New local area plan for Loughrea deferred

The Galway County Council has agreed to defer work on a new local plan for Loughrea for up to five years.

Agreement on the deferral was reached on Monday at County Hall after the recommendation by senior executive planner Valerie Loughnane.

Last month the council executive said work on the new plan could be deferred due to a lack of resources in the county council.

The council said due to a heavy workload and limited resources, it should be deferred for a period not exceeding five years.

Although supporting the deferral of the new local plan, councillors did raise concerns over the development of Loughrea in the interim.

Cllr Joe Byrne said he was concerned this plan could lead to "the promotion of retail developments outside of town centres and emptying town centres".

Loughrea councillor Shane Donnellan said that owners of unused buildings in Loughrea must be incentivised to have them occupied.

"We do not seem to be incentivising people to use first floors and second floors as office space. We need to bring those buildings back in use. Those buildings are not used and will not be used unless we incentivise people to refurbish them and get them to be occupied."

Fine Gael councillor Jimmy McClearn said that he was content to defer the plan for five years.

"I am quite happy to defer the plan for period specificed. However, if there is a threat to the town centre, we should revisit a lot sooner than five years.

Cllr Michael Fahy said; "An effort has to be made and must be enshrined in county development plan that the heart of every town develops. If it does not happen, no town will flourish."

In response to councillors' concerns Ms Loughane said the executive would make every effort to ensure the town centre is the focus of development.

"The town centre is very important to all towns across the county. We will be doing all we can to encourage this. We are looking at different mechanisms to use first and second floors to bring footfall back into centres and we will always encourage small businesses to bring life back into towns."

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