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Call to halt pedestrianisation as drop in business reported

FINE Gael Ennis town councillor Johnny Flynn is calling on Ennis Town Council to postpone the Saturday pedestrianisation of Abbey Street and O’Connell Street, as traders are experiencing a drop in business since the initiative began five weeks ago.
“Recognising the harsh local impact of the recession and in order to protect existing retail and other sector’s permanent and part time summer jobs in the town centre, I am calling on Ennis Town Council to postpone, until a future date, the pedestrianisation of Abbey Street and O’Connell Street,” Councillor Flynn said.
He explained that a number of traders have spoken to him about the drop in business that they are experiencing since pedestrianisation began a number of weeks ago. “I attended an emergency meeting in a business premises in Bank Place on Monday evening, where 17 businesses in the area of Abbey Street and O’Connell Square expressed huge concerns over a drop in income and resulting drop in staff hours since Saturday pedestrianisation, some in the order of 40 to 60%, ” the councillor explained.
He said that of the 17 businesses represented at Monday evening’s meeting, 15 were completely against pedestrianisation and two were neutral. “From my own work on the ground, four out of 10 traders were against pedestrianisation initially and that has now risen to six out of 10. In these weeks, we’ve had the best of weather and the Fleadh Cheoil but it still hasn’t meant extra business for traders. It seems quite simple, if the tills aren’t ringing, something is not right,” the councillor remarked.
He said that it is lucky Ennis Town Council agreed to a six-week trial period of pedestrianisation, at which time it would be reviewed. Councillor Flynn is raising the issue at Monday’s council meeting, as there will be no other statutory meeting until September to discuss it. “Effectively, if changes are not made arising from Monday’s council’s meting, it is very unlikely that the matter will be dealt with until September so it is very important that this is considered carefully now,” he commented.
The councillor said that the idea of pedestrianisation is great but the timing has to be right.  “The feedback from traders is that more discussion is necessary and there must be an open debate to resolve this matter. A trial phase of six weeks is more than one-tenth of a year’s trading. Businesses are being hit by this and they need to be helped.”
Councillor Flynn has been told that businesses in the outlying areas of Ennis are noticing an increase in business on Saturdays since pedestrianisation began. “Others are also going to shopping outlets on the outskirts of Limerick and Galway, where there is plenty of parking. We have to remember that Ennis is a provincial town, not a regional shopping centre and most people who shop in Ennis are doing their necessary shopping here, not coming for a shopping experience, as some seem to think,” he added.
Rita McInerney, CEO of Ennis Chamber, commented that following a meeting of businesses in February, local businesses agreed to support the town council’s pedestrianisation experiment, though they made it clear they had reservations and asked the chamber to look for regular reviews and to put back the proposed starting time to midday.
“With this mandate, the Chamber has worked with the town council executive to try and maximise the chance of this experiment succeeding. It is now clear that a number of businesses feel that the council’s experiment is not working. The chamber is holding a meeting of local businesses on Wednesday evening to measure the extent of the opposition to the experiment.
“It is clear that, whatever the outcome of this meeting, town centre shopping on Saturdays is facing serious challenges, nationwide. Accordingly, the chamber is looking for the urgent development of an Ennis Town Centre Retail Strategy and is looking forward to working with the council and other stakeholders to ensure that this is implemented quickly.”
O’Connell Street Traders were also due to meet on Wednesday evening to discuss whether pedestrianisation is good for business.

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