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Architect Fergal O Dowd, of Helena McElmeel Architects, and local man Tim Hogan chatting during a public consultation on the regeneration of the Scariff Market Square. Photograph by John Kelly

Parking the hot topic as councillors come under pressure

ESB Apprentice Moneypoint

PRESSURE is mounting on public representatives in East Clare to show that a recent major funding investment will pay off soon for the town of Scariff. 

That was the view of two members of the Killaloe Municipal District committee when the group held their July meeting. Both Councillor Joe Cooney and Pat Burke sought an update on progress with the Scariff Rural Regeneration Project, particularly the car park element. 

Last January, an allocation of just over half a million Euro was made by The Rural and Community Development towards a multi-service centre, improvements to the centre of the town and the development of a town car park. 

“There is a lot of concern in Scariff over the lack of parking,” Councillor Cooney said. “The main one is that if we leave it until the regeneration project, it could be a long way down the road.”

Councillor Burke agreed that the issue of parking is a challenge. “Pressure is really coming on us from the general public on the issue of parking,” he said. “Local to me, our post office has closed and people are now being directed to Scariff. which adds to the problem of parking. My mother is elderly and wont drive to Scariff, because the perception is that it is difficult to get parking.”

Both councillors welcomed a written response from Senior Executive Officer, Morgan Lahiffe which outlined that: “Agreement is in place for the purchase of land close to the town centre for the provision of a car park. This property acquisition is ongoing.

“Clare County Council are currently surveying and building design options for the car park. On arriving at a workable design, Clare County Council will submit a Part VIII application for the project. We hope to submit the Part VIII over the coming months.”

Councillor Cooney welcomed news on the purchase of land. “Hopefully, this will move forward,” he said. “Could we get this done by the end of 2022 with a view to having the car park in place in 2023? That would be essential with the pressure that is coming on us as local councillors. Parking is an ongoing issue, but it’s now coming to a crisis point.”

In respect of Councillor Burke’s motion, which sought an update on all elements of the regeneration project, a written response outlined that the concept design process for the Market House and the Fair Green is just complete.

“We intend to now develop out these concept designs into working designs and contractual documents over the coming months, the reply stated. It added that the multi-service centre is at design and survey stage and that the Council has agreement and funding in place to purchase a property.

“The property acquisition is ongoing,” outlined the response. “It is intended that this element of the project will go for Part VIII planning over the coming months.”

The reply also noted that further funding will be sought when the Department of Rural and Community Development advertises for projects. 

Commenting on the reply, Councillor Burke said: “I welcome the reply on property acquisition. A lot of people are asking. Min Heather Humphreys announced €0.5m for Scariff. People are asking what has been done with the money and what the next steps area. When meeting the general public now, we can confidently tell them there is work going on behind the scenes.” 

Councillor Pat Hayes seconded both motions. “I welcome the fact that the car park is part of the original application, and I’m glad that it is now coming out of the original bundle to progress as soon as possible,” he said.

“I commend the work of the Scariff Town Team on the public realm element. There is a real urgency now with getting the car park in place. Business owners have said this. I would encourage the executive to get the multi-service centre in as soon as possible.

“This is a key element to the heart of towns and a real opportunity to bring old Merriman site. There is real potential for rehabilitating the town centre in terms of bringing vacant properties back to life. This is also something that people are pushing for.”

Killaloe MD Cathaoirleach, Alan O’Callaghan welcomed the update. “It’s great that Scariff is getting not just one slice of the cake, but the whole cake,” he said. 

Mr Lahiffe told members that “lots of work is being done by lots of people”.

“Thanks to landowners for cooperation in work to acquire sites,” he said. “It is clear that the car park is probably the main objective and has most priority. We have changed tack to push the car park forward, much quicker than we originally anticipated. We will have to re-apply to the Department for building – Category 1 – money. That is a competitive process. We would be looking for funding ahead of time, separately, for the car park.”

Responding to the debate, Councillor Cooney said: “These three projects are vital to Scariff and to the Killaloe MD. The car park has to be pushed forward. Business is suffering. You cannot find a space on certain days.”

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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