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AFTER HIGHLIGHTING a number of breaches in the County Development Plan, the Office of the Planning Regulator is to address a meeting of Clare County Council.

Adjustments to the development plan have been recommended by the Office of the Planning Regulator who said Clare County Council have breached a number of national and regional guidelines.

The Clare Echo has previously reported that the OPR said it was “inappropriate” for the Council to include the Strategic Development Zone which would become Europe’s first university town in the plans.

A total of thirteen recommendations and eight observations have been made by the State’s planning watchdog to the draft which warned that “significant adjustments” will have to be made.

Concerns have been flagged regarding the amount of residential land zoned in certain towns, in the submission by the OPR. The population target of 11,637 set by the Council is higher than allocations set previously in the National Planning Framework Implementation Roadmap and the Southern Regional Assembly Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES), the OPR stated.

To remove the 3,500 population allocation for the SDZ prompts a revision of the county’s population target with the OPR deeming it appropriate to designate Scariff and Quin as small towns with Killaloe and Newmarket-on-Fergus as service towns. The OPR praised the Council for its extensive public consultation on the plan.

Following a proposal by Cllr PJ Kelly (FF), Niall Cussen, the planning regulator is to address an upcoming meeting of the County Council. Director of Economic Development, Liam Conneally stated in response to his motion, “In order to get the most from the meeting it would be beneficial if the members could identify the specific planning policy areas they wish Mr. Cussen to address”.

According to Cllr Kelly there is now “complicity attached” for all planning matters. The Lissycasey representative said he had no issue submitting questions in advance of meeting “but I don’t want to be tied to time, the follow-up questions may be the most important”. Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF) seconded the proposal, “the last thing we want to do is reduce the discussion”.

Shannon based, Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) called Cllr Kelly “our expert in planning” and questioned, “at times you would wonder if we had a planning regulator with some of the decisions made”.

Chief Executive of the Council, Pat Dowling noted that Cussen formerly worked for the local authority. “It is not an opportunity to go totally on the attack, it is a chance to have a constructive debate, it is a new position so we can’t blame him for everything wrong in the world”.

“We will have a constructive discussion, we will clear the air. We have preference and prejudice, both of them are punctuated by politics leading to eternal confusion,” Kelly responded.

Cussen’s presence before the County Council is due to take place following the annual summer break in August.

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