Glamping as a farm diversification mechanism and partial solution to our accommodation deficit in Clare

We have a well documented shortage of over night accommodation in County Clare. No single intervention will let us catch up quickly, but there are certainly some things we can do to fill in some of the gaps. Putting in a straightforward policy pathway for farmers to get permission for a couple of glamping pods on their lands, subject to all other planning considerations, is one of those things we can do.

Published on December 12, 2023

At the December meeting of Clare County Council (CCC) I brought forward a Notice of Motion to get that policy pathway for small scale farm based accommodation provision up and running.

“That Clare County Council (CCC) develop, on a cross directorate basis, including but not limited to, Tourism, Rural Development, Planning, Environment and the LEO, a pilot approach to address the challenges associated with the tourism accommodation shortages throughout the County through the provision of additional serviced pods (glamping), to a maximum of two subject to all other planning considerations, on farms in our rural and coastal areas with a view to providing a farm based visitor experience that will support rural farm diversification and wider local economic benefits associated with longer staying independent travellers.”

The deficit in serviced over-night accommodation is something that has been acknowledged, albeit on an anecdotal basis, across the tourism industry in Clare for many years. It’s very welcome that Failte Ireland and CCC have worked on research that proves without any doubt the scale of that deficit, the sectors within which it is most obvious and highlights the demand, locations and types of accommodation that is being requested by visitors to our county. The non-traditional serviced accommodation types, yurts and pods for example, are a very cost effective and timely way of filling in the deficit while the more traditional, and more costly, serviced accommodation types, that have a far longer delivery time, are being created. It also happens that these pods, small in scale and set in rural and coastal locations are also very much in demand by visitors eager to experience a more localised and personal experience, and are exactly how we achieve a more equitable distribution of tourisms economic benefit.

These projects are also a very simple mechanism for this council to support farm diversification in these locations, something that has become more and more critical to the survival of our small family farms, and has been acknowledged by Teagasc, who have developed a fact sheet on it.

Our County Development Plan too has identified these non-traditional types of accommodation as being very important, Objective 9.5 tells us it is an objective to support the development of camping and glamping facilities both within settlements and in rural locations… however, and I note something that my colleague Cllr. P.J. Kelly continuously tells us, beware of the additional line or words that qualify our objectives, in this case it says those sites in rural locations should be proximate to and have good connectivity to existing tourism assets.

This extra line makes it almost impossible for those farmers who live in splendid isolation in some of the most remote and beautiful places in Clare, to get planning permission for precisely the types of accommodation in precisely the locations that visitors have the highest demand for.

I accept, maybe we should be a bit wary of permitting diversification enterprises that would themselves become greater than the original farm operations, which is why I asked this pilot approach be limited to two units, ensuring farming remains the principle activity and the accommodation remains as an ancillary income stream.

This notice of motion is a perfect example of how we councillors can take real issues that present on the ground, and work through our policy committees to get a common sense solution to a real blockage in the system that is being used to prevent small scale development that will go a long way towards those two holiest of grails, proper planning and sustainable development and a measurable balanced redistribution of tourisms economic impact.

A farmer wished to develop a glamping business in a remote coastal location, he received a negative response to his initial planning discussion, as it was felt he was not close enough to existing settlements or had good enough connectivity, but, on the other side our rural and tourism directorates, and indeed our visitors, are crying out for precisely this type of development, I brought that issue to our Rural and Tourism SPC and now a reasoned and reasonable solution is here on the floor of the chamber for the members to support.

We are either serious about doing what we can to support farm diversification, the equitable distribution of the economic benefit of tourism in our rural and coastal communities, and tackling the documented deficit of tourism accommodation.. or we are not.

This motion was very well supported by my colleagues, and we received a very strong and positive response from Leonard Cleary, our Tourism Director of Service, attached below. I look forward to getting some traction on this as soon as possible and to see some movement in time for the 2024 visit season.

Item No. 23 – Cllr. C. Murphy

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