PARNELL Street is “dying” and has become a “second-class citizen” compared to other streets in the town, local traders have claimed. Business people operating from Parnell Street raised concerns about the future of the pedestrianised street to members of Ennis Town Council this week.
Speaking at this week’s meeting, Noreen Twomey Walsh commented that the recent economic downturn and flood relief works have compounded problems for businesses. “We recognise the necessity of the flood relief works but they are lingering with no end in sight,” she said.
Traders also raised the issues of increased parking charges and a lack of parking spaces for shoppers in the area, saying that valued customers will be lost.
“If customers can’t find parking they won’t come to the shops at all and the streets will be empty and ghostlike. Our shops will close and jobs will be lost if we don’t get help,” she added.
“Compared with other streets in Ennis, it is a second-class citizen regarding the attention it receives.”
She pointed out that attractive flower arrangements and iron works have been installed in other parts of the town and described signage in the area to attract people to the street as “non-existent”. “We want to be treated as equals,” Twomey Walsh insisted.
“We feel left out, excluded and forgotten and not cared about. Locals remember the days when you would need a boat to travel up the street. We thought the bad old days were over but they are returning with a vengeance.”
She added that traders believe there is a lot of potential on Parnell Street that can be harnessed with investment. “Every effort is being made in Galway and Limerick to lure away our customers,” she commented.
“We love being on our street, it has a unique blend of family run shops, which offer personal service which has been a long time gone in bigger towns and cities. We are like a family and we don’t like losing a member but it will happen. At present there is no incentive to open new businesses on our street,” she said.
She outlined that at present there are 275 people employed full time on Parnell Street, with 96 part-time workers. There are 20 vacant premises and 10 businesses have closed in the past 12 months with 50 jobs lost.
Also speaking for the traders was local businessman Gerry Collins, who commented that the traders had been promised that parking spaces lost during the flood relief works would be back by Christmas 2008. “Each parking space lost is costing €60,000 a year,” he said.
Brendan Rochford, another businessman, added that in recent times the street has not received the “care and attention it deserves”.
“People are getting worried that it’s back to the bad old days,” he added. He raised concerns about the “poor” paving, graffiti and lack of flowers and other amenities such as outdoor seating.
He urged a spirit of partnership in which the traders and local authority would work together in improving the street. “Parnell Street is the only major street that has been pedestrianised and we believe that a successful Parnell Street can serve as a role model for pedestrianisation in the town. We are not asking for millions but for an immediate commitment to improvements.”
Mayor of Ennis Frankie Neylon told the deputation that hanging baskets had been previously erected on the street but they proved difficult to water. Efforts are now being made to correct this. “We are in a recession but we treat Parnell Street as we do O’Connell Street and Abbey Street, we don’t want to be seen to be leaving anyone out. Parnell Street was the first to be refurbished,” he insisted.
He commented that outdoor seating could not be achieved in the area as emergency vehicles need to have access. Councillor Neylon added that the council want to work in partnership with the traders, saying he has “no doubt” progress can be made.