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Areas of North and West Clare cannot be viewed solely as places for people to visit, the Cathaoirleach of the West Clare Municipal District has stressed.

A bid by councillors in the West Clare MD to obtain details of the proposed breakdown of the population growth targets for the county in the new County Development Plan and the allocation by each Municipal District came undone at a recent meeting.

Acting senior planner, Helen Quinn in response to a joint motion from Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF), Cllr Ian Lynch (IND), Cllr Shane Talty (FF) and Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG) said the information was not available at the present time.

Directions from elected representative were sought up until Thursday last (March 25th), a draft development plan is now under preparation. After this is circulated to councillors, a core strategy will be made available. Quinn said that this strategy would ensure consistency with the National Planning Framework, the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the Southern Region and all Ministerial Guidelines and Policies relating to population targets. “The Core Strategy will also detail the amount of land to be zoned for residential or a mixture of residential and other uses, the size of the area in hectares and how the zoning proposals accord with national policy”.

Quinn’s reply was labelled as “a non-response” by Cllr Murphy with the detail described as “plain” by Cllr Lynch, “maybe Helen has taken the wording very literally to avoid the question or not to get caught up in something,” he added. Disappointed with the response was also issued by Cllr Talty.

“Maybe I’m just tired from Zoom but I’m finding the messages of rural areas from strategies to population targets, they seem like they want us to be a place where people visit,” Cllr Garrihy remarked. He continued, “I’m more dispirited than I have been in a long time looking at the big picture. They need to listen to us if there is going to be a sustainable living community in North-West Clare. An answer like this seems like there is a desire not to give the right answer, I’ve never hoped I’m as wrong in my life”.

Having concluded some research on the reference to ‘proposed allocation for Clare’, Cllr PJ Kelly (FF) stated, “the word there is projected population, we’re guessing what might be there at the end of the term instead of knowing what will be there. I think we walked into that one, it is not an allocation, it is a projection”.

Similar sentiments were echoed by Cllr Joe Killeen (FF). He said the projection of population was “pre-designed” by the NPF which projected an increase of one million people living in Ireland between now and 2040. North and West Clare needs fair play in such plans, he believed.

Murphy disputed the comments from his Fianna Fáil counterpart in Lissycasey. “If you are going to quote the King’s English, you might quote what we were asking for. We were asking for population targets, I understand where you’re coming for, we can’t go out and tell people not to have babies. What we were looking for was clear, the response was not”.

Director of Service, Leonard Cleary observed that the discussion was “healthy and important”. He felt a behind closed doors briefing session may be required to further tease out the motion.

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