*Photograph: Páraic McMahon

A CLARE TD has said Clare County Council are behaving like “the dodgiest of dodgy developers”.

Last week, The Clare Echo reported that Clare County Council applied for a Section 179 planning exemption which enabled the granting of planning permission without any submissions from the public or elected representatives to begin knocking the row of cottages on Francis Street in Ennis.

In October 2022, the Council acquired the block of six cottages. Initially the Council had intended knocking the cottages to build a temporary car park at a fee estimated to be €1.1m. These plans were later scrapped following public campaigns with the site to now become the county’s first affordable housing scheme with 39 apartments to be built.

Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) claimed at this month’s meeting of the Ennis Municipal District that demolition works commenced “without planning permission” and that the removal of the car parking spaces and footpath was “premature”. He stated, “I’d have expected a Section 38 process to be followed for the loss of those car spaces, the review could go on for longer”.

Officials in the Council have “rushed” to get works done, Cllr Tom O’Callaghan (FF) maintained.

Director of Services, Carmel Kirby assured members that the correct process has been followed by Clare County Council. “The affordable housing scheme needs to be completed by the end of 2025, it was always planned we’d carry out the works as quickly as possible”.

Last Monday, the High Court was notified of a judicial review on the application, Director Kirby stated. In response, Cllr Flynn highlighted, “normal practice is works don’t proceed until there is a decision on a legal case”. Kirby stated that enabling works started before Monday and legal advice has yet to be received following the High Court hearing.

This week, Michael McNamara TD (IND) has weighed in on the debate. Having drove into Ennis town on Tuesday morning, the Scariff native admitted he was “shocked to see that the Council was demolishing the houses, one of which was only built in the 1990s and was described when for sale in 2022 as a ‘superb 133.5sqm, 3 bedroom residence’ with an ‘AMV [of] €265,000’ and others, which were older, had been lived in or occupied as business premises in recent years”.

Deputy McNamara told The Clare Echo, “I was even more shocked to learn that the Council had done this after being served with legal proceedings in which the High Court had granted Leave to judicially review the permission the Council had granted itself to develop the site.

“In such circumstances, the usual practice is for developers to await the outcome of the Court case before proceeding. Clare County Council is now acting like the dodgiest of dodgy developers”.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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