By Kevin Crawley
The development of the EMAA Disabled Anglers Facility has been a long and winding road with the initial concept for the facility discussed by the EMAA Committee as far back as 2006/2007. Indeed, the EMAA Committee of that time showed great foresight in proposing and discussing such a facility in the first place.
Following discussions by the Committee with local IFI officers, Vincent Coleman of Doherty Coleman Architects was appointed for the design of the facility and the submission of the application for planning permission to Mayo County Council. The initial design proposed was to consist of a concrete platform built into the bank at lower level than the existing bank with rock armour to be used to protect the platform from flood events. Plans were subsequently drawn up on this basis and the proposal was submitted for planning approval in December 2011 to Mayo County Council.
During the period of the planning process, concerns were raised by a number of agencies including NPWS, in relation to the potential impact of the facility on the River Moy SAC which is a priority habitat for a number of Annex 2 Species such as salmon, otter, and lamprey. Accordingly, subsequent discussions were held between the Design Team and NPWS in relation to the significant concerns raised. As part of these discussions it was agreed that the platform would be redesigned so as to retain the existing river bank and to provide a concrete base a minimum of 1.2 m from the edge of river channel. Structural supports were to then cantilever from the concrete base to allow construction of the platform adjacent to the waters edge while maintain the existing bank directly adjacent to the river channel itself.
This amended design was submitted, along with revised environmental screening reports, expertly prepared by Giorra Environmental Services, as part of further information for the planning application. Eventually, in September 2012 the facility was granted planning permission by Mayo County Council and this constituted the first major milestone in the development of the scheme.
Following receipt of planning permission, the project was sent out for tender in May 2013 and the EMAA committee commenced application for grant funding for the facility itself. An application was initially made to Leader as part of the 2007 to 2013 Rural Development Programme. However, due to time constraints and the ending of the programme, the application was unsuccessful. With no other sources of funding available as a result of the financial recession at that time, the project stalled for a number of years.
In 2016, the Leader programme reopened and a revised application was submitted through South West Mayo Development Company and the application passed the Expression of Interest Stage. However, as the project consisted of a sporting facility, EMAA was informed that all other available sources of funding would have to be exhausted before Leader funding could be allocated.
Accordingly, an application was made to the IFI NSAD funding programme in the autumn of 2016 and the club was approved for €10,000 in match funding for the facility. Likewise, an application was made to the Sports Capital Programme in the Spring of 2017 for funding of the eligible sections of the facility (shelter building, fencing & platform) and the project was re-tendered. However, despite a comprehensive and detailed application being submitted, the application to the Sports Capital Programme was unsuccessful. To compound matters, because EMAA had received €10,000 in funding from the IFI, the facility was no longer eligible for Leader funding. So the project appeared to stall for a second time.
In the autumn of 2017, discussions were held with IFI in relation to a number of 2017 EMAA NSAD Project applications that were in train at that time including the provision of tourism information signage and the stiles and footbridge replacement programmes. Despite having the initial €10,000 in previous funding, it was agreed with IFI to reapply for funding for the entire Disabled Anglers Facility under the 2017 NSAD programme. However, this application was made more in hope than expectation.
In December 2017, EMAA received the news that IFI were willing to fund 90% of the construction total with an initial grant of €154,000 subject to the condition that toilet facilities would be provided. However, despite the initial excitement, the provision of toilet facilities was a major stumbling block as the facility had no planning permission for toilets or the associated effluent treatment system. Consequently, EMAA proposed the use of accessible portaloos including eco waterless compost facilities. However, IFI informed us that without a letter of support from a relevant disability organisation/agency, that the use of accessible portaloos would not meet the condition of funding. Despite extensive consultation with numerous agencies, especially by the EMAA Chairman of the time, no letter of support was obtained and EMAA was not able to meet the funding requirements.
However, in May 2018, just as it appeared that the project was to be stalled once more and potentially permanently, members of the IFI NSAD Projects Office suggested that we formally ask IFI for a changing of the funding conditions and that we provide a complete history and record of all our previous consultations and efforts. Thankfully, following this formal request, IFI agreed to allow us to proceed with the building of the facility.
On getting the green light from IFI, Halquar Construction, who were the most economically advantageous tenderer, were appointed as the Contractor for the works. In addition, Lally Chartered Engineers were also appointed for the provision of Structural & Construction Supervision Services.
In light of the large flooding event associated with Storm Desmond in December 2015, when Ballylahan Bridge was overtopped by flood waters, and prior to commencement of construction, a structural review of the facility was carried out by Lally Chartered Engineers. As part of this structural review it was recommended that mini piling be provided to the concrete base so as to ensure the long term stability of the platform and to aid in resisting undermining of the platform due to large flooding events. Concerns were also expressed in the structural review in relation to uplift pressures on the decking of the platform in times of high water-levels. To address this uplift concern, the EMAA Development Sub-Committee in conjunction with Lally Chartered Engineers, reviewed a significant number of decking options and finally settled on the use of an anti-slip GRP micro grid grating system which is commonly used on marina systems around the country. Despite the works requirements being amended to reflect the necessary structural changes, overall efficiencies in the design of the structural steel members incorporated into the final design of the platform, together with significant negotiations between the EMAA Development Sub-Committee and the contractor, saw the changes made on a relatively cost neutral basis.
Construction works on the scheme finally commenced in August 2018. Due to the location of the facility in a Special Area of Conservation (River Moy SAC), stringent environmental controls were necessary to ensure that there were no impacts on the water quality of the river during the construction phase. These controls included significant silt fencing along the river channel itself and the implementation of careful excavation techniques so as to prevent the run off of silt laden surface waters into the river. All of the construction works were carefully monitored from an environmental perspective by Giorra Environmental Services on behalf of EMAA.
Works were successfully completed on the facility in October 2018 and the facility was open for use for the following 2019 fishing season. The overall cost of the facility came in at €220,000 including land purchase, planning application and design fees, construction costs, environmental monitoring and construction supervision costs. Inland Fisheries Ireland provided approximately €161,000 in total funding under the NSAD scheme towards the scheme with the balance being met by EMAA’s own resources.
One of the major lessons learnt by EMAA as part of the overall development of this project is that it is very important to work constructively with all state agencies and bodies. For projects like this scheme, especially where you are working in an environmentally sensitive location, the only chance of delivering a project of this nature is by working together with the respective state agencies, as whatever chance you have in delivering the scheme while working with them, you will have no chance in delivering a scheme of this nature whilst working against them. Accordingly, the Committee of EMAA would like to sincerely thank the following persons, companies and agencies for their role in helping to deliver the facility:
- Vincent Coleman of Doherty Coleman Architects;
- Dr Richard Stone & Karina Dingerkus of Giorra Environmental Services;
- Noel Kirby, Brian Reidy & Susan O Callaghan of NPWS;
- Shane Flaherty & Kenneth Freehill of OPW;
- David Lally, Shane Heffernan & Ehsan Moradabadi of Lally Chartered Engineers;
- Halquar Construction; and
- Ken O’Neill, Declan Cooke and Liam Gavin of Inland Fisheries Ireland.