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Ennis gets a vision of the future

RESEARCHERS from the University of Limerick are set to investigate how the people of Ennis want their town to develop over the next decade.
Ennis Town Council this week gave the go-ahead for the UL Practicum Programme to carry out the community research aimed at developing a vision for the town that has been designated a hub under the National Spatial Strategy.
A presentation outlining the work of the practicum was made at Social & Economic Development Municipal Policy Committee meeting this week, with Ennis Town Councillors later agreeing that the research should be undertaken.
“Ennis has been designated a hub town in the National Spatial Strategy and we are trying to develop a vision for Ennis for 2020,” said Councillor Johnny Flynn at the MPC meeting.
“We, as a community, need to come together to establish what we would like Ennis to be in 2020. This is all about trying to encourage public participation.”
Dr Maura Adshead of the UL Practicum explained that students would carry out the research under the supervision of staff at the university. This research will then be presented to the local authority.
Eddie Power, town clerk outlined Ennis’ definition as a hub town under the NSS which designates the county capital as a sub-regional growth sector.
“The population of the town has grown considerably in recent decades and a strategy for the further development of the town is being prepared. The Munipal Policy Committee has a key role to play as a hub development committee and the preparation of this strategy is a key item on the committee’s work programme,” he said.
He explained that the research will be carried out at community level in Ennis to facilitate the formulation of a strategy for the development of the town as a hub.
“The research will involve public consultation and persons participating in this process will have an opportunity to outline their vision for Ennis in 2020,” he went on.
“The preparation of a hub strategy is a high-level action. Strategic issues for the development of the town will be addressed. The research to be conducted by the Practicum will be a beneficial and equally important opportunity for the public to participate in the preparation of this strategy,” Mr Power explained.
Councillor Brian Meaney commented that the NSS is a “product of an Irish political system where you give something to everybody. Is it flawed to continue down this line?”
Town manager Ger Dollard described the plan as a “excellent initiative”. Councillor Michael Guilfoyle added, “I see this as very important, irrespective of whether we qualify as a hub. The bigger and wider picture is more important now than ever, people need to stand up and be counted,” he said.
Councillor Paul O’Shea said the initiative should be welcomed while Councillor Mary Howard added that this research could have “huge potential”.
The involvement of the UL Practicum comes following calls last year for increased public participation ahead of the revision of the hub town plan.
The Public Participation Initiative, chaired by Councillor Johnny Flynn was set up to encourage this.
The town council unanimously accepted a motion to utilise the Government guidelines on Consultation for Public Sector Bodies 2008 called Reaching Out in its consultation with the Town’s population, residents and businesses in areas that effect their lives.
The Reaching Out guidelines were published in 2004 and have since been available to Government Departments and other public bodies such as local government in its function as a forum for democratic representation of the local community. In plain English, this guideline states that anyone with an interest in the topic (in this case, the future of Ennis town) will be invited to voice their opinion and contribute to future plans.
The aim of the guidelines is to strengthen the dialogue with citizens and create greater transparency of the work of the public sector by recognising that public policy-making can be enhanced through the active involvement and contribution of all interested parties.

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