DISABLED parking spaces are regularly being “abused” according to Ennis community activist and member of the Clare Leader Forum Dermot Hayes.
He was speaking as concerns were raised about a “shortage in availability” of disabled parking in Ennis at a recent meeting of councillors by Councillor Paul Murphy.
There are a total of 78 disabled car parking spaces in the Ennis Municipal District urban area including four spaces due to be constructed later this year at Lower Market Street and the Friary Car Park the local authority has confirmed.
Mr Hayes believes that greater enforcement is needed against those who misuse disabled parking, while also calling for more parking to be put in place suitable for the needs of people with disabilities.
“People are abusing car parking for people with disabilities, it’s a regular occurrence all over the county and all over Ireland.
“We fought hard and campaigned a long time for disability parking and the excuses of ‘I’m just popping into the chemist for a minute’ or ‘I’ll only be gone a small while’ are not good enough.
“The spaces are being abused. People with disabilities have a right to get out and do their business and be involved in the community and these spaces are important.”
He insists the fine for using a disabled parking space without a permit should be increased as a deterrent to their misuse, and that wider spaces are needed for better access.
As well as drivers using the spaces without a permit, Mr Hayes is critical of those who prevent access to and from spaces for those who need to use them.
He adds that greater availability of disabled parking would encourage more people to visit the town.
“People with disabilities are also tourists and when they come to Ennis they need to be catered for, we have to be mindful of that. Look at Barcelona, 30 years ago they made it an accessible city, one of the first.”
The recent monthly meeting of the Ennis Municipal District heard a proposal for additional disabled parking to be made available in Ennis’ town centre.
Councillor Murphy requested a report on the number of disable spaces available in the town saying he had received “representations from a number of constituents expressing concern at the shortage in availability of the aforementioned and it is vital that Ennis is inclusive to all.” Among those who raised the matter with the councillor was former Clare TD James Breen.
Ian Chaplin, Acting Senior Executive Engineer responded, “There are 78 disabled car parking spaces currently allocated in the Ennis Municipal District urban area. This figure includes four disabled car parking spaces yet to be constructed in Lower Market Street and the Friary car park areas in Q4 of 2022. A Section 38 was approved for these works earlier this year.
“There are disabled car parking spaces available at key priority locations in the Town centre area including Abbey Street car park, Templegate car park, Bank Place, Lower Market Street amongst others. The Public realm works along with the upgrading of the existing disabled car parking spaces will enhance the universal accessibility of the town centre.
“Over the last number of years, Ennis Municipal District have upgraded 22 disabled spaces in compliance with the National Disability Authority’s guidance document on Universal Design of the Built and External Environment. Ennis Municipal District will continue to upgrade the existing spaces and provide new spaces where possible and where funding allows.”
Councillor Murphy expressed satisfaction with the response saying that Ennis “is an accessible town as far as we can be and we are always aspiring to improve on that” with the local authority “endeavouring to make the streets accessible for all.”
Councillor Johnny Flynn welcomed the work that has been done by the Ennis Municipal District in upgrading the 22 spaces.