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Al-fresco experience put on hold

DEVELOPMENT plans at one of the county’s best-known hotels have been put on hold following the lodging of an appeal to An Bord Pleanála. Duesbury Limited were granted planning permission by Ennis Town Council to extend the pavement to allow for outdoor seating on O’Connell Street outside the Old Ground Hotel.

Local businessman Oliver Moylan has appealed the decision, claiming the development could result in a yearly loss of up to €1 million of sales in the town because of the loss of car parking. He argues that because the street is not pedestrianised, it could create a danger.

The initial decision to grant planning permission for the development was supported by Ennis Town Manager Ger Dollard, despite the planners’ recommendation to refuse the incorporation of the parking space. Mr Dollard stated in documentation to the planners, “This is the type of activity the planning authority would wish to encourage to increase activity and vibrancy on the main thoroughfare in Ennis”.

Mr Dollard made the case for granting planning permission, stating that even with planning permission for physical works, the developer would still need the consent of the National Road Authority and the appropriate licence for tables and chairs.

Mr Dollard stated, “Any alterations to the footpath at this location or adjustment of car-parking spaces on the public road will require the consent of the road authority. In addition, the placing of of tables and chairs should be subject to separate licensing arrangement under Section 254 of the Planning and Development Act and this process will allow the appropriate layout to be determined. It is my view that the planning process should confine itself to dealing with aspects relating to the proper planning and development of the area and consider the proposal within that context.”

Duesbury Limited had applied for permission to incorporate one car-parking space at O’Connell Street to provide an extended pavement area to allow for an outdoor seating area adjacent to Poets’ Corner/the Town Hall. Permission was also sought for fascia signage and surround to the existing central doorway and the incorporation of the existing Poets’ Corner porch with the main bar.

Part of the Old Ground Hotel is classified as a protected structure. The local authority granted planning permission subject to three conditions including that the applicant obtain appropriate consent from the road authority and that the appropriate licence for the placing of tables and chairs on a public footpath be obtained.

In an appeal lodged with An Bord Pleanála, Mr Moylan of the Ennis Cash Company stated he was objecting to the removal of a “valuable parking space” from O’Connell Street.

Mr Moylan, in his appeal, questioned the local authority’s right to grant public space to private enterprise. He insisted the development would take two spaces instead of one.

“Two spaces would be too valuable to lose from the point of view of retailing. In a report and survey done by Parking Consultants some years ago, it was calculated that every car park space in the centre of Ennis is worth €400,000 in retail sales in one full year. You remove two spaces here and the area can lose between €800,000 and €1,000,000 in sales in one year.”

Mr Moylan also stated, “The street is not pedestrianised and it would create an enormous danger to have passing motorcars, vans and lorries, buses and so on passing by so close to the sitting public.”

He argued that the café market is already well catered for in the area. He added, “As there are 200 wet days in Ennis every year, canopies and heating will have to be put there in due course. What an obstruction to passing traffic.”

Mr Moylan concluded, “If granted, it would create a precedent thereby giving others the right to do the same on the street.”

Mr Moylan made a submission to Ennis Town Council when permission was initially sought outlining his concerns about the plans. An Taisce also made a submission stating there may be traffic safety and parking issues if the street is not pedestrianised. The conservation officer and fire department had no objection to the development.

In assessing the application, Ennis Town Council planners had recommended a ‘split decision’, that the signage proposals be granted but that the incorporation of the parking space to extend the paving area be refused.

The planners stated the principle of outdoor seating was acceptable “and would improve the vibrancy and character of the street”. However, concerns were raised about the applicant’s legal interest in the site and the possibility of a traffic hazard impacting on both pedestrian and traffic movements.

However, Mr Dollard proposed that planning permission be granted subject to conditions . “A planning permission does not authorise a person to do something that they are not otherwise authorised to do and it would seem to me that obtaining the consent of the road authority and the licensing process are the appropriate regimes to address any issues that may arise. The granting of planning permission or any future consents under the various processes does not confer a right of ownership on this space but rather deals with the use of the space for a particular purpose,” he stated.

In relation to the possibility of the creation of a traffic hazard, he commented this would be dealt with through the Section 254 licensing process, dealing with the provision of licences for outdoor seating. “I cannot see how any traffic hazard is created by granting planning permission for the physical works,” he stated.

Mr Dollard commented that on visiting the site, he believes the configuration of the footpath would benefit from widening, resulting in the loss of one space. “I consider that such a loss is relatively minor given the overall improvement acheived by the proposal.” He outlined that title documents to the site would probably show ownership of the property to the middle of the roadway, which is standard practice. He also noted there are no objections from the fire authority.

 

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