Home » Breaking News » Objectors say they don’t want Ennis site’s opportunity to be lost
Local residents, Ferdie O'Donoghue, Bernie and Brian Loftus, and Stephen and Bernie Loftus who are opposed to the proposed development in its current form at Simms Lane, Drumbiggle, Ennis. Photograph by John Kelly

Objectors say they don’t want Ennis site’s opportunity to be lost

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OBJECTORS to plans for the construction of a new housing development in an historic Ennis area designated an Opportunity Site in the County Development Plan have insisted they don’t want it to become an “opportunity lost”.

Two separate appeals by residents against the proposal have now been lodged with An Bord Pleanala following the granting of permission by Clare County Council to Eko Integrated Services Ltd for the ‘Buttermarket Development’ of 37 residential units and a cafe with digital working hub at the Drumbiggle Road, Buttermarket Street and Simm’s Lane. The site is in an Architectural Conservation Area of Ennis.

An appeal has been lodged by Mary Burke and Pat Conboy who have purchased and are renovating a property on Carmody Street. In a previous submission to the council during the initial planning application, they argued that the proposed density of the development “will entirely destroy the fabric of this neighbourhood.”

And a separate appeal, lodged by local Stephen Loftus and signed by a number of residents, argues the opportunity site is “particularly vital” given its location within the town centre area and using it “almost exclusively for apartments and not for a mixed development will not benefit the town”.

The appeal by Ms Burke and Mr Conboy states the development of the derelict site is welcome, but there are concerns about various aspects of the proposals, including “serious shortfall in parking spaces”, which are “incongruent with the existing development and neighbourhood”. They add the application “falls short” of various requirements of the Habitats Directive and Water Framework Directive.

The proposal “disregards” the status of the Buttermarket Lane and indicates removal of the wall which forms the eastern boundary of the site, they say.

“Destroying the old laneways and making their status into car parking / blocked ducting will do nothing to complement the built heritage of the area,” they insist.

The appeal “strongly” objects to parking spaces being provided in Buttermarket Lane, insisting a condition of planning permission imposed by the council requiring spaces should not prevent vehicular access to the rear entrance of existing properties “will not be enforced during evening and weekends and will mean significant access issues on this laneway during periods when there is no traffic warden patrol”.

It goes on, “There is an existing serious problem in the area with the quota of parking spaces and the proposed development (in its failure to address this issue) will exacerbate this parking problem. The public realm in this area simply cannot cater for additional ground level parking.”

The proposal to increase the use of Buttermarket Lane, resulting in vehicle movement at the front and rear of properties “will have a serious negative impact on residential amenity and dwelling houses, both on indoor and outdoor residential amenity and privacy and overall noise impact and visual amenity.”

The overall objective to protect existing residential amenity is “ignored” in final design proposals granted permission by Clare County Council, the appeal states.

The “significant reliance” on bicycle and public transport associated with the building design “is not integrated with the current provision of services, or the planned provision of these services, in so far as there is no public transport option close to the site and no bicycle lanes,” it points out.

They ask An Bord Pleanala to refuse planning permission, “on grounds of density of development, lack of adequate parking spaces, site layout (including interference with the Buttermarket Lane) and prematurity pending provision of adequate wastewater services and adequate transportation around the site, including provision of cycle lanes.

“This type of development (depending on public transport and bicycle use) should not be permitted unless and until a strategic traffic and transport plan for the Ennis area has been provided, which has been subject to public consultation and agreement.”

Meanwhile the appeal lodged by Mr Loftus on behalf of a number of residents contends the proposals are contrary to the policies and objectives of the council’s development plan.
The appeal, prepared by Mary Lynch on behalf of the residents, argues that the site is more suited to provide “some much needed” public car parking to serve the town centre.

It states the proposals in essence only offer apartments, with the planned cafe and hub “insignificant in the overall context”.

The plan “does not meet the council’s vision and objectives for the site in land use terms. This is a substantial and vitally important site in the context of the town and would be forever lost as a mixed use area for the extension of the town centre,” they say.

The appeal states there is “ample room” for housing zoned in the plan and does “not need a vital edge of town centre site used almost exclusively for this purpose when the opportunity site could offer so much more to town centre development”.

It questions, “Why is it even called an opportunity site if all the council considers it suitable for is housing? We request the board to look particularly at this issue in the context of the overall development of the town of Ennis and to ensure that the site is not an ‘opportunity lost’ site.”

In terms of the proposal’s design and impact on the area the appeal acknowledges that a redesign is an improvement, but “is still unacceptable” having regard to its specific site setting in the ACA. Among their concerns, they consider the main block to be “at least two stories too high”, adding that the development will “loom in the background” to the right of a protected structure when viewed from Waterpark House car park.

While the revised proposal has reduced the scale of the development, the appellants argue that a deficiency in parking is still “a big issue”.

They state that at the moment public transport “is inadequate” with residents of the proposed apartments reliant on cars. “While there are general proposals to provide more parking in the town as per draft plan, these proposals relate to some indeterminate point in the future. At the moment there is a deficit of parking in the town centre area and this development will exacerbate that problem”.

Photographs taken by residents showing the current use of the area for people to park their cars while they carry out business in the town centre have been included in the appeal.

The appeal concludes, “This is a vital site in the context of Ennis. Using it almost exclusively for apartments and not for a mixed development will not benefit the town and is contrary to what is outlined in the Development Plan for the area. A grant of planning permission in this case will have a serious negative impact on the town.

The design and height of what is proposed will not be sympathetic to its location within an ACA and will also seriously detract from the protected structure in the vicinity. In addition the deficiency in car parking will have a significant detrimental impact on the residential amenity of the occupants and of the occupants of other properties in the area.”

Clare County Council granted planning permission for the development subject to 26 conditions last April.

Assessing the application, the planners’ report concluded, “This proposal would afford a satisfactory standard of amenity to future residents, and it would be compatible with the visual and residential amenities of the area. The site would be capable of being accessed and serviced satisfactorily. The ecological interest of the locality would be safeguarded. The proposal would thus accord with the proper planning and sustainable development of the area, and I recommend that planning permission is granted.”

A report lodged with the planning authority as part of the application on behalf of Eko states, “The development has been designed to meet the demand for high quality, sustainable homes in Ennis and is designed to integrate with the existing context.

“At a time when there is unprecedented demand for housing, a mixture of apartments and town houses was considered appropriate for this site.

“The digital hub and cafe will further enhance the development as an attractive place to live and work. The development is an opportunity to bring a new vibrancy to this community in Ennis.”

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