*Chief Executive of Clare County Council, Pat Dowling and Clare GAA Chairman, Kieran Keating. Photograph: Brian Arthur

CLARE COUNTY COUNCIL have agreed to lease the Cloister Car Park from Clare GAA which is to result in the delivery of 200 car parking spaces in Ennis town centre.

Fresh from announcing plans to develop Waterpark House in Drumbiggle to provide over 136 car parking spaces in Ennis, a memorandum of understanding has been signed by the Council and Clare GAA to see both parties enter into a commercial arrangement on the use of the car park adjacent to Cusack Park.

Officials are hopeful development works will be completed by the end of 2024 with works set to commence in the second quarter of this year.

Calculations on the costs associated with the redevelopment of the car park have not been finalised with a detailed design yet to be completed.

Chief Executive of Clare County Council, Pat Dowling said any development costs would be offset with the income generated. “It is a commercial arrangement, it is a lease arrangement where we are leasing the car-park from the GAA, we will then be redeveloping the car park from the income, I’m satisfied that it will be a sustainable project and the income will cover the costs of redeveloping the facility, it has been carefully chartered out with financial and legal advice so I’m happy that it is a sound agreement going forward”.

Dowling stated, “This is an important day, Clare County Council are delighted to enter into a commercial arrangement with the GAA, I’ve always shared the view with the GAA in Clare that we need to work more together across our objectives in developing the county and our capital town and their objectives to grow their organisation and income base, we’ve satisfied all those objectives here and we’re delighted to sign that memorandum where we will now redevelop this surface car park and that work will be completed by the end of the year”. He added, “Parking is an important issue, we have to make provision to develop the town into the future and this will be a significant contributor to that objective”.

Eamon O’Dea, Pat Dowling, Kieran Keating, Deirdre Murphy and Brian Fitzpatrick. Photograph: Brian Arthur

Public access to the car park is expected to be off limits on weekends when Cusack Park is playing host to matches. The Council Chief Executive said “a flexible arrangement” has been agreed. “We have to satisfy the demand, it is not unlike what we do when there’s matches on in Cusack Park that car park in the Arás is used, a similar partnership will be used here but it will be of use seven days a week and it will be adapted depending on what events are taking place”.

Chairman of Clare GAA, Kieran Keating outlined that they had been discussions with the local authority on the proposal since last year. “Obviously the site we have adjacent to Cusack Park at the Cloister is a prime site in terms of parking for the town and for our facility in Cusack Park, commercially it is something that we’ve wanted to progress so that we could get a steady source of income from it for the years ahead and for our own matchdays in particular we’d like it to be better paved and laid out better with more space, it has taken us a bit of time to get to this stage and hopefully over the next few months the plans and detail will be ironed out with the Council by the end of this year and will be operating as a commercial car park by the end of 2024”.

Keating continued, “During last year we had a number of meetings with the Council on what was feasible and how we could do it, Carmel Kirby, Pat Dowling, Seán Lenihan, Noeleen Fitzgerald and Caroline O’Connor were proactive in reaching out to us and saying they’d look at whatever options, they’ve been very helpful in the process of getting to this stage and it makes sense for us, we have a lot to concentrate in terms of our own development and capital expenditure, Caherlohan in particular is going to take up a lot of resources for the next couple of years, this isn’t something feasible for us from our own resources so the partnership with the Council made a lot of sense for us”.

Treasurer of Clare GAA, Brian Fitzpatrick said there was “commercially sensitivity” at this stage surrounding what the partnership could be worth to the organisation. “The MOU is signed but it has to go to tender in terms of costs so overall we still have to get costs, tenders and actuals to come out with numbers, it is the early stages yet but it will depend on the construction costs as they come in but we have agreed at least in an MOU that there are ways of dealing with it, if costs are up or down a little bit it is still all workable and it can still be generated for us and the car park spaces for the town itself”.

Head of Operations with Clare GAA, Deirdre Murphy told The Clare Echo the deal represented “a really positive development. Like any of these things they take a bit of time to get them right. We’re delighted that it is another thing moving forward for sure, there’s plenty of projects on the go at the moment, this is one that is looking like it will start in quarter two of 2024 and it will be really exciting for us to have a much better facility for championship 2024 and in terms of what you can do around it, it will be a huge boost for the town. For us, you’re looking to see what changes can we make all the time, there is an outcome here and we’re looking to drive outcomes in Caherlohan, Clareabbey and Cusack Park itself, hopefully people will some positive changes around the Park itself for championship 2024”.

In August 2021, Clare GAA lodged plans with the Council to make the Cloister car park a commercial outlet and they secured planning permission in July 2022. Under those plans, permission was granted for a short-term car park with 85 spaces, with five dedicated to mobility impaired car parking and three bus spaces located in the south east portion of the site to the immediate rear of The Cloister.

Permission was also granted for a long term car park in the undeveloped northern portion of the site, incorporating 115 spaces including six mobility impaired spaces and 13 EV charge point spaces and a bicycle stand with the proposed layout substantially the same as the current car park.

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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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