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Decision on Ennis social housing plans deferred

A DECISION on whether or not to grant Part 8 planning permission for the development of social housing units in Ennis has been deferred by councillors.
At the monthly meeting of Clare County Council, a deferral on the vote was sought by Councillor Paul Murphy on behalf of the seven members of the Ennis Municipal District. He asked that a month be given to address residents’ concerns about issues including overlooking and the removal of existing trees. The request was seconded by Councillor Mark Nestor, who said that would give time for the authority to meet residents of nearby Elm Wood, some of whom attended the council meeting on Monday.
Councillor Johnny Flynn added his voice to the deferral request, suggesting that a period of two months might be needed. Contributions were made by a number of other Ennis members with Councillor Colleran Molloy asserting that residents were reasonable and had no objection to social housing. “We need to go back to the drawing board,” she said. From outside the Ennis district, contributions came from councillors Joe Killeen, Gerry Flynn and PJ Kelly, all of whom were supportive of the deferral.
Chief Executive of Clare County Council Pat Dowling welcomed “consensus across the chamber”. “We will aim to achieve compromise,” he said. “I would be concerned about suggesting we should go back to the drawing board, however. This plan is well advanced and we are under clear legal targets to develop homes for those who need them, as set out in the Rebuilding Ireland plan. We need to achieve a compromise. Eight units is a small number and we have a lot to achieve. While we do need to disperse social housing, the greatest numbers on the housing list are in Ennis.”
Mayor of Clare, Councillor Mary Howard thanked the residents who attended the meeting
A submission lodged with the planning authority on behalf of the residents of Elm Wood outlines fears that the proposed development will have a “severe and detrimental impact on their privacy” with the levels of the planned site higher than their houses. A number of trees are also due to be removed as a result of the development, however the council have stated they will be replaced.
The monthly meeting of the Ennis Municipal District also heard the upset of the Elm Wood residents. While councillors insisted they are fully supportive of social housing, Councillor Flynn signalled his intention to vote against the plans when brought before Clare County Council. He pointed out that under the County Development Plan there is a commitment to the delivery of social and affordable housing. He stated that the council has not delivered any affordable housing scheme since the Watery Road. He added it is unfair that there is no appeal process to Part 8 decisions and voiced his support for the residents.
Councillor Howard sought clarification on the levels of the proposed development arguing that the right to privacy is “very important”.
Councillor Nestor stated he would have “huge difficulty” in supporting the plans unless the residents of Elm Wood are satisfied. Councillor Pat Daly also argued against the development saying it is a “serious issue”.
Siobhan McNulty, senior executive officer in the housing department of Clare County Council stated that the council would “welcome” affordable housing but at the moment there is currently no scheme which the council could implement.
She stated that the council planners have considered all the submissions made and looked at the issues raised, and based on this a recommendation has been made to grant planning permission. She added that the council will continue to work with parties affected by the planned development.
Caimín Dillon, Executive Engineer stated the ground levels have been dropped in the plans to avoid overlooking, but this means the protection of the trees is not possible. The trees will be replaced and “overlooking shouldn’t be an issue”, he stated.

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