GREATER leadership is needed if Cork County is to reach its social and economic potential, according to the members of the West Cork Municipal District.
The councillors, who held their recent monthly meeting on Bere Island, approved a draft ‘Local Economic and Community Plan’ that was prepared by Council planners, saying it was ‘consistent’ with the County Development Plan.
However, a presentation by Pio Condon, one of the Council’s senior executive planners, threw up a number of questions, issues and demands.
The draft plan shows that, overall, Cork is ‘performing well’.
The plan has already been part of a public consultation process and drew more than 1,000 submissions. It was also the subject of a number of intensive quality of life surveys.
Mr Condon said that sustaining Cork’s success will become increasingly more difficult due to a range of social, environmental and economic factors and there is a strong desire for leadership and a sense of common purpose in the Cork region.
To achieve this, Mr Condon suggested: ‘There is a need for clarify of purpose at national level, in order to provide a platform for future regional progression.’ The plain-speaking Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) put it a different way. He said: ‘Our Government needs to turn their nose west.’
Cllr Carroll also took issue with a statistic that showed how Cork and Dublin have developed at different rates. In the 1900s, Mr Condon said, both Cork and Dublin had a population of around 400,000, but Cork has only increased that number to 520,000 in recent times, whereas the population of Dublin now exceeds 1m.
Cllr Carroll said Dublin may have grown rapidly but it has become a victim of its own success because people can no longer afford to live there. ‘Young people are going to Dublin,’ he said, ‘but they have to come home again because they can’t find a place to stay. You would need double the salary to live in Dublin.’
Cllr Mary Hegarty (FG) said there were a number of positive aspects to the plan, such as the fact that West Cork is now recognised as ‘a brand’, a byword for being a good place to live.
She said the asset index contained within the report would be of great assistance in attracting business into the region, and she referred to a previous study that deemed Bantry to be ‘the best place to retire’ because it has all of the amenities – in terms healthcare and education, as well as cultural, sporting and social amenities.
‘West Cork’s strong artistic community also brings a richness to our community,’ said Cllr Hegarty, who called on all the Municipal District members to be ambassadors for their area. Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan welcomed the fact that the report highlighted a need ‘to remove barriers to opportunities’. He said: ‘There are a lot of artisan and local producers who are starting to export their goods and we need to facilitate these people in the development of their businesses.’
Meanwhile, Cllr Paul Hayes pointed out that without the basics, such as a decent housing programme, there would be no incentive for people to return to live in West Cork. ‘People who want to come here will need housing. We need to have a plan in place for that,’ he said.
The draft plan will come before a full meeting of Cork County Council on July 25th.