CONFLICTING views have been expressed about the €1.75 million redevelopment of the market area in Ennis by local councillors.
Councillor Mary Howard said the provision of a covered Milk Market-style area for the town would result in one of the most “exciting projects” to rejuvenate the town centre.
In fact, Councillor Howard told an Ennis Municipal District meeting on Monday that this development would provide an “iconic building” similar to the new Harmony Row Bridge in the town.
However, Councillor Clare Colleran-Molloy expressed concern about the impact of funding this ambitious project from the council’s own finances, after director of services for planning and enterprise, Ger Dollard, confirmed the council had applied for department approval for a €1.75 million loan.
The Fianna Fáil Councillor noted the lack of finance is already resulting in delay for the upgrading of public infrastructure.
Councillor James Breen told the meeting he had been approached by people who claimed the planning notice for the Part Eight development was not displayed in a prominent place in the area and asked if this was “factual”.
This was rejected by Mr Dollard, who noted the council received a lot of public submissions on the Part Eight proposal. He said there was a lot of media coverage of the development and a strong general knowledge of the proposal.
The Part Eight proposal was approved by Ennis Town Council earlier this year, following a detailed public consultation process.
Councillor Breen said if anyone still has concerns they should make them known in writing to the council. He also asked if this project is a “done deal”.
Mr Dollard confirmed the project had gone through all the necessary statutory processes and assured members a presentation would be made about the project in September.
This issue was raised by Councillor Johnny Flynn, who tabled a motion requesting a report for members to discuss the progress concerning the provision of a covered Milk Market-style area for Ennis.
Richard Rice Healy Architects were engaged by the town council to do a detailed feasibility study for a future development of the area and the option of a covered market.
They recommended a phased development for Ennis, starting with a covered area in Lower Market Street carpark (Lysaght’s Lane) with existing linkages to Parnell Street and the market area. They also suggested potential connection to O’Connell Street by the purchase of Moran’s building.
Follow-on phases could develop the farmers market area at Gaurankilla and possibly Barrack Street, which Councillor Flynn supported.
The architects subsequently provided an 1814 Ennis town map to show that a public road from O’Connell Street at that date turned right and ran through the Moran site, to the Lower Market Street carpark area, which on the map was called ‘Milk Market’.
An alternative proposal to go to Garaunakilla to the top of the market area with the covered market was approved by the town council.
In a statement to The Clare Champion, Councillor Flynn wondered if €1.5 million could be better spent purchasing Moran’s for about €800,000, the construction of a road link to O’Connell Street for €200,000 and the installation of an umbrella-covered market as per architect recommendation at Lower Market carpark for another €200,000.
He believes the council could provide umbrellas and services such as water and electricity for the farmers market area at Gaurankilla for €200,000, as well as a similar development at Barrack Street for half this sum.
Councillor Mary Howard said it would be worthwhile for councillors to see the presentation, while Councillor Ann Norton said she would welcome an opportunity to see the presentation, as it would help to bring her up to speed with all aspects of the project.
Following on from the completion of the planning process, Mr Dollard stated further consultation has taken place, initial archaeological investigation has been completed and the design team is progressing a detailed design so that the project can be brought to tender stage.
Separately, Ennis Town Council approved the raising of a loan of €1.75m to fund this project and formal application has been made to the Department of the Environment for sanction.
“At this point in time, formal approval has not to date been received but the council is continuing to engage with the department in relation to the matter. It is unlikely that any significant financial requirement will arise in the current year and it is the council’s intention to progress the project to a ‘shovel-ready’ stage. At that point, it would be essential that formal funding decisions are made in relation to the project.
“The project offers a very significant basis for a rejuvenation of this area and the intention would be to follow on, subject to funding, with further phases of the market redevelopment project,” he said.