THE pulse of the county capital has been taken and the results are in. Ennis was chosen as one of 10 Irish towns to take part in a Town Centre Health Check (TCHC), assessing people’s impressions of the town and what they would like to see in the future.
The survey found 59% of businesses expect trading to improve in the next two years, 27% expect no change and 15% expect a downturn, while 90% of firms plan to continue trading in the town centre.
Both shoppers and businesses rated highly the quality and choice of cafes and restaurants, service and safety and the town’s attractiveness. Parking availability was rated poor by 43% of shoppers, compared to 71% of businesses.
Brian McCarthy, acting director of service for Ennis Municipal District, said, “The key aim of the pilot TCHC is to assess the vitality, vibrancy and viability of the town centre and to highlight the critical role town centres play.”
The health check involved pedestrian counts, a town centre land use survey, retailer survey and consumer survey. Pedestrian counts on Friday December 2 and Saturday December 3, 2016 found 24,988 pedestrians on O’Connell Street, 7,022 on Abbey Street, 3,822 on Market Place and 11,512 on Lower Market Street. On December 2, there were 1,735 in the Market Street Centre and 5,500 on Parnell Street. A total of 17,069 were in the entire market area over the two days.
The land use survey found 17% of units vacant, which Mr McCarthy said was “quite low” compared with other towns.
Business owners were asked for their first thoughts when they think of Ennis. Positive words such as “traditional” and “beautiful” were used by 41%, while 28% mentioned traffic and parking issues, 15% a potential enhancement and 12% the number of boutiques and independent shops.
Asked for the main consumer attraction in Ennis, retailers’ top three responses were variety of shops at 34%, character of the town at 18% and customer service at 11%. Over 40 business respondents rated 22 key aspects of the town centre, with shoppers asked a similar question. Top for businesses was the cafe/restaurant quality (90%), while availability of parking came bottom of the list.
For shoppers, cafe/restaurant choice and quality was also on top, with 85% finding it good. The cost of parking was found by 56% of shoppers to be poor, with 20% neutral and 24% finding it good.
Mr McCarthy said it was “interesting to compare and contrast the opinions of shoppers and businesses on town centre issues. Both groups rated the quality and choice of cafes/restaurants, the standard of service provided and the feeling of safety and security (day-time) very highly. Both groups were also very satisfied with the general attractiveness of the town centre with 83% of businesses and 96% of shoppers rating this as either good or neutral. There was also general consensus that opportunities to expand the range of town centre attractions other than shopping need to be explored.
“There has been some divergence of opinion on issues relating to parking and mobility.”
Differences of opinion were also evident in relation to footpath quality, with 40% of businesses finding it good or neutral compared with 72% of shoppers.
“There was however consensus on the quality of shops and the variety/range of shops in Ennis town centre. Both groups provided similar responses when asked about the general feeling of vibrancy in the town centre.”
By Jessica Quinn