A new group has circulated a petition urging Clare County Council to stop the proposed development of riverside car parks in Ennis and to abandon what has been described as the “transfer of public land to a private company, Ennis 2040 DAC”.
The “Save Ennis Town” group has collected almost 700 signatures from its online petition since it started a new campaign on Monday.
This is a group drawn from community, business, retail and political representatives. It formed after a public meeting on 4th May in the Temple Gate Hotel where more than 200 people voicing opposition to the Ennis 2040 plans.
In a statement issued to the Clare Champion, the group stressed it aims to have constructive engagement with Ennis 2040 DAC and develop a plan that will enhance the county town for everyone.
Group members include Gearoid Mannion, chairman; Edel Cassidy; Joan Duggan; Councillor Johnny Flynn; Bridget Ginnity; Cora Hahessy; Teresa McGrath; Councillor Tom O’Callaghan; Michelle O’Connell, John O’Connor; Feargal Ó Dúlaing; Emma Ryan.
The group has written to all county councillors and the board of Ennis 2040 DAC outlining its concerns about elements of the Ennis 2040 Strategy.
In its letter to the board of Ennis 2040 DAC, the group noted members bring commercial expertise and business acumen to the board.
It suggested that the business environment in which these plans were developed has changed significantly due to the pandemic and the impact of remote working.
“There is now a surplus of commercial property available and the financial viability is questionable. Even if the commercial buildings are successful, there are significant drawbacks in placing them in such a prime public location.
“They would jeopardise existing businesses in Ennis due to loss of parking, remove open space that has great potential for public realm enhancement, and permanently damage our unique medieval townscape. Half empty buildings in Abbey Street Car Park and Harvey’s Quay is the worst possible outcome.
“The group applaud many of the elements of the Plan and the intention to develop Ennis in a strategic manner. However, due to our serious concerns about key elements and that public consultation was limited due to Covid, we ask you to put all plans on hold until comprehensive public consultation has taken place.
“We recognise that projects such as this develop a momentum and that it takes courage to stop them. We ask you to have courage, to consider your fiduciary duty and to ensure that we achieve the Vision for Ennis 2040.
The group has asked Ennis DAC to revitalise vacant and derelict sites instead.
The group wants the council to stop the plan to build on riverside car parks because it removes car parking that businesses and mobility impaired people need – a vibrant town needs vibrant businesses
The group claimed this is a speculative development for high cost office and large retail that could end up as a “white elephant” in a prime location.
“It hands valuable open public space to private interests, space that is ideal place for our community to gather and enjoy river and town views
“This generic development in the heart of the town could destroy what people love about Ennis – a medieval town with narrow, winding streets and laneways with the beautiful river Fergus meandering through it,” the group claimed.
It has asked Clare County Council not to transfer this public property to Ennis 2040 DAC, a company that can sell it without consent from the county council or councillors.
Ennis Municipal District and Clare County Councillors approved the loan of €10 million to Ennis 2040 DAC in June 2021 to enable the development of the Ennis 2040 Economic and Spatial Plan. Ennis MD and Clare County Councillors unanimously approved the zoning of all the Ennis 2040 transformation sites as part of the County Development Plan in 2023- 2029. Abbey Street and Harvey’s Quay are among nine locations identified in the strategy as transformational sites.
According to a statement issued by Ennis DAC, the claim that Ennis 2040 is being utilised as a vehicle to transfer assets to the private sector is “misleading and untrue” as the company is 100% owned by Clare County Council.
“This DAC model has been extremely successful in developing town and city regeneration projects across Ireland including Limerick Twenty Thirty and The Housing Infrastructure Services Company in Cork. The structure is designed to attract investment and employment opportunities into Ennis while also regenerating the town and preparing it for the future.
“The proposed development at Abbey Street will transform the area into a vibrant attractive area to work and shop and support the continued commercial viability of town centre retail and business. It has the potential to reinforce the critical role of the town centre as the heart of Ennis by creating a minimum of 100 permanent jobs through the development of the Abbey Street Site.
Ennis DAC states it will deliver a retail footprint, which will complement the existing mix of retail in Ennis and strengthen the attractiveness of Ennis as a retail destination.
“Attracting an anchor retail tenant that would create an additional footfall of 20,000 people per week into the Abbey Street area. This will boost the businesses in the immediate area and across the town.
“Attracting a regional headquarters operation into the new modern office space, creating over 50 jobs”.
Ennis DAC outlines their strategy will enable substantial investment into the facilities and public realm in The Abbey Street area.
A public consultation process will be announce3d in late autumn or early winter 2023 for everyone’s review and feedback.
“Ennis, like many towns across Ireland, faces a number of economic, infrastructural, environmental and physical challenges. The Ennis 2040 Economic & Spatial Strategy is responding to these challenges through a positive strategy of sustainable growth and a commitment to become Ireland’s First Climate Adaptive Town.”
The group’s petition can be viewed online at https://my.uplift.ie/p/saveennistown