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A better place to live

Editorial

THE extensive flooding that hit many parts of County Clare in November will loom large before the Clare County Development Plan 2011-2017 is formally adopted later this year.

Due to the flooding experience, Clare County Council members are unlikely to blindly rubber-stamp the draft proposals and such is the heightened awareness of shortcomings in the planning process that there should be plenty of feedback during the 10-week public consultation period, which is set to begin in two weeks.
Members of Clare County Council, following a year-long review process, have approved the draft plan but will pay close heed to public observations before giving the final nod of approval.
Members of the public will want to know and have a right to know why the current county development plan failed to curtail excessive residential, commercial and industrial development on flood plains or areas where there was a history of flooding. The November floods have focussed attention on the importance of questioning everything, even to the point of sounding tedious and boring.
The draft plan will facilitate the preparation of a strategic flood risk assessment carried out in light of new guidelines issued to planning authorities on flood risk management.
Corrective measures to ensure that serious flooding cannot occur in the future will eat up millions of euro but in the current economic climate, it could take years to extract funding from Government agencies. Clare County Council will have to join a long queue of local authorities going cap in hand for bail-outs to make good on the failings of bad planning.
However, there’s far more to a county development plan than adjudicating on where or where not houses or commercial/industrial properties should be built. It’s a very broad canvass, with plenty of scope to allow the relevant administrative area realise its full potential over a defined period. When adopted, the Clare plan will be the sixth since 1964 and, to be fair, under this system, despite flaws, quite lot of good work has been done.
The new draft plan has a number of critical proposals. Once approved, the plan will provide for the zoning of over 700 hectares of land for marine-related industry at locations along the Clare shore of the Shannon Estuary. Because of its deep water, shelter and other natural advantages, the estuary is a significant asset, yet this is the first time that a draft plan has introduced a chapter aimed at developing the waterway for economic and recreational uses.
The draft plan has a distinct green hue with a proposal that in future certain developments would be required to provide facilities to allow for charging of electric cars and vehicles management and the implementation of the county’s first wind energy strategy.
The Draft Clare County Development Plan 2011-2017 will be available for inspection in public offices, libraries and on the Internet later this month and there will be information meetings in centres around the county. Members of the public should take full advantage of the opportunity to help shape their future.
Ultimately, the plan seeks to make County Clare a better place to live, work and visit, Mayor of Clare Tony Mulcahy has stated. Hopefully the plan will achieve this.

Steering
towards recovery
The Mid-West is paying a heavy price for the over-reliance on the construction industry and public sector for job creation during the 10 years between 1997 and 2008.
Over 60% of jobs created in Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary through the Celtic Tiger era were in these categories, the Mid-West Regional Authority’s Draft Regional Planning Guidelines 2010-22 document has revealed. The public sector accounted for 32% of employment created in the region between 1997 and 2008, while the construction sector accounted for 29%.
Also, analysis provided by Forfás, the national advisory body for enterprise, highlights the fact that not as many jobs were created in the region, as in other parts of the country during that time. Employment growth in all sectors in the Mid-West was 34% from 1998 to 2007, compared to 40% nationally and a higher proportion of the region’s workforce is employed in the manufacturing and industrial sector than any other region (17.5% compared to 13.9% nationally). This has added to the vulnerability of the region in terms of company rationalisations or worse.
The massive drop in construction work, as a result of the recession, as well as the slump in key manufacturing and service industries and businesses has seen unemployment grow at an alarming rate in the region.
Just how grim the situation is in County Clare was revealed in this week’s publication of the 2009 CSO Live Register figures. Unemployment in the county has increased by 38.7% in a 12-month period, rising from 7,499 in December 2008 to 10,404 at the end of 2009. Taking a two-year comparison, unemployment in this county has soared by 121.6%, with the under-25s particularly badly hit.
In recent years there has been a significant increase in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector and research and development in initiatives in Mid-West firms but even more innovative ideas are needed if we are to crawl out of the recession.
Fine Gael TD Pat Breen sees the Live Register figures as a wake-up for the Government to accelerate the finalisation of the Mid-West Task Force Report and implement its findings to unlock funding and support for the region. He is angry that the recommendations of the interim report, published in July in the aftermath of the Dell redundancy announcement, have been ignored.
Tánaiste Mary Coughlan brought the region’s brightest and best together to devise measures to put the Mid-West on the road to economic recovery. The time and effort invested by the team led by chairman, Denis Brosnan and chief executive, Dr Vincent Cunnane in preparing their report should not be wasted by Government procrastination. The recommendations must be pursued.

 

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