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Kevin Corrigan, CEO Ennis 2040. Photograph by John Kelly

Labour candidate promises to shake up of Ennis 2040 board

ENNIS 2040, particularly plans for the transformation of the Abbey Street Carpark, look set to be a hot topic among candidates ahead of this year’s local elections.
Labour’s Seamus Ryan has added his voice to opposition to the Ennis 2040 plans saying he has “serious concerns about the democratic accountability” of the DAC’s board.
Meanwhile, Green Party candidate Bridget Ginnity is raising questions over the economic viability of the proposed Abbey Street development, saying the most important economic issues have not been assessed.
Mr Ryan insists while there is no question over the personal integrity of the individuals nominated to the board, “We cannot accept that there is democratic accountability as the councillors elected to represent us, only make up one third of board members while the other six individuals are appointed outsiders and senior council staff. This two thirds, one third lopsidedness does not give the people elected to make our decisions on this board any real say.”
He describes the plan, including the removal of the Abbey Street carpark as “the latest in a long line of undemocratic decisions when it comes to infrastructure in and around Ennis.”
He believes, “as a community, we need to be developing spaces that support and enhance our quality of life, not reducing it for young families, older people, those with mobility issues, and everyone else. I’m adding my voice to the calls for a halt to these plans. If elected I will at the very minimum, be seeking a review of the composition of the board of the make up of the Ennis 2040 Company to ensure that those elected to make decisions on behalf of the people have that power as I believe it is not right or fair for that level of decision making to be taken away from those elected to make those decisions.”
Green Party’s Ms Ginnity has reviewed an Economic Impact Assessment of Ennis 2040 plans for four sites – Abbey Street Car Park, Harvey’s Quay, Post Office Field, and a brownfield site on Francis Street – which was prepared by AECOM and released earlier this year.
According to the report the construction phase is projected to create 526 short-term jobs, with the completed projects are expected to generate over 200 long-term jobs.
However, Ms Ginnity has questioned the certainty of a return on investment on the Abbey Street carpark plans saying, “In these days with office vacancy rates of about 17% and increased remote working, how much interest will there be in premium office space?
“Do many companies want their headquarters in a building with no employee or visitor car parking? Similarly, with so much online shopping, how easy will it be to find an anchor tenant for a constrained site with difficult goods access and no customer car parking? Whether we like it or not, the demand by large retailers is for “out of town” locations. Can we expect these companies to be loyal to the town? Or at the first sign of a downturn will we have a half vacant building in the heart of Ennis?
“These are the questions a bank would ask you or me if we went looking for a loan of €15m for this project. It is reasonable that we get answers to these questions before our money is spent on this high risk project.”
She continues by stating the AECOM report includes quotes from studies on public realm and green spaces “Well-planned regeneration of the public realm can increase commercial trade by up to 40 per cent;  Better streets and public places raise self-esteem for residents and promotes confidence in inward investment;  Presence of good quality parks and public spaces lead to an increase in new businesses”.
She suggests that Ennis 2040 develop well planned public space in the Abbey Street car park instead of the proposed building. “From what is said in their report, Ennis could get similar or greater economic and social benefits for much less investment and with lower risk”.

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