SKIBBEREEN councillor Joe O’Carroll has been elected chairman of the powerful Southern Regional Assembly and is going to use the role to drive employment and growth from Bantry to Beara.
The assembly was set up in 2014 to advise public bodies of the regional implications of their policies and plans.
It is currently feeding into the hugely important National Planning Framework which will guide development and investment in Ireland from 2020 to 2040.
However, Cllr O’Carroll (FF) said he feels national planners are largely neglecting the needs of West Cork with more of an emphasis on Cork city and the metropolitan area in terms of job creation, planning regulations and infrastructure.
Large parts of the south west, specifically the vast area from Rosscarbery and Dunmanway to Kenmare will be in serious trouble if it doesn’t get recognition in the plan, he said. ‘There’s little understanding by planners that people living in Beara can’t be expected to drive two hours for work in the city,’ he said.
He said national planners were also against one-off planning which again, is something that’s an issue in this area.
He intends putting the spotlight on Bantry which, with its hospital and deep water bay, he believes is well situated to sustain employment in the western end of the county, including the Beara peninsula.
His ambition is for Bantry to develop along the lines of Letterkenny which has a population of around 25,000.
‘I’m honoured with this appointment and will be putting the spotlight on West Cork this year,’ he pledged.
The FF councillor, who represents Cork County Council on the Assembly, which is located in Waterford city, said he was looking forward to his term ahead ‘and particularly the continued work towards adopting the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies for the Southern Region.’
The Southern Regional Assembly is one of three organisations working at a regional level within the local government sector, alongside the Northern & Western and Eastern & Midlands Assemblies. The Southern region comprises 10 local authorities, with 33 councillors, appointed for a five-year term.
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