OFFICIALS in Ennis Town Council this week sought to allay the fears of residents of Cloughleigh that plans for a new youth and community resource centre in the area would lead to anti-social behaviour.
Plans for the centre moved a step closer this week with the local authority voting in favour of proposals to create an advisory group for the planned centre to include two local residents.
At last month’s meeting, members of the local authority agreed the lease of the Ennis Youth and Community Resource Building to Clare Youth Service subject to being advised of the proposed conditions of the lease.
The proposal to site the controversial centre in Cloughleigh has provoked opposition from locals concerned about anti-social behaviour.
However, at this week’s meeting of the council, town manager Ger Dollard stated that having this facility in Cloughleigh would assist in tackling anti-social behaviour.
“This centre is intended for the entire community and it’s a pity the project seems to have been bogged down. There is a level of negativity that is unfair to it, it’s a good and positive project,” he said.
Town clerk Eddie Power added, “If the building is left unoccupied there is a greater risk of anti-social behaviour. If there is a presence with activity, there is less opportunity for anti-social behaviour. It is always a risk that people would hang around unoccupied buildings.”
In a report circulated to the council, Margaret Slattery, CEO of Clare Youth Service, outlined, “We are very aware of the concerns of the objectors and it is our stated intention to invest in building relationships with the people in the immediate area. Should issues relating to the building arise, they will be dealt with as quickly as possible.
“From the initial discussions with some individuals living in the area and the two meetings we have had to date with representatives from the objectors’ group, we appreciate the fact that they have identified issues of anti-social behaviour and indeed criminal activity in the area.
“While much of what was described is a matter for the gardaí, experience elsewhere would indicate that the increased lighting, usage and cameras associated with the building might actually indirectly contribute to a reduction in such incidences.”
The proposed advisory group would comprise 10 people, to include residents, a local councillor, councillor official and others with experience of working with young people. It was also proposed that the centre would open from 8am to 10pm each day. According to Ger Dollard, this is to enable to facility to be used by as wide a community base as possible.
However, this was criticised by Councillor Frankie Neylon, who commented, “This means they can open when they like and for as long as they like, seven days a week.”
He praised the work of the Clare Youth Service but argued that the council needed to see the terms of the lease rather than a report.
Councillor Brian Meaney asked what would happen to the building if councillors failed to adopt the report and was informed that the building would be left vacant.
“I believe this will protect the amenity and character of the area, I have every faith in Clare Youth Service.
“With the reputation of CYS, the extra conditions attached to the lease and the proposed liaison group, I have no doubt if there is an issue it will be dealt with.
“It’s important we don’t have another vacant building. We have young people screaming out for assistance.”
Councillor Michael Guilfoyle commented that the proposed opening hours were unusual for a youth centre.
“I don’t see why they have to have these times.” Councillor Mary Howard also raised some of the concerns of local people but stated that having residents on the liaison group was a “huge step” in allaying some of their fears.
Councillor Paul O’Shea suggested that an annual rent of €500 for the building be used to fund a youth award scheme. Councillor Johnny Flynn commented that the development could be positive if it is managed correctly while Councillor Peter Considine stated that the proposals in place should satisfy residents, adding that any penalties for breaches of conditions should be stated clearly.
Councillors voted in favour of progressing the lease agreement on the condition that two residents sit on an advisory panel. Voting in favour were Councillor Tommy Brennan, Councillor Peter Considine, Councillor Johnny Flynn, Councillor Brian Meaney and Councillor Paul O’Shea.
Voting against were Councillor Michael Guilfoyle, Councillor Mary Howard and Councillor Frankie Neylon while Councillor Mary Coote Ryan was not at the meeting.