A thorough period of public consultation is to be held regarding the potential introduction of full-time pedestrianisation measures in Ennis.
By the end of September, all pedestrianisation measures in the town of Ennis which were introduced in response to COVID-19 to enable social distancing are to be lifted with the conclusion of the Temporary Covid-19 Ennis Town Centre Mobility Plan.
Outdoor dining in Ennis was hailed as a success by Cllr Paul Murphy (FG) as he requested “a thorough period of public consultation on re-entering a similar project on a permanent basis” be held as soon as possible. He explained that this would encapsulate the views of residents of affected areas, local traders, relevant stakeholders and the public “with a view to concluding with a proposal that would satisfy the majority and allow Ennis to continue to thrive as we continue to exit from the Covid 19 Pandemic”.
Mayor of Ennis, Cllr Ann Norton (IND) appealed for interest from different groups in Ennis to be gauged to put together a new plan for the town “as there is an opportunity to look at a mobility plan going forward for the betterment of our town”.
In response to their motions before the Ennis Municipal District, senior executive officer Leonore O’Neill detailed that the mobility plan “was not intended as a permanent measure. Clare County Council committed at the outset that any proposal around permanent pedestrianisation of any streets in the town would be subject to full public consultation”.
She added, “We will separately be undertaking a wider consultation with the public through the development of the Ennis Mobility Plan which is a requirement under the National Development Plan and will examine all modes of transport for the sustainable movement of people within Ennis and its environs. This process is due to commence shortly. A full public consultation will be undertaken, either through the Ennis Mobility Plan process, or another means”.
Plenty of representations had been received by Ennis councillors on the subject, Cllr Murphy outlined. “The last few months, we had a good summer in the main part with the weather, it is important that we don’t take that as full response to outdoor dining. I welcome the answer. I would love to think that we would have something, whatever way this consultation goes, we could look to next spring or summer and have something firm in place that this is happening forevermore, the appetite seems to be there for it to continue. The main feedback was that domestic trade was great, most of them seem to be coming onside”.
Accessibility is improving in Ennis, Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) believed, “Ennis is unique across the State, the Census shows 15% of people walk to work, in Ennis 35% walk to work”. He added, “We’ve all seen the benefit of pedestrian friendly upgrades, we need to have an open and frank discussion about this, the majority of people want it. 81% of businesses on O’Connell St don’t have a rear door for deliveries, deliveries from Dublin won’t arrive until after lunch so how do we manage that. We are short about 2,500 car parking spaces in the town based on my analysis”.
Difficult decisions have been made during the pandemic, Cllr Mary Howard (FG) acknowledged. She described the current situation with the winding down of pedestrianisation as “a mess”. She recalled a near mess in the town centre where a woman screamed in fear of her child’s life when a car pulled up behind them. “We need to make a call, the streets are open or they are not. Genuinely people did not know streets reopened at 2pm. The last thing I want to hear is a child has been knocked down in the town or anybody has been knocked down. The sooner we start this conversation the better. People felt safer in the town”.
People are enjoying their freedom since receiving the vaccine, Cllr Pat Daly (FF) noted. “Pedestrianisation was a great success. We have to listen to the people of Ennis and particularly the business people. For the future we have to listen to the people, it is important. As a history will tell you, there are people for and against the pedestrianisation, the majority are for it. Until we have adequate parking in this town, we will not have full-time pedestrianisation. We have an old national school that I would love to see as a full-time car park,” he said.
A demand exists for pedestrianisation, Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF) felt, “people are almost besieging us to bring in pedestrianisation”.
Director of Service, Carmel Kirby said that an Ennis Mobility Plan would be completed next year and would include aspects such as parking, cycling and a pedestrian friendly town.
High volumes of correspondence have been received on the matter, Ms O’Neill acknowledged. “As a MD, there is an onus on us to fully understand what all parties want the town of our future to look like. The mobility plan is looking at a much larger aspect, it is imperative to capture the opinions for pedestrianisation in advance of that plan”.
She informed the meeting that a widespread survey was likely to be completed in the middle of next month which would have a two-week window for submissions.