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*O’Callaghans Mills. Photograph: John Mangan

Infrastructure for surrounding communities must come hand in hand with allocation of millions of euros for the development of Greenways in Co Clare, local councillors have said.

In order to entice professionals to liven up the county, a comprehensive housing build and adaptation policy for towns and villages in rural areas is required. Such views were put forward by Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) at Monday’s meeting of Clare County Council. He called on the local authority to be ready for an increase in relocating urban dwellers.

Director of Service, Liam Conneally confirmed a Housing Need Demand Assessment and a Housing Strategy will be developed as part of the draft County Development Plan. “The Planning Department is committed to including objectives in the emerging Plan that will support the Government’s town centre first policy, its remote working policy and the development of our towns and villages including the reuse of derelict and vacant sites across our rural towns and villages”.

Clare became the first county to launch a rural development strategy in 2017 which was described by Cllr Killeen as “innovative”. He believed a “willingness to go out and attract professionals to Clare to liven up rural Clare” must be visible. Infrastructure, co-ordinate bus timetables, streetscapes, readily available housing, strong sporting facilities and well equipped schools are needed to make rural Clare more attractive.

“We need to roll out the céad míle fáilte for people to want to come to Clare, it is an opportunity to take back our lost generation,” the Corofin representative added as he stressed the need to make the Wild Atlantic Way “a place to live in and not just drive through”.

Positive discrimination for the sustainability of living in rural Clare is badly needed, Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG) maintained. “Politicians must have the will to change the mindset of bureaucratic mandarins,” Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF) stated as she acknowledged the desire for young people to have a lifestyle and earn a respectable living, “it is important that our county at large is strong for the centre to be strong”.

Scepticism of development plans was voiced by Cllr Tony O’Brien (FF), “the powers that be in Executives and Dept Officials will say it is your plan only when they tell you what can and can’t go into it”. Rural communities are dying, the Killaloe native warned. He said areas were herded into ‘corridors’ but left behind due bodies like Irish Water and eir failing to buy into the plans by “Department diktats”. “The great authorities will throw you down millions for greenways and tell you to cycle and look at the birds and bushes but they won’t give you the infrastructure, we’re being sold a pig in a pup.

“Sometimes the evidence is there to say there is no population and the fact is there is no population because there was no investment for donkey years,” Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) lamented. Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) felt it was difficult to be innovative “at a time when the Government couldn’t give a hoot about West Clare, there is no way people would even consider coming to live here without decent infrastructure here”.

Rebalancing infrastructure through the rural development strategy equated as “a David and Goliath” battle, Chief Executive Pat Dowling acknowledged. “I’ve never been subservient to plans, they are there as our tools, the day it dictates to us as a plan is a bad day. Plans have to be seen to be showing incremental improvements for rural Clare”.

People follow jobs, Director Conneally told the meeting, “we’re in the job creation business with other agencies. We are constantly working in that space to make sure jobs are created in Clare. It means people will come and live in the county”. He added, “If we don’t set our stall up on evidence we will be tumbled over when it comes to review, everything we do will be based on evidence”.

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