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Aspects of Co Dev Plan may hinder Clare’s ability to capitalise on remote working – Cllr Murphy

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Clare’s ability to capitalise on remote working may be hindered by aspects of the County Development Plan, a West Clare representative has warned.

Questions on whether the National Planning Framework’s (NPF) ‘tiered approach to land zoning’ would form part of the new County Development Plan and the potential de-zoning of lands that fall outside tier one and tier two were voiced by Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) at the January meeting of the local authority.

Tier one relates to ‘serviced zoned land’ which is currently zoned for development and already has access to existing services. Tier two is ‘serviceable zoned land’ that may not have all services in place but will do so within the lifetime of the Development Plan.

Consistency with the NPF policies must be kept for the Development Plan, Director of Economic Development Liam Conneally stated. A standardised tiered approach to differentiate between zoned land that is serviced and zoned land that is serviceable within the lifetime of the plan will have to be followed, he advised. Lands are not to be zoned for development if they are not deemed to be serviceable within the period of the plan.

Progression in drafting the County Development Plan by the Forward Planning Team will make the picture clearer when it comes to land affected and settlements concerned, the Director noted. “It is incumbent on the planning authority to ensure that adequate lands are zoned across the county to facilitate growth during the lifetime of the County Development Plan,” he stated. A “considerable challenge” exists to facilitate growth in un-serviced towns and villages while complying with NPF objectives.

Existing settlements zoned for development must be examined to determine if they are currently serviced or will by 2028 for roads, footpaths, public lighting, mains water, waste water connections, surface water drainage by the planning department, Murphy stated. “Critically, Irish Water will have to commit to providing water and wastewater treatment to those towns and villages between now and 2028. If they don’t, these lands should be de-zoned”.

By de-zoning land, the Kilkee representative believed Irish Water were given a free pass which he described as “the premeditated and planned depopulation of the countryside”. Facilitating growth of un-serviced towns while complying with NPF objectives would be impossible and could not be accepted by the Council, Murphy said.

Aspects of the NPF may also hinder the ability for Clare to capitalise on remote workers moving to the county, the co-founder of Loop Head Tourism warned. “Covid has been a blight for many reasons, it does however offer a real ray of hope for rural and coastal communities, as the capacity to work from home has been embraced, thousands of people have started to query where their home can be and of course the answer is anywhere, a fact borne out by a recent survey of estate agents who cite huge increase in demand for rural homes from those who are working ad renting in the cities and no longer need do so. This seismic shift in work practices is as significant as the industrial revolution; it can be a primary driver for the balanced regional development we have been hearing about for years”.

Cllr Murphy told the meeting he would not vote in favour of a County Development Plan that proposes to de-zone land in any town and village in the county. “I am concerned the lack of ambition being shown by the state, or that of a semi state commercial organisation, will negatively impact on our own ambitions here in Clare to ensure our rural and coastal communities can grow and thrive,” he concluded.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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