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Wheels coming off Ennis cycle plans

A SPOKE has been put in the wheel of plans to improve cycling and pedestrian facilities in Ennis, with claims that it will make the county capital less attractive for business and may even lead to job losses.

Clare County Council has lodged part eight plans in relation to three Ennis Active Travel Town schemes at various locations and are currently inviting submissions from the public. The controversial plans are increasing concerns about how the proposals will effect businesses.

Prominent Ennis businessman, Brian O’Neill, owner of the Rowan Tree, is objecting to proposals under the Clareabbey to Ballymaley section of the scheme, which involves the loss of nine parking spaces for the development of an “active travel amenity hub” close to his business.

In a submission to the council, he voices his “full support” for the development of safe and defined cycling routes and amenities in Ennis and the county.

However, Mr O’Neill argues that the plans “will negatively effect our business, our ability to continue to employ 35 people, our customers and guests, other businesses and organisations in the area, the town of Ennis and County Clare”.

The submission states the spaces are currently used by a large coach agent as a drop-off point, bringing valuable business into the town.

“This agent was using different locations in Galway and Kerry before we attracted them to Ennis and they bring over 4,000 overnight guests to Ennis each year since we opened in 2009, which equates to more than 24,000 bed nights in six years. These guests arrive early evening and they spend a substantial amount of money in the local shops, restaurants and pubs where they enjoy the best of what Ennis has to offer.”

He outlines that some of his employees, particularly female staff, use the spaces in the evening and night-time because they feel it is safer. He adds that hostel guests use the spaces on a daily basis, particularly when coming from the Cliffs of Moher, commenting, “We will lose business as these are a selling point for staying with us”.

Mr O’Neill contends the next available spaces are a further distance from the entrance “and for anyone travelling with families or with any disability it will make it more difficult”.

The submission states it is not just the Rowan Tree that will lose out on revenue. “We encourage our guests to enjoy Ennis in the morning before departing and some of our guests do pay €1.30 for two hours (parking) and go and enjoy the town. If this plan proceeds, I feel the town will lose more valuable morning custom. The further loss of car parking spaces in Ennis will continue to make Ennis a less attractive proposition to shop, dine and visit.”

Mr O’Neill says as a ratepayer, he believes he should have been consulted about the potential loss of parking spaces, adding that money from increased rates should be spent to create additional spaces. He said that planning permission for the 150-bed hostel included a financial levy for the provision of parking spaces.

The submission concluded, “I would welcome any opportunity to engage with the possible creation of a safe and workable alternative” continuing, “I feel that this plan will not only negatively effect the aforementioned parties but may put our guests, customers and employees’ safety and well-being at risk and this is definitely something I cannot abide”.

Ennis butcher Bernard Keane has also lodged his opposition to plans to introduce cycle lanes on the Gort Road.

In a submission to the council he states, “Cycle lanes on this busy roundabout is going to create terrible traffic congestion in all directions. It will cause loss of business which is already under pressure and may lead to job losses and, in conjunction with the increase of rates that has been imposed on us, are ludicrous. This will have a direct effect on our business on the Gort Road”.

Last week, The Clare Champion reported businesses and residents in the Turnpike area have come out against proposals under the scheme to introduce a one-way system, also fearing it will lead to a loss of business. Members of the Ennis Municipal District have also raised local concerns and pledged their support to the Turnpike campaign.

By Jessiva Quinn

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