Economic SPC Strategic Policy Committee Report November 13th 2017

davWell this meeting got off to a great start with my having to challenge the minutes. Again! During the last meeting one councillor had suggested we have a say in generating our workplan for 2018 and asked that it be put on the agenda for this meeting. He was a little late and missed the proposing of the minutes so I had to raise the fact that the report in the minutes stated that we would be presented with our work plan. Here are those minutes with one amendment to be made on the last page.

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We had a comprehensive presentation from Ray O’Driscoll who is the Managing Director of Commercial Properties, Shannon Group. I spoke with Ray before the meeting about their property in Lisdoonvarna. I let him know storm Ophelia had caused some damage and asked what were the chances of them giving it all to the community. I was very surprised when he said that may be an option. Now that they are focusing on strategic sites the properties Shannon Development acquired are not as important on their radar.
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Here are the slides with my queries scribbled on the last page as usual:

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My queries were about energy and water usage. I also asked about flooding which he accepted was a risk they are factoring into their developments. As for building energy ratings Ray explained that all of their new builds are LEED certified which is a ver high standard. I found more about LEED at the Irish Green Building Councils website here.
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Then we had an introduction to the latest Biodiversity and Heritage plans for the county. Good to have a copy for future reference 🙂
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Next up was my presentation. I hadn’t time to source or insert lots of images so it was text heavy but we flew threw them without reading. It was more about the take home notes than anything. The slides were only a backdrop. Here’s my blog which contains an Overview of National Policy Relevant to Clare Economic SPC. Everything I said is in there and the document at the end of the page is the best bit with links to lots of relevant policies and reports.
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I had arranged for everyone to get a copy of the latest NESC report, National Economic and Social Council on the circular economy. I explained that the circular economy is gathering momentum within the EU policy arena which will eventually filter down to us so we should probably consider getting ahead of the game by supporting it’s delivery in Clare. Some councillors saw the merit in this and suggested that a member of NESC might come down and discuss it with us. They also appreciated the fact that NESC informs government so it is useful to be aware of what they are focusing on because it will inevitably make its way to us.
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The most trying response to my presentation was one elected member telling everyone that climate change should be dealt with in the Environment SPC. Well – red rag to a bull comes to mind. There was no way he was getting away with that. Climate change should be on every SPC agenda. It is definitely going to impact the economy and we would do better to consider it. We just had the head of a property company and a councillor discuss the cost of flooding defences. It has also been discussed at previous meetings with other business people including the IDA Industrial Development Authority. Sometimes I despair at how out of touch our elected representatives really are.
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We discussed the work plan briefly. I asked that we include policy submissions as part of our work plan to be assessed as they arise. While discussing it there was a query about whether there was any point if the SPCs were being changed.
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When we were informed that there may be another redesign of the SPCs I made the following observations and request. The SPC Scheme determines the remit and membership of the SPCs within each local authority is subject to a public consultation at the beginning of a council term. This is when the make up of the SPCs are designed – what it covers and who should be on it such as farmers, trade unions, community groups, minority groups etc. If the local authority wish to change the standing orders and the SPCs mid term they should consult the public.
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What’s notable here is that Clare County Council have already changed the SPCs during this council term when the Chief Executive added a new SPC on Rural Development as well as redesigning those in existence. There was no public consultation at the time. Clare Public Participation Network PPN which elects representatives, myself included, to the SPCs questioned this decision. We approached and met with the Chief Executive outlining our concerns. The PPN were offered the opportunity to move representatives to ensure they were sitting on the SPC most relevant to their expertise. That’s not much good if 3 SPCs suddenly become 4 making representation very thin on the ground. If there are indeed plans afoot to change the SPCs again I asked that the elected members ensure that a public consultation is held.
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I think that’s it.
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Theresa O’Donohoe
November 2017

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