PLANS to introduce pay-and-display parking on Cloughleigh Road, which has been free since 1978, have been described as “harsh and unjust”.
A recent meeting of Ennis Town Council saw the proposal criticised by some councillors who expressed concerns about the effect it will have on teachers in the local school and residents.
In response, the council executive has suggested that provision in the upcoming budget could be made for a special permit for the long-stay Cloughleigh car park.
The councillors were discussing plans for new car park, on-street parking and bus bylaws. A total of 11 submissions have been received in relation to the bylaws, including submissions from teachers at Scoil Chríost Rí and local residents of Cloughleigh.
The teachers voiced their opposition to the plans saying they believe staff will be discouraged from remaining after school to take extra-curricular activities or to do extra work in their classes given the additional parking charges.
In response to their submission, a meeting was held between council officials and the principal and deputy principal. The meeting discussed the need to regulate the area and the safety of children. It was proposed that an annual permit for Cloughleigh car park could be provided. A follow-up meeting was held and it was further suggested that the car park could offer first hour free parking to promote the long-stay car park.
A number of residents also raised concerns about the plans. A submission was received by one local couple opposed to the introduction of pay and display saying it would affect visitors to the area. Another resident objected to the plans saying her husband is ill and family and friends call regularly.
The council responded saying a maximum of two parking permits would be issued per household and visitors would have the option to pay for on-street parking, pay for parking in the long-stay Cloughleigh car park, park up past the school free of charge or avail of first hour free parking in Cloughleigh car park.
Other submissions stated the proposal would inconvenience elderly citizens who attend daily mass. The council responded that traffic wardens will exercise practical flexibility.
Councillors Johnny Flynn and Brian Meaney were among those to make submissions. Councillor Flynn voiced his opposition to the pay and display in Cloughleigh along with calls for more parking spaces and a reduction in parking charges. Councillor Meaney made submissions in relation to electric cars. The council confirmed that electric parking spaces for charging will be highlighted with blue paint and there will be no fee for electric car users.
Speaking at the meeting of councillors, Councillor Flynn reiterated his objection to pay and display in Cloughleigh. This was seconded by Councillor Paul O’Shea who stated he has been approached by concerned residents in Cloughleigh.
He said, “It is harsh and unjust in the extreme to expect teachers, the fabric of the community, to pay. Many of these teachers are travelling from outside Ennis and the price of petrol is so expensive. The price imposed will have a huge effect, a lot of these are young teachers with mortgages and commitments.”
Councillor Mary Howard stated special circumstances should be considered in relation to Scoil Chríost Rí. She said that on a recent visit to the area “the vast majority of people are against it”.
However, Councillor Frankie Neylon argued that the issues of parking are “miniscule” in comparison to the dangers on the road. “That stretch of road is very dangerous and it’s high time it was solved. Safety is all that’s on my agenda. We have to think of the kids,” he said. He added that other workers in the town pay for parking, and he did not want to see “exceptions in any group”.
He was supported by Councillor Tommy Brennan who suggested that an annual charge of €75 for parking at the long-term car park could be put in place.
Councillor Michael Guilfoyle commented, “It’s an inconvenience for anybody to pay for parking but the council were asked to put something in place in relation to safety.” Mayor of Ennis Councillor Peter Considine outlined that the purpose of the bylaws is regulation of parking.
Town manager Ger Dollard commented that traffic and safety issues on the road have to be addressed and the council’s concerns are shared by local gardaí.
“This is an issue that has to be dealt with and we are obliged to deal with it. The town council have had a number of meetings with people in the area and have put forward a number of solutions that are all designed to take on board people’s concerns and also issues of equity and fairness. We cannot put in measures for a select group,” he said.
Mr Dollard added that the long-term car park in Cloughleigh is underutilised and he expressed the hope that the Christmas free-parking initiative would encourage better use of the facility.
He suggested, “As part of the budget, we could look at a special permit for the Cloughleigh Car Park that would encourage its use. Whoever wishes to avail of this permit can do so and that would cover the school and residents. We have to have a system that is fair and available to everybody.”
The adoption of the parking bylaws was put to a vote and passed by the councillors.