webinar, Land Use, Community & Enterprise was organised by Minister Pippa Hackett and was attended by around 90 people interested in accessing state land for recreation, community and tourism purpose.

“It’s clear there is huge interest in making use of the land,” she says. “We had people on the webinar interested in equestrian trails, arts opportunities, walkways and more. It’s important that they know the processes for accessing state land.”

The ESB, Bord na Móna and Coillte made presentations on the land they manage and how the public might use it.

Donal Phelan of the ESB said their sites at Shannonbridge and Lanesboro were effectively industrial complexes which don’t have the amenity potential of Coillte or the ESB but that the Dalton Centre could be repurposed for community use.

“It could be useful for community start-up schemes and we are in talks with Offaly County Council about that,” he told the webinar.

Amanda Walsh of Bord na Móna said the webinar was timely from their perspective.

“We’ve seen an increase in the number of amenity-projects from 30 applications over a 20-year period to 30 applications in the last six months,” she said. “And the scope of the projects is increasing in size.”

Ms Walsh emphasised the importance of projects aligning with the company’s climate solutions strategy. “We need to be very measured and planned,” she said. “We’re not going to have monster truck rallies across the bogs. We have devised a new process which involves screening and a pre-qualification questionnaire.”

She predicted that the company’s Peatlands Climate Actions Scheme will transform the land and develop potential for amenity even further.

Coillte issues permits to school groups, businesses, events, and community groups to use its land. Area manager Ger Buckley said the company was well used to dealing with permit queries as their land in the Midlands is quite heavily used.

“We have an open forest policy for individuals and small groups but outside of that you need a permit,” he explained. Activities on Coillte land range from archery to car rallying, orienteering to mountain-biking.

“Everybody’s idea is welcome,” said Mr. Buckley. “We take into account the service being provided and the environmental management. We have a Leave No Trace policy. With business applications we will recognise the benefit to the local economy.”

For those with ideas for tourism and recreation projects, Failte Ireland has a Community Tourism Toolkit which was presented at the webinar by regional manager Derek Dolan.

“The passion of a local community group has to be matched with organisational expertise,” he advised.

This was echoed by Orla Martin of the Offaly Local Enterprise Office.

“Preparation is key for success and credibility when you approach a stakeholder like Bord na Móna or Coillte,” she said. “Assess your own skills, define your business structure, and reach out early to find out what funding streams are available.”

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