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Council says no to retail variation

Protestors demonstrating outside the Ennis Town Council meeting on Monday. Photograph John Kelly
A CONTROVERSIAL proposed change to the Ennis and Environs Development Plan, which it has been claimed would pave the way for a multi-million euro retail development on the outskirts of the town, will not go ahead as members of Ennis Town Council agreed this week not to vary the local development plan to include the proposed modification.
At this week’s meeting of the local authority, it was claimed that recent talks on the plan got “dirtier than the presidential election”, while another councillor insisted they had “no agenda” other than the betterment of the town.
The proposed variation was criticised by local businesses, Ennis Chamber and the Ennis Development Forum.
At the meeting on Monday, members of the council agreed unanimously to uphold the recommendations of the town manager and not change the zoning of the site.
Before the meeting, members of the local business community held placards outside the offices of Ennis Town Council protesting against the proposed change.
It had been proposed to change the wording of the development plan to state that the so-called PS7 site on the Limerick Road would be a suitable location for a district centre scheme or a new large food store, subject to assessment of retail impact.
Planning permission is currently being sought by Michael Lynch Ltd for a large retail centre, which it is understood would be anchored by Tesco if given the go-ahead, at the site. However, while the council have decided not to amend the development plan, the proposed retail development will still be considered in line with planning procedures.
There were 16 variations proposed for the Ennis and Environs Plan, including the variation for the PS7 site, following 45 submissions made. At this week’s meeting members of the council accepted four of the manager’s recommendations and were against 12 after considering submissions, regulations, proper planning, Government guidelines and statutory obligations.
At the meeting, Councillor Peter Considine insisted the elected members had considered the proposed variations seriously over the last number of years. “No members started this process with an agenda other than the betterment of the lives of the people of the town.”
However, he asked, “Are we just performing a sham exercise in zoning, there will be no building of any consequence in this town in the foreseeable future? In the last two weeks, planning applications were turned down because of a lack of sewerage facilities.”
He went on to say the variation is a matter of policy for the council and not a planning matter and that any planning applications would have to be considered within the terms of the planning process.
Councillor Considine told the meeting a locally-based journalist had made allegations against him, although no article appeared. “It was suggested that I had been bought by a developer in the town. I have not been bought and I never will be. I will not do anything ever that damages this town,” he said.
Meanwhile, Councillor Tommy Brennan rejected what he described as “rumours” that he had been involved in secret meetings about the plan.
Town manager Ger Dollard stated there was considerable debate in relation to the phasing in the amended plan and there was no reason for the councillors’ variations not to be included.
He acknowledged concerns about the future planning of the town. “The comments made have a certain amount of validity as much of the land we are talking about will not be developed in the timescale of the plan.”
Speaking about the PS7 site, Councillor Frankie Neylon stated when the proposal to vary the plan was first made, it was done with the full knowledge of the council.
He insisted, “Politics and big business don’t mix. I have never seen any councillor being associated with business and being bought by anybody. This plan has got dirtier than the presidential election.”
Councillor Neylon said he informed the planners office last weekend of his intention to withdraw the proposal from the draft plan.
“We’ve been at this the best part of four years. We don’t take lightly our position as elected members. There is a perception out there that this is all about planning permission for a site that would provide 200 jobs. That’s not the case. People are saying that if this variation is included it would give the planning application a better chance but we elected members have no say in planning. If there is a building built on that site in the next three years, no councillor can take credit for that.”
Councillor Brennan suggested no new development plan be put in place until the Government puts in place a new sewerage system. “Until such time as a proper sewerage system is in place there will be no new development in the town. We are spending money and wasting time that we can ill afford on plans.”
However, Mr Dollard stated the council are required to draft a new development plan.

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