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Pedestrianisation gets green light

A NUMBER of streets in Ennis will be closed to traffic for two shopping days before Christmas, Ennis Town Council has confirmed this week.
Ennis town clerk, Eddie Power said O’Connell Street, O’Connell Square and Abbey Street will be pedestrianised from 12noon to 6pm on December 18 and December 24.
Following a period of public consultation on the council’s proposal to pedestrianise the streets on the two dates between the hours of 11am and 6pm, Ennis Town Council decided to amend the time to 12 noon, to facilitate the preference of shop owners in town.
“We received a detailed submission from Ennis Chamber, representing the business sector in town. One of the main points they raised was a preference for pedestrianisation to commence at 12 noon, rather than 11am. Following significant consideration and consultation, it was agreed to proceed with pedestrianisation from 12pm to 6pm on the aforementioned dates,” Mr Power said.
O’Connell Street, O’Connell Square and Abbey Street have also been pedestrianised on the busiest shopping days before Christmas in recent years and were closed to traffic for a period of six Saturdays earlier this year. The planned pedestrianisation of these streets from the early summer to the end of the year did not proceed, following increasing concerns by the business sector that trade had been negatively impacted on the pedestrianised days.
Arising from the ceasing of the trial Saturday pedestrianisation, it was unclear if the initiative would be undertaken in the lead-up to Christmas but following a period of public consultation, the council made the decision to proceed this week.
“We are conscious of the traditional busy shopping times in the lead-up to Christmas and of the needs of people to enjoy a hassle-free shopping experience in the town. We believe that the absence of cars on these streets on December 18 and 24 will help people to move more freely in town,” Mr Power added.
Recently, Rita McInerney, CEO of Ennis Chamber, said after consulting with traders throughout the town on their views regarding pedestrianisation, they found that there are very diverse views about the proposal. She explained that some traders in the town are against pedestrianisation in any shape or form, others are in favour of it with a number of conditions, while another group are very much in favour of pedestrianisation and believe it is good for business.
“There are, of course, concerns over pedestrian safety, traffic flow throughout the town, traffic management and parking issues. Traders are also anxious that potential shoppers will be put off coming into town altogether if traffic flow in those streets which remain open is hindered. Cars must be able to move freely through the streets, which are open but this proves quite difficult when the main thoroughfares are closed.
“Certain options in terms of road use would need to be considered, for example, an option to turn left from the Queen’s Hotel onto Francis Street, which would allow people coming into town from that side to access parking in the vicinity of Tesco and its surrounds,” the CEO said.
However, Mr Power said the council is not proposing any alterations to traffic flow in the vicinity of Francis Street and Abbey Street.
“We would be concerned that if we changed the traffic direction for such a short time, that it would lead to confusion for motorists. People, we believe, are well used to accessing the car park near the Friary from the Francis Street side. We would be anxious that any change to the normal traffic flow would have a negative impact and disrupt motorists,” he commented.
He added, “Our understanding is that people park as close to town as they can and walk to the shops. For those with mobility issues, we consider that the 12 noon start of pedestrianisation facilitates them in accessing the shopping streets prior to streets being closed. It’s a practical response to a request from the business sector.”
In recent years, people have raised concerns over the lack of availability of parking spaces in Ennis, particularly in the lead-up to Christmas. However, the town council considers there is ample parking in and near the town centre.
“Car parks are conveniently located to the town centre. We have liased with the business sector previously and have always suggested that one way of dealing with this is for business people to park further out from town, freeing up more spaces for shoppers. Previously, parking spaces at the courthouse in Ennis have been made available for this purpose, as has the car park at Ennis Town Council.
“The town council car park will be available for this purpose again and we will be asking the courts services to cooperate by making parking spaces available as they did previously. We believe it is a sensible and practical approach to making as many car parking spaces available as close to town as possible,” Mr Power said.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael Councillor Johnny Flynn is bringing a notice of motion before next Monday’s meeting of Ennis Town Council, requesting that Christmas shoppers visiting Ennis can avail of free car parking on the street and in council car parks on Friday and Saturday afternoons between 2pm and 6pm from Friday, December 10 to Thursday, December 30 inclusive.
He pointed out all such parking is always free on Sundays throughout the year.

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