Lough Owel, near Mullingar Sailing Club (file pic).

Mobile spas and pop-up coffee shops could be regular features at lake shores

Mobile spas and pop-up coffee shops could become regular features at lake shores and natural amenities around Westmeath.

At a meeting on Friday, the Strategic Policy Committee on Economic Development, Enterprise and Tourism agreed to amend casual trading bye-laws to allow such facilities.

The Cut on Lough Lene, Lilliput on Lough Ennell, Portnashangan on Lough Owel, along with Portaneena and Coosan Point on Lough Ree, are possible locations.

Tourism officer Una Doris revealed that they have had a series of enquiries about mobile saunas, hot tubs and ice baths – which are becoming popular across the country.

Cllr Emily Wallace liked the idea, but felt a lot of work needed to be done at the lakeshores before drawing more tourists in so as “not to leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth”.

Access points and infrastructure at the lakes need to be addressed: “We cannot get a shelter at Portnashangan,” she said, adding that improvements should be implemented while the bye-laws are being amended “so that we are ready”.

The matter came before the SPC on foot of a motion tabled by Cllr John Dolan for a meeting of the Athlone Moate Municipal District. Cllr Dolan accepted that Coosan Point is not a designated bathing area, “but an awful lot of bathing goes on there” and better facilities would enhance the experience.

Barry Kehoe, senior executive, said a study of Coosan Point is under way and that will identify any structural requirements or improvements that are needed to enhance the amenity. If there are issues at other lakes, maybe they could be addressed in the same way, he suggested.

Who is going to pay for improvements to infrastructure and maintenance? Will the council get an operator in or will it be run privately, the chairman Cllr John Shaw asked.

Mr Kehoe said the council’s only role was to give a casual trading licence to the operator. No additional infrastructure, no power supply, no additional parking is required. The council just has to designate an area they feel is suitable for mobile units to park.

Cllr Bill Collentine asked how they were working in other counties.

“I have seen them around the country and they are very unobtrusive and people do use them, they are attractive, they have to be to get customers,” Mr Kehoe stated. You hire them for an hour, have a sauna, then a swim and back in again. “You might have a glass of wine or whatever when you are at it. It’s a social thing that you might do as a group,” he added.

The meeting agreed that a draft amendment to the bye-laws be prepared and put to the two district committees before it goes for public consultation.