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Accepting joint strategy like ‘turkeys voting for Christmas’

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ACCEPTING a new joint housing strategy for Clare and Limerick would be like “turkeys voting for Christmas”, a recent meeting of Ennis Town Council was told.
Councillor Johnny Flynn was speaking as members voiced their disapproval of plans to include the strategy in the Ennis and Environs Development Plan. Concerns were also raised about the inclusion of the Mid-West Retail Strategy in the plan for 2008-2014.
Senior planner Gordon Daly told the meeting the housing strategy outlines future needs for housing in Ennis and the rest of the region. According to the strategy’s projected figures for 2017, a total of 964 additional housing units will be needed in Ennis.
Councillor Mary Coote Ryan asked if there was any reason why the strategy had to include Limerick, with Mr Daly outlining it is a departmental requirement and there is a need to examine the wider region.
Councillor Tommy Brennan commented, “This is just another quango; they are taking local politics away from local people. It will all be shifted to Limerick city eventually.”
Councillor Frankie Neylon outlined his concerns about people being transferred from Limerick to parts of Clare in light of proposals to extend the boundary.
“Ninety-eight percent of Limerick people are the nicest and soundest in Ireland. It’s a small percentage that puts a bad name on the city. They are looking at a situation where people will be transferred from Limerick to East Clare and if there aren’t enough houses in East Clare, it will be the responsibility of the county council to house them.”
He suggested that the Government put in place a scheme where people can rent their homes if they come into financial difficulty and cannot pay a mortgage, rather than ending up on the council’s housing list.
He commented that the strategy is “as difficult as watching Ann Widdecombe on Strictly Come Dancing, it just doesn’t fit”.
Councillor Neylon also stated he has had “huge concerns” about the Mid-West Retail Strategy since 2002.
Councillor Johnny Flynn commented that the housing strategy could result in social division, stating, “They are treating people like cattle and herding them around the place… This document is not about creating communities.”
He claimed the strategy is “centralising our housing to a Limerick authority that has a disgusting record of how it has abandoned its own estates”.
Councillor Peter Considine pointed out the strategy could be used in the future as a tool to reject the development of Ennis in favour of Limerick. “Ennis is relegated in the document to a minor position,” he said.
Councillor Brian Meaney, speaking about the Mid-West Retail Strategy, argued that it is “masquerading” as a document concerned with the Mid-West, when North Tipperary was not included.
“This document is undermined in its totality. We shouldn’t participate unless we have a genuine strategy for the Mid-West,” he commented.
He stated there is “no combined cohesive approach” and that this will “undermine development in the region”.
A draft version of the retail strategy outlines that Ennis remains a smaller centre than Limerick. “The challenge is to improve its retail representation, particularly through the provision of large modern shop units in the town centre, without harming its attractive historic character or having to resort to the creation of new shopping nodes for town centre products, which will dilute its central comparison shopping function,” the draft document states.
Mr Daly told the councillors he was among the steering groups representing Clare in producing the housing strategy and he was “ensuring the best interests of Clare”. He insisted the strategy does not affect the autonomy of the housing authority in Ennis.
“People who are in need of housing don’t see boundaries, they just need housing. People don’t mind if they’re in Westbury or the other side of the bridge. All this strategy does is put the figures together,” he said.
He stated that if the strategy is not included, when it comes to producing a development plan, the minister will require a housing strategy. “We have a better chance of managing it if we are a part of it,” he said.
Michael Guilfoyle proposed the council not accept the strategy, which was seconded by Councillor Tommy Brennan. It was later agreed that the final decision would not be made until after a public consultation process.

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