We in the Midlands are full of bright ideas for projects, enterprise, and events. It’s what will help us through the transition we’re making to a Green economy.
But to bring those ideas to fruition, you need information, mentoring and support. You may also need to use state land. Many community groups, sports clubs and small businesses could make good use of state land, but they don’t always know how to go about it.
That’s why I organised the Land Use, Community & Enterprise webinar to bring together Coillte, Bord na Móna, the ESB, Failte Ireland and the Local Enterprise Office on Thursday 22nd July 2021.
If you didn’t get a chance to attend you can watch the video here but let me give you some of the highlights.
The good news is that the custodians of state land are open to allowing you to use it and have systems in place for you to make an application.
Coillte already issues permits to school groups, business groups and local authorities for activities that range from orienteering to coffee shops, and outdoor fitness classes to archery. Ger Buckley from Coillte told us that all ideas are welcome, and they are well used to receiving permit queries. In fact, they issued around 100 permits to Midlands groups in 2019, before Covid restrictions.
Clearly, there is demand out there.
Amanda Walsh from Bord na Móna had a similar story. They have seen applications for amenity use soar from 30 over a 20-year period to 30 in the last six months. Bord na Móna has devised a new process for assessment and they will go through your application with you to find the best site and time for your activity.
The important thing is that you do your research and make a good application.
Orla Martin from the Local Enterprise Office had some advice on that. Preparation is key for success and credibility when you’re making applications like this, she told the webinar. Evaluate your idea, your location, and your market. Assess your own skills and your appetite for risk. Define the business structure. Reach out early and find out what funding streams are available to you.
There’s particular scope for community tourism such as walking trails, bridle paths, mountain biking and so on. Failte Ireland even has a Community Tourism Toolkit to help you get started but Derek Dolan from Failte Ireland told the webinar that the passion of local community groups has to be matched with organisational expertise.
So again, the message is to do your research and seek help to organise your project.
While the ESB doesn’t have as much amenity land Coillte or Bord na Móna – and the old power plants generally don’t have the structural integrity to convert them into offices or workshops – Donal Phelan of the ESB told us that the Dalton Centre in Shannonbridge has potential as a community enterprise centre. The ESB is already in talks with Offaly County Council about making this happen.
As Minister for Land Use, I was delighted to hear Amanda Walsh from Bord na Móna telling the webinar that their Peatland Climate Action Scheme will transform the land and develop even more potential for amenities. That means more opportunities for those of you with ideas.
I found such an abundance of information on the webinar that I have asked my team to generate an information sheet with all the important details and email addresses for you to contact the relevant people. See draft below and final version to follow!
Best of luck with your project plans.