*Cllr PJ Kelly. Photograph: Martin Connolly

Planning guidelines will have to be “annulled or replaced” otherwise rural Clare will be “finished,” the county’s longest-serving politician has warned.

Cllr PJ Kelly (FF) has been an elected representative on Clare County Council since 1974. At a recent sitting of the local authority, he called on the Government to “urgently draw up a Rural Housing Development Plan to address the urban housing crisis, recognise the lawful rights of rural people and to address the social and economic changes caused by Covid”.

Government policy on rural housing has been set out under the Sustainable Rural Housing Guidelines 2005, Director of Economic Development, Liam Conneally replied. “Since these guidelines were published there have been a number of changes to national policy that directly impact rural housing provision. Also the Covid 19 pandemic has impacted rural housing demand and views on working from rural locations in a positive way”.

He agreed that “specific attention and guidance” was needed from Government on a rural housing policy. The Department of Housing has indicated it will revise the sixteen year old guidelines in the second half of 2021. Conneally committed to contacting Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien (FF) to receive guidance on the matter to “inform the current County Development Plan review process”.

Silence from Clare’s Oireachtas members on the subject was described by Cllr Kelly as amazing. “I have gone through the new planning guidelines, unless they are annulled or replaced then rural Ireland is replaced, there is no doubt in the world about it”. He continued, “we will have to have a complete replacement, rural Clare is finished, the days of the traditional farmer’s son and daughter getting planning permission is gone”.

Closures of rural primary schools in Clare was flagged by the Lissycasey native, “rural schools have closed down one by one, they are being phased out”.

Action is needed from the county’s Oireachtas members, he stressed. “Loyalty to one’s county is far superior to one’s party, if they have to break the rules to get result, so be it”. He added, “Rural life matters and rural people matter, our TDs might find out some day that rural votes matter, we have a voice, we can challenge and fight knowing we’re going to lose or we can surrender. The representative we sent to Dublin have surrendered to civil servants, if this goes through they will be held responsible.

A solution to sewage treatment is drastically needed, Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) stated in seconding the proposal. Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG) commented, “We’re dealing with a very successful part of the country in terms of the Wild Atlantic Way and I take East Clare into account with the money we will be investing into Holy Island, we’re not talking about lost causes or trying to bring back an extinct race”.

“It appears to me that someone in Dublin is making the decision already. What I’m seeing at the minute is whatever we do, the decision is out of our hands,” Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) surmised of the County Development Plan. He flagged “that one of the biggest renewable energy investments in the world will happen in West Clare” and it needs to be used as a justification for increased support for the county.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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