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Council thumbs up for out-of-town development

MEMBERS of Ennis Town Council have given their backing to the development of a large food store on the outskirts of the town.
This week, councillors discussed the proposed variation 2 to the Ennis and Environs Development Plan 2008 – 2014. Among the amendments to the plan proposed by councillors were that a development site at the Limerick Road and Clonroadmore be, subject to assessment of retail impact, “a suitable location for a district centre scheme or a new large foodstore”.
This was proposed by Councillor Frankie Neylon “in the interests of balanced retail development” and seconded by Councillor Michael Guilfoyle.
The site is currently the subject of a planning application by Michael Lynch Ltd for a 7,000m2 retail development with 610 car-parking spaces. It is understood that, if granted planning permission, Tesco would occupy the site.
Councillor Brian Meaney raised his concerns about the proposal to amend the development plan, saying, “Large out-of-town developments have been detrimental to towns across the UK and Ireland and it’s not a lesson we need to learn again.”
He stated he was for the development of Ennis, however, the town’s development would have to be sustainable.
However, Councillor Neylon insisted that these developments “have the potential for a lot of jobs and the potential for a development at that side of town should be used to its full potential.” He pointed out that any development would be subject to the planning process.
“I am from the area and I am from the town and I want the town to prosper to the best of its abilities,” he added.
“A lot of businesses are closing in Ennis over the last couple of years and our main focus should be on getting people into town and if we don’t, we will be failing. People are going into Limerick because there is free parking, and there are large supermarkets in Kilrush, Ennistymon and a proposal for another huge supermarket in Miltown Malbay. People from North and West Clare aren’t coming here anymore…We have to look after the centre of the town that I can see dying on its feet because there is nothing there. If Dunnes had not come in, the town would be decimated. There are just €2 shops and betting offices on our main streets, what’s to bring people in? What we’ve got, it’s not working and if we can produce something that works then we have to do it.”
The proposal was seconded by Councillor Michael Guilfoyle who said that, as elected people, the council had a duty to the people of the town to facilitate job creation.
“Places are closing and a lot of that is down to high rents. We can’t legislate for high rents but if there is an opportunity for jobs then as elected people we have a duty,” he said.
Other proposals to the variation were the inclusion of ‘medical centre/hospital use’ as an appropriate use for Our Lady’s Hospital. This was proposed by Councillor Neylon and seconded by Councillor Meaney. Councillor Meaney stated, “This is an iconic building that has fallen into disrepair. We want to see the redevelopment of Our Lady’s and if someone can bring it back into use, we must do what we can to facilitate.”
The variation to the plan is being made after concerns were raised by the Department of the Environment about the amount of residential land zoned in Ennis.
Senior planner Gordon Daly told the meeting phase one of the development plan could only include 88 hectares.
A total of 38 hectares of land in the Ennis area was recommended by councillors to be included in phase one of the variation.
Among suggestions made by councillors was that development lands in Clarecastle be included in the plan, replacing other tracts of land in Roslevan recommended by planners.
In making the submission to include the lands, Councillor Tommy Brennan outlined, “It is important to the implementation of this plan and to generate a sufficient population base in these areas to justify the upgrading of the Clarecastle Treatment Plant and other community facilities along with road networks that residential development is promoted in these areas in a balanced way.”
Councillors also suggested the inclusion of lands at Ballycorey and Ballymaley.
Mr Daly told councillors that Roslevan lands had been recommended for inclusion because they were better developed.
The variation will now go back on public display and the process is expected to be complete by October.

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