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*New Quay. 

Clare County Council must swoop “to take advantage” of the rediscovered desire among the public to live in rural Ireland.

Property prices in scenic locations of the county such as Lahinch have soared since the onset of the pandemic with remote working prompting the public to reconsider their living and working arrangements. Part of this has whet the appetite of individuals to live in rural Ireland.

It was part of the thinking referenced by Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG) in a motion before the West Clare Municipal District’s September meeting. He urged the MD to establish “the critical mass of population to sustain” existing services, schools and communities in towns and villages “along with giving a baseline target for reversal of decline experienced over the last 30 years or more”.

Principles of the motion will be explored between the West Clare MD and the planning section of Clare County Council, acting senior executive officer John O’Malley replied. “The new County Development Plan engagements are key here. Significant resources are needed to ensure that this matter is given its required attention”.

In July, Clare councillors voted to defer the adaptation of the County Development Plan by seven months to allow for more engagement with the public. Focus of the Southern Assembly “to build a compatible critical mass around Limerick and Galway to compete with Dublin and get balanced regional development,” was cited by Cllr Garrihy.

He stressed the need to know what is viewed as “a sustainable population” that will sustain school, local sports clubs and maintain vibrant communities. “Loop Head is said to be losing one person a day for the last twenty years, look at places like New Quay, Carron and Kilfenora, what do we need and services do we want to retain and attract people to live and work here”.

Actions needed to build this “replacement population” must be defined and incentivised in the County Development Plan, the Lisdoonvarna representative affirmed as he suggested allocations for towns and villages. “We need to take advantage of people wanting to live in rural Ireland,” Garrihy commented.

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