AN Ennis town councillor has stated he would welcome a retail development “if it was built in the parish church” so long as it would provide jobs for the town.
Councillor Frankie Neylon was speaking at a recent meeting of the local authority in which Councillor Brian Meaney raised concerns about a development on the outskirts of the town currently under the planning process, which he believes would have “a considerable impact on the retail centre of Ennis”.
Councillor Meaney told the meeting, “I have looked at similar proposals in Ireland and the UK and to say they have impacted on the vitality of the retail centre is an understatement… The potential impact on the future of Ennis town centre is enormous.”
The councillor had submitted a notice of motion urging that “development that undermines the retail capacity of Ennis Town Council be restricted”.
However, Councillor Frankie Neylon argued that this was “scaremongering” adding “we have a planning section that is capable of doing their job and people have a right to go to An Bord Pleanala.”
He spoke about a recent number of shop closures in the town saying, “we need to look seriously at being able to have the same facilities as Limerick and Galway. We have to be realistic, we cannot survive with Parnell Street and having €2 shops and betting shops on our main street.”
He went on, “Our kids are going to Australia for jobs, and then somebody comes along with plans for 350 jobs and we are going to say no, no, no! If there is development happening in town that will provide jobs and stop young people from going to Australia, if it is built in the parish church I would welcome it.”
Councillor Meaney insisted he was pro-job, however. “We have to be careful not to go for the short term, populist solution with long-term consequences. The jobs provided will take from jobs provided in the town centre. I would urge councillors to look at the scale and impact of this proposal.”
Councillor Michael Guilfoyle outlined his fear for jobs in the town and stated that development should be supported saying, “I would love to see the town the way it was, but 50% of my family are not working and I don’t want them to have to leave this town or this country.”
Councillor Peter Considine stated that the council makes decisions on policy and that the matter should be left to the planning authority.
In response to Councillor Meaney, Gordon Daly, senior planner, replied, “Any retail proposals must be considered in the context of the current Ennis and Environs Development Plan and any accompanying retail strategy at the time of the decision on the application.
“The current Ennis Plan advocates a town centre first strategy and seeks to restrict any retail development that would harm the vitality and viability of the town centre.
The preferred location therefore for new retail development is within the town centre. In line with DoEHLG Retail Planning Guidelines for Planning Authorities 2005 where it is not possible to provide the scale and form of development that is required on a site within the town centre then consideration can be given to a site on the edge of the town centre.
“This is commonly known as the sequential approach to the location of retail development. In such cases the onus is on the applicant to demonstrate compliance with the development plan and that there will not be an adverse impact on the vitality and viability of the existing town centre.”