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Pedestrianisation confusion

THE easing of pedestrianisation in Ennis’ town centre has been labelled as a “mess” with calls for an alert system to be put in place to warn people when traffic is about to be let back on the streets.
Meanwhile, it has been confirmed by the Ennis Municipal District that the public is to be asked its views on pedestrianisation next month.
A survey to “capture the public’s mindset” on car-free streets is set to be launched by the local authority in mid October.
Full details have to be finalised but it is anticipated that the public consultation process will be open for up to two weeks.
Since August 30 restrictions on traffic in Ennis town centre have been lifted except for Monday to Friday from 11am to 2pm, and Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 6pm and Lower Parnell Street where the current road closure applies until the end of September.
Councillor Mary Howard insists this has led to confusion, with people walking out on the streets in the mistaken belief that they are car-free.
She told the monthly meeting of Ennis Municipal District she has seen parents with children on the streets unaware that cars are allowed back on the roads.
The councillor said it was “an accident waiting to happen”.
She urged that a system be put in place to warn people ahead of when the pedestrianisation period is about to end, suggesting a tannoy could make an announcement on the street.
“Generally people don’t know that the streets open at 2pm, not everybody listens to the radio or reads the paper.
“There has to be some way of letting people know.
“The last thing I want is to hear on the radio that some child has been knocked down because they were not aware that the streets were open.”
She said the Council needs to decide now on the future of pedestrianisation in Ennis.
“The vast majority of people have had a really enjoyable experience, they felt safer.
“The people want to know what is going to happen now. We need to make a call to start the process of consultation and engage with everyone.
“Everybody’s voices need to be heard, it’s important whether you are yay or nay that you let people know your opinions.”
She was speaking during a debate on motions by Mayor of Ennis Councillor Ann Norton and Councillor Paul Murphy urging the Council to look ahead towards improving mobility within the town centre.
Councillor Norton asked, “With the Covid task force for the town mobility plan now finished can we look at seeking interest from different groups to look at a new plan for Ennis, as there is an opportunity to look at a mobility plan going forward for the betterment of our town?”
Councillor Murphy, in light of the end of the Temporary Covid-19 Ennis Town Centre Mobility Plan and noting the success of the summer outdoor dining scheme requested a “thorough” period of public consultation on re-entering a similar project on a permanent basis.
“This would involve a period of in-depth consultation with residents of affected areas, the traders of Ennis town centre, relevant stakeholders and last, but by no means least, the wider public with a view to concluding with a proposal that would satisfy the majority and allow Ennis to continue to thrive as we continue to exit from the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Councillor Johnny Flynn pointed to a survey which showed that 39% of Ennis people walk to work as opposed to the national average of 15%.
He said an “open and frank” discussion is needed on pedestrianisation in the town, adding, “I think the majority of people want it.”
Councillor Pat Daly insisted, “We have to listen to people, there are people for pedestrianisation and people against.”
He added his belief that unless there was adequate parking in town “we will never see full time pedestrianisation”.
Councillor Clare Colleran Molloy stated, “People are almost beseeching us to reconsider lifting pedestrianisation” and she sought a time-frame for the planned Ennis Mobility Plan.
Responding to Councillor Norton and Murphy’s motions, Leonore O’Neill, Senior Executive Officer, stated, “Pedestrianisation measures were brought in as a response to Covid-19 and to enable social distancing on the narrow streets of Ennis. The plan was not intended as a permanent measure.
“Clare County Council committed at the outset that any proposal around permanent pedestrianisation of any streets in the town would be subject to full public consultation.
“We will separately be undertaking a wider consultation with the public through the development of the Ennis Mobility Plan which is a requirement under the National Development Plan and will examine all modes of transport for the sustainable movement of people within Ennis and its environs. This process is due to commence shortly.
“A full public consultation will be undertaken, either through the Ennis Mobility Plan process, or another means.”
Director of Service Carmel Kirby informed the meeting that the Ennis Mobility Plan is expected in 2022 which will deal with various mobility issues including parking and pedestrianisation.
She agreed that there is a “need to capture people’s mindset” in light of the recent experience of the Ennis Temporary Covid Mobility Plan.
Ms O’Neill stated the Municipal District has recognised the “large amount” of correspondence in relation to the issue.
“As a Municipal District the onus is on us to fully understand what all parties want the town of our future to look like.”
She said the Council felt it was “imperative to capture opinions with a specific focus on pedestrianisation in advance of the Mobility Plan”.
This will be done through the release of a public survey. The format of the survey has yet to be finalised, and it is expected to be released in mid October. The findings will be brought back to the council members and will also be fed into the Ennis Mobility Plan.

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