Priest leading campaign against Clare planning laws

 

A parish priest is leading a campaign against Clare County Council's contentious planning restrictions, claiming the views of the people over the future of west Clare have been ignored.

Last August, the council published a draft development plan for the west Clare area, including the Loop Head peninsula. A large number of community organisations and individuals then made submissions to the council seeking a relaxation of planning restrictions in the area.

One of those who lodged a submission was the director of Rural Resettlement Ireland, Mr Jim Connolly, who claimed that "if implemented, the west Clare plan will result in the destruction of thousands of years of rural community life in the area".

Yet the council's planning department has told the groups and individuals that there will be no change to the settlement location policy for the area.

The parish priest of Cross/Kilbaha, Father Pat O'Neill, said yesterday: "The council's planning office is making a joke of the public where it would seem that the consultation process means nothing."

He said every family in the parish of Cross/Kilbaha was involved in the drawing up of the submission, claiming yesterday "we have been completely and totally ignored".

Last August, the Bishop of Killaloe, Dr Willie Walsh performed a U-turn when, after pressure from parishioners, he allowed Father O'Neill to remain in Cross/Kilbaha, rescinding an earlier decision to transfer him.

Father O'Neill's views were echoed yesterday by the project manager of the Kilrush-based Rural Action Project (RAP), Mr Ruairí Ó Conchuir. He said his organisation spent six weeks drawing up its submission and the council's "no change" response "makes a complete mockery of local democracy in west Clare and confirms our worst fears which we had at the outset of the process".

The council's executive planner has said the settlement location policies of an area are governed by the county development plan and cannot be changed within the context of a local area plan.