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A giant "white elephant" is seen before a march from Abbey Street Car Park to Clare County Council. Photograph by John Kelly

Saturday rally for Abbey Street

A RALLY in opposition to controversial Ennis 2040 plans for the transformation of the Abbey Street Carpark as well future proposals for Parnell Street carpark will be held in the heart of the town this Saturday.
The event at 2pm in The Square has been organised by the ‘Save Ennis Town’ group who are calling for a halt to what they describe as plans for “the destruction of the town’s riverside civic amenities”.
They say the gathering will give the people of the town and surrounding areas an opportunity to demonstrate opposition to the proposed Ennis 2040 plans to build on carparks in the town centre.
The development of a retail and office space at the Abbey Street Carpark according to Ennis 2040 will result in 100 permanent jobs once complete and 200 jobs during construction, and create a town centre footfall of 20,000 shoppers a week.
The Ennis 2040DAC have outlined that the aim of their plans is to transform the area  “into a vibrant attractive area to work and shop” which will in tern “support the continued commercial viability of town centre retail and business”.
However the proposals have faced fierce opposition with this Saturday’s rally the latest move in SET’s campaign to halt the development.
Gearoid Mannion, chairman of SET outlined ahead of the rally.
“Save Ennis Town’ is a community based group of people from Ennis, local traders and public representatives,” he said.
“We’re deeply concerned with the multi storey buildings proposed by Ennis 2040 DAC for two public car parks and the potential impact this will have on the fabric of our town.
“There is huge local opposition to these proposed plans and, in the absence of any real or meaningful consultation on the issue, we felt it was important to organise a public rally where the voice of the people can be heard.”
Last October a petition was presented by ‘Save Ennis Town’ to Clare County Council with over 3,700 signatures opposing the project proposed for the two town centre car parks. However, the group insist they are not opposed to all of the Ennis 2040 plans.
“Much of their vision is welcome. We support positive progress and the future development of Ennis, but the images we have seen so far of the two proposed developments by the riverside are worrying. Where will people park their cars when they come to town to do business or just visit for the day?,” he said.
He added this is not just about people having a place to park when they come into Ennis to shop.
“Yes, this is vitally important to ensure the survival of our small businesses, but we are also talking about the loss of a much loved civic space which brings a vibrancy and life to the centre of the town. Remember the massive outdoor concerts during the Fleadh in 2016 and 2017, the Christmas Markets and home coming events for our County teams?”
The controversy over the proposed development in the town centre has become a major issue in the upcoming local elections in the Ennis Municipal District with sitting councillors divided on the issue.
“This is a huge and expensive project we are looking at. There is a combined projected cost of €25million with €2.2million already spent,” he said, “This election is a chance for people to have their voice heard by voting for the candidates who are committed to protecting our civic amenities by halting the destruction of our riverside car parks.”
Bridget Ginnity, Green Party candidate and member of SET has urging the Ennis 2040 DAC to “go back to the drawing board” on the Abbey Street carpark proposals.
She believes there needs to be workshops with all interested parties to exchange ideas agree on a direction.
“This is such a high risk proposal. It risks destroying existing local businesses during construction, it risks being half empty, a multi-million white elephant.”
She outlined she would love to see it developed as a welcoming public space, with features like play areas and a band stand. “I welcome the plans to develop Ennis as a place where people are more important than cars. I also recognise that for business to thrive, convenient access by customers is a priority and this must be provided.”
The ‘Save Ennis Town’ Public Rally takes place on Saturday, March 18 at 2pm in The Square, Ennis.

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