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Clare’s most experienced councillor has warned that the implementation of the new County Development Plan will be “a tragic dictatorship” unless alterations are made.

Dictionaries were cast aside by the quartet of Cllr PJ Kelly (FF), Cllr Susan Crawford (GP), Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) and Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) as they appealed to senior officials in Clare County Council to provide “a comprehensive, comprehensible and definitive explanation be given of the meaning of proper planning and sustainable development”.

Director of Service, Liam Conneally noted that no legal definition for proper planning and sustainable development is provided in the Planning and Development Act 2000 but that it stated they should be provided “in the interests of the common good”.

Under the National Planning Framework (NPF) “sustainability is at the heart of long-term planning”. Conneally felt the definitions included in the Clare County Development Plan 2017-2023 were “comprehensive” although legal definitions did not exist.

He stated, “The foresight of the Elected Members recognised the value to the County in defining the term on page 20 of the Clare County Development Plan 2017-2023 as ‘achieving the correct balance of economic, social, cultural and environmental considerations in the interests of the common good and securing long term benefits to County Clare’”.

Speaking at the March meeting of the local authority, Cllr Kelly offered his sympathies to the Director for “attempting to defend the indefensible”. He added, “The County Development Plan should be in the language of ordinary people” and said the High Court has used the word “comprehensible” on its guidance.

Achieving the correct balance “is a very relative thing,” the Lissycasey representative outlined. Proposals were previously “rubbed stamped” that “prevents housing being built in certain areas because of ‘visual impact,’ he lamented. Kelly said the previous inability to be given an explanation on visual impact was “a most unsatisfactory situation”.

Cllr Kelly voiced his annoyance with being part of the Council which approved the last Development Plan. “I’m glad new councillors have taken a stand and the new not so new councillors have taken a stand. I hope our directions are dealt with a legal manner to benefit Clare in the future, we’ve let people down in the past and cannot do it again. If we don’t we will end up with tragic dictatorship”.

Clarity and transparency has been lacking in the planning process for some time, Cllr Crawford maintained. “We are here with the deep philosophy to keep rural Clare alive, it has to be addressed with real consistency,” the Miltown Malbay woman commented.

Inconsistency clouded the process, Cllr Killeen felt. “The more I’ve studied proper planning and development, there’s no proper explanation for this”. He continued, “Our role in the County Development Plan is to have the ambition that all communities are supported, sustained and set up to succeed, that it what proper planning I think is”.

Rural councillors are fearful on the national directive surrounding the Development Plan and its potential impact, Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG) revealed. “I have major concerns and worries from what I’m seeing from the top down approach which in effect is completely against sustainability of communities”.

Clare will have a “bespoke solution” when it comes to sustainable development in the Development Plan, Conneally told the meeting. He said the NPF and “all other national guidelines” would be pushed to the limit to see what sustainable development was for the county. “We will be redefining what sustainable development is for Clare”.

“Our objective is to defend Clare County Council and promote Clare, that is our core objective. We will be taking a strong stance,” Chief Executive of the local authority, Pat Dowling pledged. “When we complete this plan, we may not agree on everything but it will be done in unison,” he added. Dowling concluded, “What we are trying to do is for the good of Clare, not to satisfy a national body. It is a big and complex task. We have to get this one right”.

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