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Councillors may call on angels for Christmas shopping boost

PARKING angels, buy-one-get-one-free car parking and free parking in the town were just some of the innovative suggestions made by local councillors in a bid to attract shoppers to Ennis in the run-up to Christmas.
A recent meeting of Ennis Town Council, along with meetings this week of both Ennis East and Ennis West Electoral Areas, saw local councillors call for more to be done to entice shoppers to the town.
At the town council, Councillor Johnny Flynn, proposed a notice of motion that the local authority “provide value public parking incentives during the upcoming Christmas retail period, from mid-November to new year to increase economic activity in both the local economy and use of car-parking assets”.
Councillor Flynn outlined, “Such incentives could include Saturday ‘buy one, get one free’, where if you buy a ticket, you get an hour free. Limerick and Galway have started offering reduced and sometimes zero cost parking. We need to look at ways of generating value for customers.”
Responding to the notice of motion, town clerk Leonard Cleary stated, “Ennis Town Council is committed to maximising the benefits of the upcoming Christmas retail period for customers and businesses in Ennis. The provision of a public parking incentive would require the development of a costed proposal and consideration at a full council meeting. Such a proposal would require input from key stakeholders to such an initiative.”
Seconding the motion, Councillor Peter Considine insisted, “We absolutely have to do something this year to help retailers. Cork are now doing a period of free parking and it’s spreading around the country. There must be some way that we can come up with something imaginative. This is an issue that is raised time and time again.”
Mayor of Ennis, Councillor Michael Guilfoyle, commented, “Some of the town’s businesses are already giving free car parking if you shop in their store. I think everybody has to put their shoulder to the wheel. Cork may be giving free parking but their rate intake is a lot bigger than ours and maybe they can afford to drop their parking charges.”
Town manager Ger Dollard told the meeting the free parking initiative in Limerick is fully funded by the retail sector.
However, he added that the town council is open to suggestions “if we can come up with something that is realistic, innovative and practical and the executive are given the scope to run with it”.
Councillor Frankie Neylon commented, “We need an incentive. There is something called a parking angel, where they pay for your parking if you’re running a bit late coming back to the car. That way people aren’t penalised for being a half an hour late. I’ve heard of this happening in other places where it has been supported by the traders and the local chamber. Maybe this is something that could be mentioned to Ennis Chamber. Maybe we could do something where we give the chamber tickets for 50c that they could give out. That way, it would encourage people to come into the town and they would know that they wouldn’t be penalised if they don’t get back to their car in time.”
Councillor Paul O’Shea, added, “It’s time we got a bit novel. We have to be a big imaginative if we are going to deal with this. This comes up year after year.”
On Monday, at a meeting of Ennis West Electoral Area councillors, Councillor James Breen urged that two-hour free parking be put in place daily in Ennis for a three-month trial period.
He commented, “At the last meeting, I was talking about women’s nylons, this time I’m talking about hair. I know a woman and she gets her highlights done and it takes two and a half hours but she can only get two-hour parking. She has to park outside the town to get her hair done.”
Councillor Tom McNamara described the two-hour parking as an “awful hindrance” and called for it to be increased to three hours. He said, “People come in from the country to do their shopping but it won’t be done in two hours. I know people are going to Limerick rather than Ennis and it’s not good enough. The two-hour limit is not enough time and we are going to lose business because of it.”
Councillor Tony Mulqueen added, “If a machine can take money for two hours, why can’t it take it for another. It’s all money for the council and it would be a win, win.”
Town manager Ger Dollard informed the meeting that the two-hour limit is designed to ensure a turnover of parking spaces. He pointed out this was done in consultation with the wishes of the local business community. Mr Dollard also stated there are areas in the town where all-day and long-term parking is available, along with two multi-stories.
At a meeting of Ennis East councillors, Councillor Pat Daly urged the council to consider giving the first hour of parking free to shoppers.
“This could be done on a trial basis and be monitored, allocating the first hour of parking to shoppers in Ennis free of charge, particularly as so many rate paying businesses in the town are struggling to survive,” said Councillor Daly.
He added, “Shop keepers are finding it very hard. People are bypassing Ennis and going to Limerick and Galway.”
In a response to both Councillor Breen and Councillor Daly’s motions, Leonard Cleary, town clerk, stated that at the recent meeting of Ennis Town Council, the possibility of an incentivised parking scheme to stimulate the Christmas shopping market was discussed. This has been further researched and consultation with the business community has been arranged.

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