Town seeks tax relief to reverse decline in population

 

THE population of Clifden has fallen substantially in the last 10 years and "no one in authority seems to know or care", according to the chairman of the Co Galway town's chamber of commerce, Mr Paul Hughes.

Speaking before the launch of a five-year regeneration plan for the town last night, Mr Hughes called on the Government to include Clifden in the tax relief scheme for seaside towns. He said this would help stop the decline in population by stimulating development and creating year-round employment.

He accused politicians of neglecting the area because of its low population. The tourism revenue generated in Clifden gave it an importance which was not reflected in the services provided by central government, he said.

"If we had a vote for every £1 we pay in revenue to the State we would surely come out much better. We would have a stronger voice", Mr Hughes said.

The Minister for Tourism and Trade, Mr Kenny, told local interest groups represented at the launch that he welcomed the plan as a tool in considering future development in the area.

However, there were no plans at present to extend the tax relief scheme to Clifden or to other areas, he said. The tax scheme was introduced for 15 seaside resorts last year, on a three-year pilot basis.

The regeneration plan was compiled by UCG's Sligo Resource Office in consultation with the chamber of commerce and local groups.

It says the town's population fell by over 10 per-cent between 1986 and 1991, contrary to projections in the county development plan.

More than a quarter of those aged between 15 and 19 in 1986 were no longer living in the town in 1991. Property developments were targeted towards tourism, leading to houses staying vacant for most of the year.

The high price of property as a result of the tourism boom made it harder for migrants to return, or young couples to settle in the area, it says.

The growth in tourism had exacerbated infrastructural problems. The sewerage system was stretched to capacity and Clifden Beach had lost its Blue Flag as a result.

Further development was threatened by the sewerage problem.

The plan includes an extended list of potential tourism, cultural and heritage projects, as well as suggested improvements to the town's physical appearance, community development initiatives and job-creation schemes.

It suggests dredging the barbour, setting up a "colour coordinated theme" for the town centre, and the development of a green area.

Other plans include renovating the historic courthouse and the construction of an airstrip and a marina.

The nearest swimming pool is 50 miles away in Galway. The plan proposes the development of a conventional four-lane pool.