Sustainable management of motorhomes and camping sector in Clare
Assessing appropriate locations in public car parks for overnight camping, amending the bylaws to allow conditional, paid, overnight camping in those locations, and introducing bylaws to prevent wild camping in protected areas
Published on 21 May, 2021

Motion text;

“In light of the very visible increase in motor home/campervan holidays in 2020, expected further growth in 2021, and in a bid to ensure the sustainable management of this industry sector within our communities I request that CCC undertake the following;
• an assessment by location and quantity of the current availability of privately owned serviced locations to cater to that market segment.
• identify and designate appropriate specific locations for overnight parking by motor homes/camper vans on public lands
• undertake an analysis of the economic benefit, and the social and environmental impacts, to the wider community of the public provision of services to cater to that market segment,
• introduce by-laws, backed up by significant penalties, to prevent wild parking and wild camping in those locations, deemed inappropriate though a community engagement process, including, but not limited to, those with international and/or national environmental protected designations”

I recently watched a video blog by a couple of UK based campervan visitors, it has been watched approx. 80k times so far and is basically a ‘how to do the WAW’ guide for the motorhome market segment in the UK. It included such gems as putting their rubbish in small white plastic bags so it was easier to push it through the small holes in the public litter-bins, emptying their waste water tanks into public toilets, pubs and shops, and my particular favourite was using the water taps in graveyards to top up their water tanks in their van… they were here for 3 months, and didn’t pay for overnight parking once… after I had watched it the first time there was steam coming out of my ears…I thought here are the ultimate freeloaders… but once I had thought it through I realised I shouldn’t be upset with them, I should be upset with ourselves. We, Ireland, and specifically FI and TI, have gone out to the world and promoted the west of Ireland as the worlds longest and best touring route, by its definition this includes the campervans and motorhome segment, so we shouldn’t be one bit surprised, when they actually turn up, in large numbers…But we, Ireland, and specifically FI and the Dept for Tourism etc., have once again failed abysmally to provide the most basic infrastructure to support them when they show up. I appreciate the response from the director and head of tourism, and the difficult position we are in with resources, but given the volume of motorhomes we have seen this year, the expected increase next year due to COVID pressure to holiday at home domestically, that coupled with our nearest neighbor being one of the biggest motorhome markets in Europe, and with Brexit potentially reducing the traditional easy access to the EU mainland and our own open border with them, we face unprecedented levels of motorhome traffic in 2021, we simply cannot afford to duck this issue. I’m not alone among my colleagues to have had contact from community members who are frustrated and oftentimes angry, at the lack of management of this market segment. Here in Clare, we have an opportunity to do something about it this winter before next season. If we don’t get out in front of it, much of the good work being done by our marketing will be negated by the negative reaction to the consequences of unmanaged wild camping from residents and visitors alike, including the public health consequences, litter issues, destruction of property, damage to protected habitats and reputational damage. The alternative is to be the first out of the blocks, to have recognised the issue and to have taken the requisite steps to make Clare a national leader in facilitating and managing this market segment.

I accept we cannot do all of this on our own, we have to call out the lack of support for this, we need to ask the minister to allocate funding to private operators to enable them to upgrade their sites, we need FI to finally undertake the analysis I requested in part three of my motion, analysis that was pointed out to them 4 years ago as being missing from their WAW strategy. But we do have things we can do ourselves, across directorates in-house… assessing appropriate locations in public car parks for overnight camping, amending the bylaws to allow conditional, paid, overnight camping in those locations, and introducing bylaws to prevent wild camping in protected areas… and while I acknowledge the concerns about the resources, the cost of doing this now will be a fraction of the costs of addressing the issues afterwards. There is some excuse for not seeing the unintended consequences of an action; there can be no excuse for not taking action when the consequences are blindingly obvious.

I note my colleague Cllr Murphy has recently requested in Ennis MD that car parks in Ennis be opened for over night parking to facilitate campervans, I had a similar motion last year in the WC MD, this solution is not without precedent, as I pointed out to council staff even before I was elected, Cobh has one of the most successful aires in the country, in a public car park at the harbour. It generates revenue for both public and private sectors, and to my knowledge has never had anti social issues associated with it.

I would ask that a working group, a real one, and I’m happy to give my time to it, be set up in the very near future, with a number of relevant or interested parties involved who are given a very clear time-bound goal, to get some form of management in place for the 2021 season, before its too late.