*Photograph: John Mangan

Clare councillors are calling for stronger measures to be put in place in order to repopulate the county’s towns and villages, hoping to entice the younger generation to return to the county in light of new remote working measures.

An incentive to invest in rural Clare was sought by Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG) at a recent meeting of the local authority. He believed the hands of property owners needed to be untied to facilitate such a request. Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) purported that a decline in rural Clare would have serious consequences for the rest of the county.

Covid-19 has given a great opportunity for Co Clare, Cllr Garrihy maintained as he referenced, the “very high quality of life” to be found here. He listed a multitude of attractive places to live within the county and raise a family and that a multifaceted approach is required to balance regional development with effective tax incentives at the fulcrum of creating affordable and attractive living environments. Local authorities, he said must be given the power and the funding to look at these towns and villages in order to redevelop rural living communities before time runs out.

Touching on the reintroduction of youth into rural society, Councillor Ann Norton (IND) added, “I one-hundred percent agree that there has to be some incentive for people to be able to invest in Clare. Over-shop accommodation was there over twenty years ago. When you look around our county, the investment in housing is something to remark. I have witnessed a lot of old houses and cottages being done up. If we want the younger generation to invest, we have to realise that people don’t mind having to commute, we see this on the East Coast with people coming out of Dublin. Galway or Limerick would be decent areas for the younger generation to work out of and live here, in Clare.”

Garrihy commented, “The whole thing we have to get rid of is the planning, such as proving that you might have had relations that lived in the area or that you have ties to the area. That is a stumbling block for a number of younger people that would like to invest because the properties are not that expensive. As a council we need to look at that connectivity with Galway and Limerick. We need to get our younger generation back into our county. We need to give them reason to come back to County Clare because they have seen what it is like to live in a city or college town. Unfortunately, you do have to grow up at some stage in your life and we want to see our twenty year olds come back to set up and that money will generate throughout towns and villages across our county.”

Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) lamented the process of leaving vacant properties to rot, asserting that the County is at a critical stage due to Covid and that this approach is sucking the soul out of the many towns and villages. He called for a carrot on a stick approach. The carrot, extending incentives for the refurbishment of vacant properties that have been in this state for two years. The stick, getting rid of the one hundred per cent refund given on rates to properties in towns and villages. A similar approach has been taken in London with regards to any property that has been vacant for over two years.

“We are at a very dangerous stage in our county, we are going to see some very significant deprivation and scarring because of Covid and I would ask that the action plan for rural Ireland be convened over Zoom for July and August to look at what we can do at a local level,” Flynn cautioned.

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