Written Answers. - Port Development.

John Perry

Question:

176 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the plans to transform Sligo Harbour; the steps he has taken in relation to authorisation for the handing over of the harbour; the progress and negotiations which have taken place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22037/02]

Sligo Harbour Commissioners are the responsible authority under the Harbours Act, 1946, for the management, control and operation of the harbour at Sligo. I am aware of the Sligo Harbour regeneration strategy report, outlining plans for the future development of the harbour which has been received by my Department.

The report followed on from the Sligo Harbour Commissioners integrated development plan 2000-05 for which funding was provided by my Department. The issue of further funding presents serious difficulties given that this project was not presented to the Department in the context of the NDP and given the extreme Exchequer difficulties at present.

As the Deputy may be aware, the KPMG review of regional ports and harbours which was published by my Department recommended that responsibility for Sligo Harbour be transferred to local control, namely, Sligo County Council. The intention of the review was to chart the way forward for all of the States regional ports operating under the Harbours Act, 1946 and to set out a long-term, coherent and sustainable development plan for their future and for the people whose livelihoods they support. It also sought to identify best development options, including local authority control, in terms of ownership, financing and activities-operations.

Section 88 of the Harbours Act, 1996, prescribes the statutory provisions for the transfer of certain harbours to local authority control. In the case of Sligo Harbour I am empowered under that section of the Act to transfer by order all members of the staff and the property, rights and liabilities of Sligo Harbour authority to the local authority. Such a transfer requires the consent of the Minister for the Environment and Local Government.

While no formal negotiations have taken place on the handing over of Sligo Harbour, my Department has met representatives of Sligo County Council, at the councils request, earlier this week to clarify the statutory position and progress the issue. It is my intention that transitional arrangements for the transfer of responsibility for regional harbours to local authorities, such as Sligo, would be effected as smoothly as possible with all stakeholders apprised fully.