Car-parking costs ‘crippling Ennis’
However, town manager, Ger Dollard rejected the claim by Councillor Paul O’Shea at this week’s meeting of Ennis Town Council, saying that the price of parking in Ennis is comparable with major towns on the low end of the scale. He stated that reducing charges could result in a reduction in the amount of money available for local authority spending in the town.
The debate arose from a motion tabled by Councillor Johnny Flynn, who called for an urgent review of public car-parking usage in Ennis.
“I believe we can stimulate our own income stream by dropping the car-parking price,” he said.
Responding to the motion, Mr Dollard informed the meeting that a review of car parking in Ennis commenced in autumn 2010 and resulted in the introduction of the 2011 On Street Pay and Display and Car Park bylaws in March 2011.
“The charges implemented are under continuous review to assess their impact in terms of space availability and revenue generation,” he stated.
He outlined that the 2008 Ennis Car Parking Study made a number of recommendations aimed at improving parking. Recommendations implemented included the active discouragement of long-stay parking within 100m of Abbey Street/O’Connell Street; restricting the use of special parking permits; the creation of two types of annual parking permit; re-designation of the 39 long-stay spaces in Friars Walk for short-stay parking only; reviewing the use at Bindon Street car park, where space turnover appears low; extension of the two-hour maximum stay zone to include both Market Place and Friars Walk carparks.
Mr Dollard told the meeting that when he first joined the council, the debate centred on a shortage of parking but the focus has now shifted to cost.
He said that the council has three main sources of income, including parking charges, warning, “If your income sources are under pressure then you are limited in what you can do and maybe we would have to look at our expenditure.”
Councillor Flynn argued that reducing the parking charge should be examined as Ennis is competing with Limerick, which last year offered free car parking for shoppers in the lead-up to Christmas.
“People can drive elsewhere and do their shopping and get free parking. Local businesses are down on Saturday trading and they are looking for some incentive,” he said.
Councillor Paul O’Shea said it was “imperative” that parking charges are reduced as they are “crippling business”.
“People want to support local traders, we have some of the best clothes shops not just in Ireland but in Europe and we have fantastic local produce in our markets. But people won’t come into Ennis because of the price of parking,” he said.
Councillor Peter Considine urged that another study be carried out comparing Ennis’ parking charges and rates with other towns around the country of a similar size. “That would give us an idea of the situation, I would not like people to think that Ennis is the most expensive places to park because it’s not.”
Councillor Michael Guilfoyle insisted that the cost of shopping in Ennis has become too expensive and dismissed the idea that parking charges are keeping people away.
“When you go into town there doesn’t seem to be a recession given the prices of food, drink and clothing.
“I don’t think Ennis is a cheap place. People only have so much money in their pockets to spend, no matter what way you look at it. All the doom and gloom is being blamed on parking charges but there are a lot more higher costs in the shops.” He argued that many people who live in Ennis walk into the town to do their shopping.
Councillor Frankie Neylon said the situation needs to be discussed when the council looks at the estimates.
“There needs to be a genuine effort to relieve some of the problems,” he said. He added that many local businesses are making special offers available in a bid to entice shoppers. “It’s a difficult situation to be in business wise because they don’t have the footfall and the reason for that is the parking,” he said.
“He also suggested that signs advertising where parking is available in the town be placed on approaching routes.
Councillor Tommy Brennan stated that car-parking charges “can’t be blamed for everything that’s happening in Ennis”.