ENNIS has been described as “a ship without a captain” in terms of its development, due to the ongoing lack of an updated Local Area Plan (LAP).
It follows the decision by county councillors to defer the County Development Plan (2022-2028) for seven months. The move has implications for the creation of the Ennis LAP, a process that started in 2015, but which was paused pending the finalisation of the county-wide plan. It also delays placing the Ennis 2040 plan on a statutory footing.
Prominent Clare-based chartered building surveyor, Fergus Merriman voiced frustration saying he believes opportunities are being lost. “An Ennis LAP would be a field-by-field plan with clarity about acceptable development,” he said. “Ennis 2040 is a welcome long-term plan, but we cannot lose sight of day-to-day development. In the absence of a local plan, the risks are too high for many developers.”
Mr Merriman noted that the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) wrote to the council on an Issues Paper on the draft county plan, and noted stagnation in population growth in Ennis.
“It’s now accepted that stagnation has happened and economic damage has occurred through the lack of this local plan for too long, yet development of any kind needs time and certainty,” Mr Merriman said.
Councillor Johnny Flynn who backed the county plan deferral “reluctantly” agreed that opportunities are being lost. “We are missing opportunities to develop certain areas Ennis,” he said. “My view is that the delay was unnecessary. It is hard to see what can be achieved in seven months.”
Councillor Cillian Murphy who proposed the deferral, invoking legislation that allows for the impact of the pandemic acknowledged the views of his Ennis colleagues. “I would be gobsmacked if any project for Ennis didn’t go ahead because of the deferral,” he said.