BUSINESSES in Ennis are willing to give Saturday pedestrianisation a go, despite having concerns about its impact on them. It has been suggested that X-Factor twins Jedward could launch it.
At a meeting of the Ennis Social and Economic Development Municipal Policy Committee this week, president of Ennis Chamber, Guy Flouch, said that businesses’ previous experience of pedestrianisation had been almost “universally negative”.
“Despite this, the business community is willing to give it a go,” he added.
Ennis Town Council is finalising plans to introduce pedestrianisation on Saturdays in Ennis town centre, starting on June 5 and running until the end of December.
Town clerk, Eddie Power said that a number of issues still need to be addressed, including free parking, the timing and duration of pedestrianisation and marketing to highlight the project. He also stated that before the end of the six-month trial period of pedestrianisation, the council would hope to be in a position to give a longer term commitment to pedestrianisation, but not to extend it beyond Saturdays.
Mr Flouch urged the council to introduce free parking. He also stressed that a lot of businesses in the town centre open at midday and require on-street parking for deliveries and to cater for older customers.
Mary O’Connell, representing the Irish Congress of Trade Unions at the MPC, said Saturday pedestrianisation had to be “worth a try”.
“It’s good to start this in summer but I feel there needs to be outdoor seating for bars, cafes, etc to create a café and shopping street atmosphere like you’d see in European cities,” she explained. She also made a brief suggestion that X-Factor twin stars Jedward be approached to launch pedestrianisation in Ennis.
Town manager, Ger Dollard said no assessment of pedestrianisation could be made if it isn’t given a serious run.
“There is a general consensus that pedestrianisation is a good idea and hopefully we can building on that towards a more extended period of pedestrianisation,” he commented.
Patrick Murphy, representing the community, voluntary and disadvantaged sector, said pedestrianisation could be used to highlight accessibility in Ennis. He suggested bringing a group of visually impaired people into town on a pedestrianised day to see how they would manage on the streets.
Mr Murphy also recommended that staff members of Clare County Council and Ennis Town Council should park in their work car parks when they come to town to shop, which would free up “at least some car parking spaces in town”.
Mr Dollard said he felt many council staff already do that, but that it was a suggestion worth following up on.
Mr Murphy also suggested that the county council car park could be used for matches at Cusack Park. Mr Power said that was a proposal that could be considered more closely.
Chairman of the committee, Johnny Flynn said he was optimistic that pedestrianisation would help to address the loss of jobs in the retail sector, while Councillor Michael Guilfoyle said the success of the scheme would depend to a large extent on how businesses view it during the six-month period.