DEMAND for property in coastal Clare continues to increase, to the point where the working from home phenomenon has been likened by a local businessman and public representative to a revolution.
The potential for remote working created by digital technologies, and introduced out of necessity during the pandemic, is proving to be a game-changer for rural communities which up to last year had been facing the prospect of accelerating depopulation. Now, demand from city dwellers looking to relocate, as well as holiday home owners who have switched their primary residence has boosted the population of coastal communities.
A property price survey conducted by The Sunday Times showed that while the median house price in Clare is down from €194,500 to €191,000, coastal property prices continue to rise. Demand for property in Kilkee and Lahinch was aid to be “insatiable” with a three-bedroom semi-detached home in the latter recently selling for €274,000, after multiple bids.
“We are at a transition point,” said Councillor Cillian Murphy. “Lots of people have second homes in Kilkee for example and the biggest swing is that they are now choosing to use them during the winter time and to work from them. Effectively, they’re making them their primary residences and exploring the option of working remotely most of the time. It’s possible. We know now that this can be done. The industrial revolution drove people into cities, now the remote working revolution will bring people back to villages. This could be the future.”
The Fianna Fáil member added that remote working had radically changed perceptions of what kind of space was required by large organisations. “If you look at Clare County Council, 80% of people are working remotely,” he said. “You have to ask if we would have built such a big headquarters if we knew this was possible. It’s not a criticism and it’s a product of its era.”
Councillor Murphy also reiterated concerns about the potential de-zoning of lands in Clare in order to comply with national planning policy and the impact on future development. “We now have an opportunity with people looking for space to plan and build their own homes in rural areas,” he noted. “At the same time, we have the possibility that the National Planning Framework (NPF) will lead to land being de-zoned in Clare because it won’t be serviced within the lifetime of the new County Development Plan [2022-2028], and that’s a matter that’s in the hands of the likes of Irish Water. We could see land lose its zoning and that’s not just in terms of residential land, but commercial and industrial zoning too.”
The Kilkee man compared the development of the local authority’s tourism strategy, which has been amended to respond to the pandemic, to the lack of flexibility in the NPF. “The NPF is based on assumptions that have now been ripped up,” he said. “As a council, we need to have a bit more ambition. People will move to rural areas, but not necessarily into estates. We need a balance between enabling people to build permanent residences and simply having more holiday homes. It’s not rocket science though and there are certainly other coastal communities who have solved the problem. We need to look and learn.”