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Water-based amenities sought by 2020

THE development of a ‘Venice in Ennis’ with water-based amenities, a League of Ireland soccer team, pedestrianisation, covered streets and a third-level education campus are just some of the facilities the people of Ennis want to see in their town by 2020, according to a recent project.
Earlier this year, researchers from the UL Practicum Programme set out to investigate what vision the people of Ennis have for the town for 2020. This would then be used to support the development of a plan for Ennis as a hub town in line with the National Spatial Strategy.
The study, Ennis 2020 People, Place, Potential, was carried out in partnership with Ennis Town Council and the University of Limerick and was supported by Clare Active Citizenship Network.
The opinions of over 300 people were accessed during the research, the results of which were outlined at this week’s meeting of Ennis Town Council.
Dr Chris McInerney of the University of Limerick explained the study provides perspectives on a vision of Ennis, particularly how it will look and feel in 2020. There was also an exploration of the strengths and assets of the town, how Ennis can be enhanced and improved and an outlining of how Ennis might be further developed as an inclusive town.
In examining how the town would look in 2020, there was a strong emphasis on pedestrianisation. The historical dimension of the town featured prominently, as well as its profile as a traditional market town. There was also an emphasis on cleanliness and attractiveness, providing a platform for outdoor leisure and entertainment. An enhanced relationship between the town and the River Fergus was another recurring theme in the report, not just in examining how the town should look but also in looking at the development of future amenities. Among the suggestions were the linking of Ballyalla Lake or Girroga Lake to Lees Road for the provision of watersports and the development of riverside walks, which was dubbed ‘Venice in Ennis’ by one participant in the study.
“There was a very strong theme in this report of the desire to embrace the river,” said Dr McInerney. The provision of more sports facilities was also suggested, including the development of a League of Ireland soccer team.
In looking at infrastructure, participants suggested that greater attention be paid to the development of the town centre. According to the report, “A distinct element of the development of the town centre was the number of suggestions to provide covers over some of the main streets”.
The provision of a bus service to link areas on the outskirts of Ennis, as well as outlying villages was also seen as important, while the creation of a strong Shannon Airport was seen as a prerequisite to development and growth. The development of either a third-level campus in Ennis or the provision of an outreach service was also outlined in the study.
According to Dr McInerney, plans to disseminate the results of the study include an e-newsletter; an e-comic; a website and an e-learning presentation. He suggested to members of Ennis Town Council that a second more detailed, but time limited, phase of community engagement be undertaken to focus on key issues before developing the Ennis Hub Strategy. He also said that given the number of suggestions around the provision of services and amenities for young people, consideration should be given to creating a theme group on meeting the needs of young people.
Speaking following the presentation, Mayor of Ennis Councillor Michael Guilfoyle commented that the document “gives a good reason why local authorities should be retained, rather than reduced”.
Councillor Johnny Flynn complimented Ennis Town Council for “taking a risk” in creating a hub strategy in this way. “This is a first and the information we have received is valuable. This has been a great development for the town. We have taken a leap of faith in the 21st century.”
Councillor Paul O’Shea added that the study gives a “broad insight into what the people want”. Councillor Frankie Neylon commented, “This really puts straight all of the work done by councillors in the ’60s and ’70s in the town. The decisions of our predecessors came to fruition in the ’80s and ’90s and the work we are doing is continuing from there.
“A lot of the work in this document has already been done by the town council. Some things we can look at and do our best but that is depending on funding from government.”
Councillor Tommy Brennan argued, “You can’t develop a hub town if you don’t have facilities. We’ve been looking for a sewerage system since 1995 and it’s still on the long finger. We need jobs and education for our youth. The Clare VEC was absorbed into Limerick but the VEC system in this county served the county well. It should be continued as an identity here in Clare to serve the people in Clare so they can take up employment. Unless we create jobs and proper education for our youth, we can forget about the next 20 years.”
Councillor Mary Howard described the study as an “invaluable document”, while Councillor Mary Coote Ryan welcomed the emphasis on water-based activities saying, “Ballyalla Lake was the jewel of the crown in Ennis and I would love to see it back to what it was”.
Town manager Ger Dollard told the meeting, “Ennis has a major role to play in the National Spatial Strategy. This is a very strategic location with a lot of potential. This document present a huge amount of possibilities for Ennis.”
He said that while it may not be possible to implement everything, there is a need to prioritise and get consensus of what is required. It was agreed to proceed to a more detailed phase of community engagement, focusing in on the suggestions on how to enhance Ennis.

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