LIVING in Ennis has its price it seems. The cost of residential development contribution levies for homes built within the boundaries of Ennis Town Council is over €5,000 more the charges of Clare County Council, writes Jessica Quinn. This has led to one local councillor writing to Minister Phil Hogan urging him to request Ennis Town Council to “immediately” amend its newly adopted development contribution scheme.
However, the town council has insisted that the levies are vital for the investment in facilities for the town, adding that the scheme was prepared in accordance with regulations and that the levies have been reduced from what was previously in place.
According to the Development Contribution Scheme, levies for residential developments are €9,000 per unit within the town boundary, while Clare County Council’s charge is set at €3,876.
Councillor Johnny Flynn this week described the scheme as “flawed” and “unfair” as he called on the minister to intervene.
The councillor stated in a letter to Minister Hogan, seen by The Clare Champion, “I fully accept the bona fides of Ennis town management and the vote taken locally as open and democratic but I cannot accept that it is fair or good for proper planning in Ennis Town Council to charge a young couple building or buying the new house of their dreams €9,000, which is, in fact, €5,133 more than the €3,876 Clare County Council charge across the road or just outside the town boundary.”
Councillor Flynn believes that the charges do not offer an incentive to the stimulation of the construction industry and the creation of jobs. He added, “Financial disincentives such as this variation in costs could lead to population loss in Ennis town, the county capital.”
He acknowledged that there has been a reduction in the levy from the previous town council scheme. However, he argued, “With a population of around 25,000 within the boundary and 4,000 in immediate environs there is serious inequity when services are shared in terms of the same infrastructure being used such as water, roads and sewerage. I believe the Ennis scheme has been significantly improved on the previous and original proposed schemes. However, I believe the Ennis town levies on new homes at over twice the cost outside the town boundary to be unfair, unjust and will have the unintended consequences of bad planning in terms of incentivising out-of-town new home development over consolidation of the urban form.”
Ger Dollard, town manager for Ennis Town Council, in response to Councillor Flynn’s comments stated, “The draft development contribution scheme was put before the elected members of Ennis Town Council at the July meeting. No suggestions for amendment were put before Council. The scheme was then put on public display and in accordance with the requirements of the regulations a copy was forwarded to the minister. Four submissions were received and these were considered by council at the October meeting.”
He went on, “The levies in the final scheme are a significant reduction on those in place earlier in the year. There are also further incentives to encourage and stimulate industrial, commercial and residential development. The scheme seeks to continue the investment in facilities in Ennis particularly in the area of sports and recreation facilities. Availability of funds from development levies is very important to ensure that funding is available to the match any grant allocations from central government for infrastructure improvements throughout the town.
“Levies collected are used solely for capital purposes and cannot be used for ongoing operational and maintenance programmes. The point was made during the debate by the members that everyone would wish to have zero levies but in such a scenario there would be no investment in facilities such as sporting and recreation facilities in Ennis,” he said.