*Councillors were not briefed before the Ennis 2040 DAC appointed the design team. 

PLANS FOR A TEMPORARY car park in Francis Street have been scrapped altogether with a design team appointed to develop a masterplan for a mixed-use development on the site.

On Tuesday, Ennis 2040 Designated Activity Company announced that Vincent Hannon Architects (VHA) in collaboration with Cundall Consulting Engineers and Ian Douglas Environmental Consultants had been successful in the tender process to prepare a Master Plan for the 0.327 hectare site.

This design team are to develop a master plan for mixed-use sustainable development for Francis Street, Ennis Town Centre. It will be managed under an agreed Service Level Agreement with Clare County Council.

A statement issued by Ennis 2040 DAC said the site had the potential to include up to 45 housing units. Master planning will commence immediately with the aim of launching a comprehensive public consultation process in four to five months’ time to give the public an opportunity to view and comment on the proposed designs. Subject to a successful planning application, it is anticipated the project will be completed by early 2026.

This press statement issued by Ennis 2040 DAC came as a surprise to elected members of the Ennis Municipal District who had not been aware of the appointment prior to its release.

Mayor of the Ennis MD, Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy who also sits on the Board of the DAC said the appointment “represents a significant step towards realizing the town’s vision for a sustainable and vibrant future. The development has the capacity to meet the growing demand for quality housing while setting a new benchmark for sustainable multigenerational living in Ennis. Our County Development Plan 2023 – 2029 sets ambitious targets for badly needed housing over the coming years with an identified need for 1,550 units in Ennis over this period”.

Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, Cllr Tony O’Brien (FF) welcomed the appointment. “I’m looking forward to seeing their considered designs and, in due course, how this development will have a positive impact on our town and meeting the needs of modern families”.

Pat Dowling, CEO, Clare County Council, commented, “I’m delighted to see this first step being taken. This development in the making will build on the submission for affordable housing by Clare County Council earlier this year”.

Chair of the Ennis 2040 DAC, Gerry Cahill described it as “an important milestone” marking the first phase in the delivery of the strategy’s first brownfield development. “The Francis Street site offers huge opportunity for a high-quality mixed-use development of real scale”.

Chief Operating Officer of Ennis 2040, Kevin Corrigan believed the design team had “a wealth of expertise and a track record of successful projects. Their collective experience in sustainable design and urban development will be instrumental in crafting a Master Plan that reflects Ennis’ unique character”.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) said, “it is a little bit disturbing that the Mayor of Ennis is quoted on these plans for Ennis 2040, she is a board member of Ennis 2040 DAC but is not reflecting the views of all seven councillors, she is expressing the views of the company. I haven’t been informed as an elected member of the specific plans that Ennis 2040 have”. He added, “This is not a Clare County Council plan, it is a plan by Ennis 2040 who don’t as of yet own Francis St, I will be voting against any transfer”.

Knocking six houses “seems absurd particularly on Council owned land with potential for further housing units,” Flynn maintained. He said he was not in favour of the building of an apartment style complex in Francis St. “I understand that the former Ennis Town Council had to demolish its multi storey 18 two bed Apartment development, Arás Ui Coughlain , on Drumbiggle Road in the past due to a number of issues including I understand antisocial behaviour. A large multi storey development at Francis Street would not be appropriate in the context of the modern one and one and a half storey housing across the road on Francis Street that were designed to complement the cottages”.

Cllr Pat Daly (FF) though not briefed welcomed the appointment. “It is very welcome news that a design team has been appointed. The proposal for a car park should never have happened particularly with six houses there, any housing development on that site is welcome. It shouldn’t have come to this, there’s six houses and houses are very welcome in the area”.

Daly continued, “hopefully now common sense will prevail as far as the future of Abbey Street is concerned and that the Ennis 2040 Board will plan ahead by finding an alternative site for their impressive town centre development that will clearly get full support from the business people and general public of Ennis and the county of Clare”.

Deep concerns have also been voiced by the Francis Street Alliance (FSA) on the appointment of a design team in the absence of public consultation. In an email sent to all Clare councillors, the FSA emphasised the urgent demand for immediate action to alleviate the housing crisis and protect the well-being of the community.

Tim Hannon, Chair of CATU Clare and representative of the FSA commented, “The appointment of a design team without proper consultation and transparency around the terms of reference for the development is deeply concerning. We urge councillors to recognize the impact of their decisions on our community and to take immediate action to address the urgent housing needs of our residents”.

Fellow FSA member, Tommy Guilfoyle said, “The Francis Street development stands at a crucial juncture, and we earnestly appeal to councillors to demonstrate their unwavering commitment to our community by signing the pledge. This pledge places utmost importance on retaining any development under public ownership, while also prioritising the construction of purpose-built housing for people with disabilities and age-friendly accommodations on the site. By endorsing this pledge, councillors will showcase their dedication to creating a development that caters to the diverse needs of our community. We implore the council to prioritise the well-being and future of our community by engaging in transparent decision-making processes and ensuring that the voices of the public are heard throughout the entire development process”.

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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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