***The year in review***
The ongoing saga of the controversial plans by Michael Lynch Limited for the construction of a €34 million retail development on the outskirts of Ennis continued throughout 2012.
In January, Ennis Town Council refused planning permission for the development considering it to be “premature”. This decision has since been appealed to An Bord Pleanála who, at the time of writing, had yet to make a decision.
The retail development is proposed for a site at the Limerick Road / Tobarteascain Road, with Tesco set to be the main anchor tenant. The plans have been opposed by a number of groups including Ennis Chamber, businesses and traders associations and local residents who have voiced concerns that it could lead to a ‘doughnut effect’.
In making the decision to refuse planning permission, the local authority stated it was satisfied that the development was acceptable and compliant with the objectives for the site as set out in the Ennis and Environs Development Plan 2008 – 2014, “subject to a number of requirements particularly relating to a significant reduction in the level of non-food retail offer in the proposed development.”
However, the council considered that the plans were premature pending the upgrade of the waste-water treatment plant at Clareabbey and pending the implementation of the Ennis South Flood Relief Scheme.
The decision to refuse planning permission was appealed to An Bord Pleanála in February, with Michael Lynch Limited requesting an oral hearing. According to the appeal lodged by Tony Bamford Planning on behalf of Michael Lynch Ltd, “The application was refused for two technical reasons and both can be readily overcome through a series of appropriate and effective engineering solutions.”
The appeal put forward that the development “will represent much needed investment in the Ennis retail market.” The appeal states, “Substantial capacity exists in the area for both convenience and non-bulky comparison floor space. Given the inability to bring forward a suitable site in the town centre, the appeal site’s acknowledged suitability for a district centre would ensure additional family shopping is appropriately located within Ennis.”
The developers insisted, “Retail capacity and impact considerations have guided the overall scale of the proposal, to one that will complement rather than compete with the town centre. Many of the objectors have described the project as a shopping centre or retail park; that is, a large multi-unit development similar to the Crescent Shopping Centre in Limerick, Manor West in Tralee or even Monread Road in Naas. The proposal is none of these.”
The appeal pointed out that approximately 300 construction jobs and between 180 and 200 operational jobs in the foodstore alone will be created if given the green-light.
In March, Ennis Town Council in its submission to An Bord Pleanála recommended refusal of the development. However they suggested that a total of 23 conditions be imposed if it is given the go-ahead, including development contributions of more than €700,000.
A decision on the plans was deferred until early August. An Bord Pleanála then deferred the decision indefinitely, stating the ongoing delay was down to a “reduced number” of board members.
Correspondence from the board to the local authority stated an inspector’s report has been received and the file is now at board level.
The letter went on to state, “The continuing delay is due to the reduced number of board members which were available to assess and determine cases in the first six months of 2012 resulting in a backlog of cases to be determined. The delay involved is regretted.”
Speaking to The Clare Champion in August, Ms McInerney described the continuing delay as “frustrating” and said the hold up has left further retail development in Ennis “in limbo”.