TOWN Council officials and building contractors Gildoc Ltd signed the contract for the new youth and community resource building at Cloughleigh Road last Friday.
However, Councillor Michael Guilfoyle has claimed that the facility will become “a haven for more anti-social behaviour”.
Ennis Town Council signed the contract with Gildoc Ltd, trading as Liam Doherty Building Contractor, for the construction of the building.
While Ennis Town Council is the contracting authority for the €531,581.70 construction project, it is intended to lease the building to the Clare Youth Service, who will deliver a range of programmes to teenagers and young adults ranging from 13 to 21 years.
Margaret Slattery, chief executive officer of the Clare Youth Service, acknowledged the partnership between the council and the Clare Youth Service in the development of this project.
“The Youth and Community Resource Building will be a significant community asset catering for the recognised needs of teenagers and young adults primarily, and the building will also facilitate other community interests. Programmes and activities at the centre will be concerned with the growth of the individual and the relationship between young people, their community and the wider world,” she said.
Ger Dollard, Ennis town manager, welcomed the community facility and indicated that construction would commence shortly.
“Capital investment of this amount is significant in the current economic climate. This public works contract creates and opportunity for employment in the construction sector. When completed, the building will be a community resource which I believe will have a positive impact on the lives of young people and benefit the wider community.”
Mayor of Ennis, Councillor Tommy Brennan, also welcomed the development. “It’s wonderful that we can provide such a facility for the youth of Ennis in a time of recession. It will be another great addition to the facilities that are in town for the youth, including playing pitches, playground, a skateboard park and all of the facilities at the Lees Road.
Earlier this year the proposed facility was the subject of some heated discussions at Ennis Town Council meetings, culminating with a meeting in February that was attended by up to 90 residents of the Cloughleigh area. Such was the attendance at the meeting, a number of people, including some members of the media, were locked out. The residents raised their concerns about the location of what was originally mooted as a youth café in an area that is occupied predominantly by elderly residents.
Some councillors were in favour of the development but preferred pursuing an alternative location. At a later meeting in April, the matter was put to a vote and it was agreed that the development would go ahead at Cloughleigh Road, Ennis.
Speaking on the controversy surrounding the location of the premises, Mayor Brennan this week said, “I wouldn’t say it was controversial. Some locals and some councillors had questions over the location and I understand that some locals still have concerns. Residents said they wanted a meeting with the council executive, the executive offered a meeting but residents declined the offer. Subsequently, there was a vote taken at town council and a majority of councillors favoured proceeding with the facility at the location where work will begin next month. It’s a matter for the residents now whether they’re behind the facility or not,” he added.
Councillor Guilfoyle said that he isn’t happy that the centre is going ahead in the Cloughleigh location. He is also angry that town councillors weren’t made aware of contract signing last Friday. “I am disappointed at that, given that it’s a council project. Out of courtesy we should have been told that the contract was been signed but I won’t make an issue of that,” he commented.
He added that locals are still worried about the location of the building. “In 20 years of my involvement with the community, I’ve never seen more people than I’ve seen concerned about this, raising an issue about anything. The main concern that people have is that almost all of the people living in the area of Cloughleigh near this new centre are elderly, which means it is not an appropriate location for a youth café or resource building, or whatever it’s going to end up being,” he remarked.
“There is concern that it will just be a hangout. People are concerned about anti-social behaviour and I’m worried about that. I can’t see other areas of Ennis coming to use it because it’s not a central location. There is already the community centre in Cloughleigh and that is not well utilised at all. It is closed most of the time,” he added.
He feels that there are other vacant sites in town including the old ESB building, or the site, which lies idle, adjacent to Glór.
“In my opinion, the council would have been better off using the money for something else, like putting it towards their loan which they are putting approximately €50,000 into each year. There are other areas and things that needed money more urgently and this was not a priority. I’m not against the idea of the facility, just the location,” Councillor Guilfoyle added.
He also believes that the project was forced through. “Because the council had acquired the land, their mind was made up. Residents’ views definitely weren’t taken on board in this. It’s a bad decision. My parents lived across the road from this, and to be honest, I’m glad that they’re not here to see this happening, because it would have been soul-destroying for them. I’m annoyed over this. I grew up in the place so I know it better than most. I know exactly what’s going to happen. A few young people will bring others in and there will be problems. Rather than calling the gardaí when there are problems, I’ll call the council, and they can deal with the anti-social behaviour. Already there is anti-social behaviour in the area of the existing community centre in Cloughleigh and this will be a haven for more of it. The council executive and contractor were all smiles I believe last week signing the contract for this building but it’s far from smiling that they’ll be when they run into the difficulties that this facility is gong to bring,” the councillor said.
The design team for the project is lead by Healy & Partners Architects and comprises of PH McCarthy consulting engineers and Lawlor and Partners, quantity surveyors.