A STRONGLY-worded statement has been issued by Clare County Council, following concerns in some quarters about pedestrianisation measures in parts of Ennis.
The local authority has moved to clarify that the initiative, which has seen the closure to traffic of the town centre’s main arteries, including O’Connell Street and Abbey Street, is a temporary response to the pandemic.
In a press release, the council said that the Temporary Covid-19 Town Centre Mobility Plan for Ennis has been introduced “solely in response to Covid-19 and in line with Government guidelines on social distancing”.
The statement comes in the wake of the authority’s recent decision to extend emergency road closures until early 2021 – a move which caused alarm in some sections of the town centre business community. The extension provoked criticism from one Abbey Street business owner who said the plans were more appropriate to Las Palmas or Fuengirola than an Irish market town. Noel Tierney of Tierney Cycles on Abbey Street wrote to the Ennis Municipal District to express his dismay at what he described as “traffic chaos and stagnation” caused by the mobility plan.
Other town centre traders had been critical of a reduction in parking, which, in some cases has made way for additional street furniture. The issue has been the subject of considerable debate on social media, where retailers and shoppers have expressed a variety of views.
In recent days, the council has moved to state that, “During the Covid-19 pandemic, it is essential to deliver measures to support residents, the business community and all citizens to access Ennis town in a safe, socially distanced environment as the town centre is characterised by narrow streetscapes and interconnected laneways with restrictive footpath widths”.
The statement outlines how Ennis Municipal District formed a stakeholder group made up of representatives from businesses, the community and the wider public sector “to set objectives and to review the operation of the various elements of the plan in line with government guidelines around social distancing”.
The council has stressed that, “The remit of the stakeholder group is specifically and only for the purpose and duration of the Covid-19 crisis”
Significantly, the authority has also given an assurance that, in the event of any proposal around permanent pedestrianisation of any streets in Ennis, there would be full public consultation.
“Clare County Council has received numerous requests to improve directional signage across the town and 31 directional signs are now being installed on the inner relief road, with work expected to be fully completed in the coming days,” the statement also added. “This work is being undertaken to improve way-finding, particularly for visitors to the town.”
With regard to the issue of decreased parking, the council has emphasised moves to provide alternative spaces which will come on stream shortly.
“Concerns have also been raised regarding the loss of some car parking in the town centre, and as an emergency measure Clare County Council has secured the use of the GAA/Cloister Car Park, which will be operational in the coming weeks once the relevant equipment has been installed and the site is prepared,” the statement said. “This will provide approximately 100 car parking spaces. Clare County Council would like to sincerely thank both Clare GAA and Patrick Keogh for kindly allowing Clare County Council to use their property to provide additional parking on a temporary basis during the Covid-19 crisis. The Council was also asked to make the town as attractive as possible and to improve the barriers that prevent cars from entering the town.”
The council noted that, as well as planting being provided by the council’s gardening section, retractable bollards are currently being installed to replace the barriers on Francis Street and O’Connell Street.