AN Ennis councillor wasn’t a shrinking violet when he hit out at the replacement of ten “premium” parking spots with flower planters as part of the county capital’s temporary mobility plan.
Councillor Pat Daly, speaking at the Ennis Municipal District, urged that the spaces at Bank Place between the AIB and Post Office be re-installed saying, “it’s in the commercial part of the town where parking is at a premium”.
He branded the move as a “contradiction” pointing out that the opposite side of the road still allows parking while the size the footpath “is the very same, I went out and measured them”.
He continued, “I’m not against planters, it’s just not an appropriate place, its a commercial part of the town in the heart of the town”.
Leonore O’Neill, Senior Executive Officer replied, “As part of the COVID-19 Temporary Ennis Town Centre Mobility Plan, bollards were initially put in place at Bank Place between Allied Irish Bank and the Post office as this area is very busy with persons queuing outside to access both premises and the footpaths are not of an adequate width to allow social distancing. The bollards were replaced by planters to improve the aesthetics of the area. This area remains busy, with queuing on the footpath a common occurrence.
“Ennis MD will continue to monitor the situation in consultation with our stakeholders group, and in line with government guidelines on social distancing, and will make amendments to individual elements of the plan as appropriate.”
She accepted that the footpaths on both sides of the road are the same width, however she said decisions made relating to the mobility plan take into account both the level of risk as well as measurements. She outlined the high level of queuing at both the bank and post office would result in pedestrians being forced onto the road in order to get around while maintaining social distancing.
She added that the move had been driven after the council were contacted by the bank who expressed concern about how the queuing system would operate under the current restrictions. She continued that the idea behind the planters is to make the area more pleasant, adding that the mobility plan is under continual review.
Councillor Daly concluded, “I see no danger there, all people want to do is park their car.” is being kept under review
Councillor Clare Colleran Molloy commented that councillors are getting representations from members of the public unhappy with the mobility plan and suggested that Abbey Street could be opened.
Ms O’Neill reiterated that the mobility plan is being continually reviewed and that the flow of people is being monitored to determine potential risks. The upcoming opening of the Cloister car park is expected to bring more people into the Abbey Street area while the impact of the return to school and numbers who decide to staycation is also being monitored. She stated that the concerns expressed are “taken very seriously” by the council executive.
Councillor Johnny Flynn stated he agreed with the spirit of the motion, and would second it in the event that social distancing restrictions are reduced to 1 metre and face coverings become compulsory. He added that the town is short parking spaces, and people want to come into town and be allowed to be dropped off and collected at the Square.
Councillor Mark Nestor voiced his support for the reinstatement of the parking once social distancing restrictions are changed. Councillor Mary Howard commented, “I understand the difficulties the mobility plan is causing, at the end of the day the whole idea is to ensure people coming into the town feel safe and I wouldn’t feel safe walking along a queue of people. That’s the bottom line.
“We are a medieval town with narrow streets, if we had wider streets we wouldn’t be having this conversation.” She stated these are “unprecedented times” and she doesn’t believe social distancing restrictions would be reduced “any time soon”.
“We can still have conversations till we’re blue in the face, but we need to be all on the one sheet to ensure Ennis is safe to come in and do business. We are living in difficult times, the one thing we have to get people to remember is Ennis is safe.”
Mayor of Ennis Councillor Paul Murphy reminded that the mobility plan is a “living plan” adding “it is not there to curtail the town of Ennis, it’s there to make the town safe and it’s there for everyone. Social distancing is required and we have to adhere to the rules”.