This week, Meath County Council passed an initiative proposed by Councillor Sharon Tolan of Fine Gael, permanently banning cars from all Meath beaches. The beaches had been closed to cars temporarily since 24 March 2020 without issue, causing Councillor Tolan to urge the council to continue this on a permanent basis:
“It’s not very often that we as Councillors get an opportunity to make such a monumental decision – a decision that will have such a positive impact for generations to come. It’s not very often we would get an opportunity to have trialled such a huge change before making this decision, but thankfully global pandemics don’t occur very often.
“In light of the overwhelming success of car free beaches in Meath, from both a public and an environmental perspective, I call on Meath County Council to make this ban of vehicles from the beaches permanent, with the exception of the disability and age friendly parking provision already made.”
This motion was originally proposed by Councillor Tolan and defeated in May 2021. Since then, almost 500 parking spaces have been made available in the Laytown and Bettystown areas.
Highlighting the importance of car-free beaches for the safety and comfort of visitors, Councillor Tolan said:
“I have received so many representations from parents about how safe it has been for their children and what the freedom to run and play on a beach safely means for children, elderly people who now feel so safe walking and some even swimming, people with disabilities who now have a safer experience, and women who regularly walk Gormanston beach who now feel much safer to walk alone without any fear of strange characters driving along that quiet location.”
With the return of the Laytown Races, over 2,000 people visited the beach on Monday. Local parking was provided and no illegal parking took place. Traffic was managed impressively well considering the volume of visitors, further proving that the area has adequate parking facilities.
Councillor Tolan told the Council that to allow cars back on Meath’s 20km stretch of sandy coastline would have been “environmental terrorism”. She stressed the potential dangers to both the environment and visitors of the beaches:
“We can never return to the way things were. Boy racers, burnt out cars, illegal dumping of mattresses, junk and other household waste. Drivers competing with families and children for a sandy spot on our strands, cars lost to the tide polluting our seas and damaging our local wildlife.”