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Planning permission has been granted for an extensive car park at Clare GAA's Cloister Site, Abbey St, Ennis.

Clare GAA to drive on with major car parking plan in Ennis

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CLARE GAA has been successful in its goal of turning the Cloister car park in Ennis’ town centre into a permanent parking facility.

Clare County Council has given the green light to an application for planning permission to a change of use of the site on Lower Abbey Street.

Prior to this the location had permission to provide spaces for vehicles only before and after GAA matches and authorised events at Cusack Park.

The granting of planning permission paves the way for the site to be used as a commercial car park for both long term and short term parking for members of the public.

Local authority planners in assessing the application acknowledged the development of car parking “would be welcome” in the area, helping free up spaces in other parts of the town centre.

The site lies within the Ennis town centre Architectural Conservation area and within the immediate vicinity of a number of protected structures including Ennis Friary and Abbeyview House.

In granting planning permission the local authority conditioned that some planned spaces be omitted to allow for the provision of a ‘buffer zone’ with adjoining heritage sites.

The development incorporates vehicle access from Abbey Street with a pedestrian entrance.

Planning permission was sought for a short term car park incorporating 85 spaces, with five dedicated to mobility impaired car parking and three bus spaces located in the south east portion of the site to the immediate rear of The Cloister.

Permission was also sought for a long term car park in the undeveloped northern portion of the site, incorporating 115 spaces including six mobility impaired spaces and 13 EV charge point spaces and a bicycle stand with the proposed layout substantially the same as the current car park.

Documents lodged on behalf of Clare GAA stated that the applicants are “particularly mindful” of the potential presence of the remains of medieval buildings and features. Considering this they proposed restricting works to surface dressing, eliminating any significant or deep disturbance of the subsoil.

In assessing the application, planners with the local authority noted, “both long and short term car parking would be welcome in this precinct of the town. Particularly the provision of long term parking would release some of the spaces being used in the town centre by people working in such areas.”

A Traffic and Transport Assessment carried out on behalf of the developers concluded the proposal would result in “no significant problems” in relation to the safety of the roads network.

The council planner’s report stated the TAA demonstrated the proposed new access arrangements are “safe and suitable” and the cumulative impact of the proposed development inclusive of future growth in background traffic has been tested on identified critical junctions “indicating the proposed development can be accommodated without mitigation.”

However the planner did not agree an alternative access of Francis Street is not required, suggesting Clare County Council continues to collaborate with the GAA with a future intention of providing access there.

The site is located within Flood Risk Zones A / B, however the planner noted that the OPW has undertaken flood protection works in Ennis including the construction of a flood defence wall along the northern boundary of the site and that of Cusack Park to the east.

“Given that the flood risk posed to this town site stems from the proximity of the River Fergus, I consider that the presence of this wall would mitigate the same and so any residual flood risk would not be of such an order as to warrant objection to the proposed use of the site as a car park.”

As part of the plans the existing piers at the entrance are to be removed and a new wider gate erected along with a cut off drain to collect surface water.

The applicant removed previously proposed gullies adjacent to the existing Abbey to ensure no significant disturbance of the ground in the Abbey or its surrounds.

The planner’s recommendation to grant permission subject to conditions was upheld by the council.

In an order granting permission Clare County Council’s chief executive officer stated it was considered that the proposal “would not seriously injure the amenities of the area or of property in the vicinity and would be in accordance with the proper planning and sustainable development of the area”.

As well as the condition to provide a buffer zone other conditions include that all lighting be of heritage design given the site’s location in the Architectural Conservation Area of Ennis.

The lighting is to be angled and designed to avoid any spill onto the riverbank or surrounding vegetation.

Full details of proposed historical signage and the proposed entrance gates are also to be submitted to the planning authority for approval prior to the commencement of development.

This, according to the council, is “in the interests of visual amenities and to ensure an appropriate form of development within the Architectural Conservation Area and adjacent to the Fergus River”.

In the event that car parking is being used for matches and authorised events associated within Cusack Park stewarding is to be employed by Clare GAA to be on site and control the movements of vehicles.

The developer is to facilitate the archaeological appraisal of the site and provide the preservation, recording and protection of archaeological materials or features which may exist within the site.

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