WHILE over €4 million has been announced for Ennis under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund, the second largest town in Clare wasn’t successful.
It has left a sour taste in Shannon, where recent years have seen persistent complaints that the town does not have the facilities that a town of around 10,000 people and with a huge industrial base should have.
It is hard to think of any major projects in the town that have been completed in recent years with the exception of Shannon Town Park, which opened in 2019 at a cost of €1.5 million. There are also plans for a future new community sports hub.
There is no doubt that the centre of Ennis is already a far more attractive place than the equivalent area in Shannon, which still doesn’t have a conventional streetscape and local independent councillor Gerry Flynn said that the failure to get anything from the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund is another disappointment “We lost out again. The thing about it is we don’t have enough leverage at the table, it’s as simple as that. There’s more focus on Ennis than there is on Shannon, which is dying on its feet. There’s no doubt about it, we’re going backwards. The population has been static for the last number of years and we haven’t moved forward. The whole infrastructure in the town of Shannon hasn’t moved forward under the stewardship of Clare County Council (Clare County Council took over responsibility for the town’s infrastructure from Shannon Development in 2004).”
Councillor Flynn added, “It’s not that I want to be negative, but I’ve been living in Shannon nearly all my life, I brought up my family here and you’d expect more. People are still bemoaning the loss of Shannon Development, I expected more from the local authority, but Clare County Council seem to be more interested in overdeveloping Ennis. Ennis is a fine town, I’ve no issue with resources going into Ennis, but you can’t be overdeveloping it. The second largest town in Clare, what have they done with it? They’re letting it slip, it’s sliding down the pecking order.”
He said it had been hoped to improve the main road into the town with support from the URDF. “It was expected the whole road would be enhanced, it’d be like a boulevard and new lighting would be put in from Ballycasey up to the Shannon Springs hotel. You’d also improve the whole infrastructure and put in cycleways, that’d be off road. There was a whole plan for enhancing the approach road.
“If the approach where you enter a town isn’t inviting, it’s not going to encourage people to live there.”
He feels that the County Council have given far more attention to Clare’s largest town than to its second largest. “Clare County Council’s gardening section, the full force of it is operating in Ennis. We don’t, we have volunteers. It’s totally wrong. The contribution of the business sector in Shannon through commercial rates is quite large.”
He also feels that the Council also takes a particular interest in certain projects, but has neglected the town. “I’m like a broken record, but there seems to be more of an emphasis on these pet projects. All we hear about now is the Cliffs of Moher, but that’s an iconic centre, it looks after itself. Holy Island is the next project now, but you can’t let Shannon go down the tubes.”
He feels that the town he represents is instead being seen as “the solution to dealing with the social housing problem all over the county”.
Councillor Flynn said that while the provision of social housing is required, there is a need for working people to be in every housing estate. “I’m chair of social development, which includes housing policy and I don’t have an issue with developing social housing, but a percentage (of overall development). Every social housing scheme should have a number of people living there who are working, as well as people who depend on social welfare. If an estate has only people who have no job, and it might be through no fault of their own, but if you do that you’re not setting an example for the young children coming up.”
While there is work on a new masterplan for the town, he isn’t confident that anything tangible will come out of it. “I have been involved in three masterplans and this will be the fourth one for Shannon, but there’s nothing delivered. The other thing that’s very noticeable is that Clare County Council have taken a protective approach to Shannon Town Centre and their attitude is that they need to build out that whole area, which is known as TC1, before they’ll allow development outside of there. And that will be never.”
Clare TD Cathal Crowe also voiced his disappointment that the application for funding for Shannon had not been successful. “Ennis and Shannon are the two largest towns in our county and the only two which would qualify for this funding so this is a hammer blow to the Shannon community.
“I have personally viewed their submission and was excited by plans to develop a new gateway road into the town from the Ballycasey approach on Clare County Council lands.
“This would have fed into the masterplan for the town and made it a more attractive option for passing motorists to be lured in to stay and spend.
“Shannon lacks a town centre that most of the towns we know enjoy and the whole aim of this would have been to give more of a heart to the town to entice people in.”