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A seven month delay to the completion of the Clare County Development Plan has been agreed by local councillors.

Citing negative impacts of COVID-19 on consultation between elected members of the local authority and the general public, Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) led the proposal to delay the finalisation of the blueprint.

Co-signatures to the motion were Cllr Pat Hayes (FF), Cllr Joe Cooney (FG), Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND), Cllr Ann Norton (IND), Cllr John Crowe (FG), Cllr PJ Kelly (FF), Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF), Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF), Cllr Pat O’Gorman (FF) and Cllr Tony O’Brien (FF).

Speaking at a special meeting of the Council, Cllr Murphy outlined, “For the past year, most of the time and energy of the Council has focused on day to day management of Covid and the preservation of health and wellbeing. This has caused consultation to slip. An extension will give us an opportunity to catch up and have further meaningful discussions among ourselves and with the communities we represent”.

The public’s role as major stakeholders in the plan was underlined by Cllr Flynn. “That is the bottom line, this is about the public, not just investors or other stakeholders. Virtual engagement is not working as well as it should”.

Concern with the delay was raised by Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG), Cllr Paul Murphy (FG) and Cllr Pat Burke (FG). Voicing his apprehension with the proposal, Clarecastle’s Murphy stated, “We’re in the middle of a housing crisis and we need to be tackling that, especially in the urban centres”.

Burke remarked, “I am a great believer in not putting off until tomorrow what you can do today,” he said. “I am looking forward to seeing what will be achieved in seven months. That’s a bit unclear, but I will go along with the majority”. The delay should be for a maximum of seven months, Cllr Pat Daly (FF) stressed.

Online Council meetings have showcased the difficulties in consultation during the pandemic, Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) highlighted. Cllr Pat O’Gorman (FF) commented, “I can’t understand how a department in Dublin can send rules and regulations for rural Clare and offer no solutions on issues like sewerage and water”.

There will be “robust” engagement and consultation regarding the plan in the next seven months, Council Chief Executive Pat Dowling informed the meeting.

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