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Councillor Johnny Flynn

Idea of artisan future is floated for historic but run-down Ennis district

AN historic area of Ennis with the highest vacancy rate in the town “risks further decline” unless regeneration action is taken, a meeting of the local authority has been warned.
Calls have been made on the Ennis Municipal District by Councillors Johnny Flynn, Ann Norton and Clare Colleran Molloy to “urgently” develop an action plan for Chapel Lane.
Speaking at the monthly meeting of the local authority Councillor Flynn suggested that Chapel Lane could be redeveloped to facilitate artists to live and work in the area, spearheading further regeneration of the town.
“With the public realm upgrade of Parnell Street and the 29 lanes and bow-ways I believe that developing a regeneration of Chapel Lane to, for example assist artists and crafters working and living in the lane, could be a blueprint for regeneration of other areas of the historic town centre,” he said.
Recalling the history of the lane he outlined that the Historic Town Atlas of Ennis map by Brian O Dalaigh indicates a portion of Chapel lane was built pre-1600 and the remainder from 1601-1736 . The majority of the remaining original buildings are 18th century.
“Chapel Lane is an important artery of in the heart of Ennis. In fact I was delighted when as a member of the steering committee looking to the future of Ennis the consultants developing the Ennis Niche Destination Town plan saw the old town boundary as heart shaped and embraced that in the branding of Ennis.”
Chapel Lane gets its name from a Catholic Church erected in 1735 during penal times.
The church is part of the Ennis Community Centre which occupies nearly one third of the eastern side of the lane with Merchants Square built in 1992 occupying a similar portion of the western side.
“Of the remaining 17 ground floor premises that do not have main doors opening to Parnell Street or other streets, nine, or 53% were vacant in 2019 Town Centre Health check carried out by Clare County Council. This is the highest vacancy rate in the town with the average of less than 20%,” said Councillor Flynn.
He recalled the lane’s famous local shops such as Josie Cronin’s and the many families who lived there.
The councillor outlined that the National Development Plan 2022-2030 has committed to Urban Renewal and Development Fund bring extended to 2030.
“A regeneration plan for Chapel Lane would be eligible for such funding,” he believes.
He insisted that the area “risks further decline” if action is not taken to help achieve a “21st century future” for the area.
Councillor Ann Norton called for a feasibility study to be carried out to see what measures can be taken to regenerate the lane.
“I believe there is an opportunity here,” she said. She pointed to the positive work that is being undertaken on Parnell Street and the bow-ways and laneways, while Chapel Lane has “an amount of derelict buildings”.
“We need to look at securing a funding source to try and do a detailed feasibility study to see what can be done along the laneway and buildings that are there.
There is a huge opportunity, with a car park there and the market and market square, to connect them together. Our first priority should be to try and secure funding for a feasibility study so that if money become available we will be ready to develop Chapel Lane. This is something that Ennis would benefit from in the long run.”
Councillor Pat Daly recalled, “a lot of historic things have happened in Chapel Lane”, adding that the Council would have to “get serious advice” on any proposal given the age of the buildings.
“Development would be very good, the community centre has done a great job looking after people over the years.”
Leonore O’Neill, senior executive officer Ennis Municipal District, agreed that it would be a “good idea” to look into carrying out a feasibility study.
However, she said that this should be done as part of an holistic approach to include the surrounding area and not just Chapel Lane.
It was agreed that efforts would be made to identify a source of funding to advance a feasibility study.

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