It comes as private firm Diamrem Ltd, which built park-and-ride facilities at Doolin and Liscannor to serve the cliffs, took High Court action seeking the closure of the council’s temporary carpark at the cliffs, claiming that it is was unlawful.
Ten years ago, a council subsidiary, Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre Ltd opened the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience and today, adults are charged €6 to access the cliffs through its contentious temporary carpark.
Last year, a record 1.42m people visited the cliffs. The 481-space temporary carpark is the only car- park serving the attraction and is still in operation despite a commitment by the council to Bord Pleanála that it was the council’s long-term objective to end car parking at the site.
However, instead of moving to shut it down, the council has a planning application lodged to upgrade the carpark, to which third parties have no recourse to Bord Pleanála.
The revenues collected at the entry points to the temporary carpark are crucial for the retention of the 65 council jobs at the cliffs. The council sought in the High Court that Diamrem lodge the costs of the action into court before the case can begin.
However, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan has dismissed the council’s “security of costs” application, paving the way for Diamrem to proceed with the High Court case.
In his ruling, Mr Justice Noonan said: “There is no dispute about the fact that the carpark in issue has ever been other than temporary. Although it has existed for over a decade, its designation as temporary clearly implies that it must be closed sooner or later.”
He said “special circumstances” exist in the case that warrant the court to refuse the council’s costs application. Diamrem argued that “the council is making substantial profits from the use of this unlawful carpark which it does not wish to forego, despite assurances given to An Bord Pleanála”.
The council told the High Court that it is not in the public interest to close the carpark and said that the planning permission for the centre contains no condition that the main access to the cliffs should be by way of park-and-ride scheme.
Diamrem director John Flanagan has claimed that the council’s refusal to shut down its temporary carpark has made his park-and-ride business unviable. Council director Ger Dollard said yesterday that the High Court ruling relates to the security of costs issue only.