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Pictured outside Áras Contae an Chláir in Ennis, Co. Clare, to mark the launch of the Ennis 2040 economic and spatial strategy are: (front row, l-r) Cllr Ann Norton, Mayor of Ennis Municipal District; Cllr PJ Ryan, Cathaoirleach, Clare County Council; and (back row, l-r) Liam Conneally, Director of Economic Development, Clare County Council; Kevin Corrigan, Chief Operating Officer, Ennis 2040 DAC; and Pat Dowling, Chief Executive, Clare County Council. Photo: Eamon Ward.

An increase in population, jobs and settlement of Ennis has been forecasted following the launch of a new economic and spatial strategy.

Seven years in the offing, Ennis 2040 was officially launched on Friday morning at The Old Ground Hotel by Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar (FG).

Ennis’ long-term development is to be guided by the strategy which in many ways is inspired by Limerick 2030, a document that both Chief Executive of Clare County Council, Pat Dowling and Director of Economic Development, Liam Conneally were involved in.

Four key strategic objectives underpin Ennis 2040 which are its location as a place for investment, making it Ireland’s first climate adaptive town, the concept of a ‘ten minute town’ and making it an accessible place of quality.

Strengths of the Clare county town identified in the strategy include its population of 25,276 making it the largest in Munster, brownfield capacity of 23ha in Clarecastle and 20.8ha at Clare Technology Park, retail, its location between Galway and Limerick, cultural heritage, education, internet speed, quality of life, tourism and its proximity to Shannon Airport.

5,000 net additional jobs are to be created in Ennis by 2040, the strategy expects while it plans to have 37,000 plus people living in the town and its environs with an average population growth of 1.6 percent per annum calculated. Within the town centre, 500 jobs and 100 homes are to be delivered within the next nineteen years.

As first reported by The Clare Echo, nine transformational projects form the basis of the long-term activation strategy of Ennis 2040. They are, Abbey Riverside, Wetlands and Enterprise Area, Cornmarket Precinct, Friar’s Walk, Harvey’s Quay and Post Office Field, Roche Opportunity Site, Former Ennis National School, Ennis Data Centre and Clare Technology Park. The sites according to Chief Executive Dowling will make the town “pedestrian friendly” and help it adapt to climate change.

Speaking at Friday’s launch, the Tánaiste admitted it was “a real privilege” to be present. The strategy is an example for other county capitals and towns to follow, he maintained. “This town has a unique sense of place, a sense of place you are all very proud of and a unique identity you will want to preserve as town expands”.

Placing Ennis as a ten minute town “a place that everything you need is within a ten minute walk or cycle” was a positive move according to Varadkar. He voiced his desire to see Ennis be more than a commuter town as he pledged his personal support and that of the Department to the strategy. “With this plan, this town is only going to go from strength to strength”.

Hotelier Allen Flynn described Ennis as “one of the most beautiful parts of the world” as he welcomed a renewed emphasis on bringing tourism to the town, “something like this will be seen as visionary”.

Dowling was confident, “Ennis can be the envy of every town and community in Ireland”. He felt the strategy would allow Ennis to compete at a regional and international level. The Kilkee resident recalled that Ennis claimed its place as the county town in the 16th century as he painted the picture of the River Fergus flowing through its medieval layout on streets “best explored by foot”.

Liberal inhabitants were how the people of Ennis were described by John Llyod in his 1780 book, ‘A Short Tour, or an Impartial and Accurate Description of the County of Clare’. This liberalism tied in with a statue to Daniel O’Connell, one of the town’s most iconic settings, Dowling noted. He reminded the launch that Clare garnered its nickname as The Banner County because of the banners made by O’Connell’s supporters. “That is the pride and passion of Ennis and Clare. Today is about going forward and building the new and dynamic capital town of Ennis, creating the new story of our town, Ennis 2040, ideals yes slogans no, it’s bold, it’s brave, it is the new banner for the county”.

Economic Development activities have been growing in Clare, Conneally acknowledged as he pointed to Ennis 2040 being the first initiative of this portfolio. “We’re not just talking the talk, we’re walking the walk. COVID-19 has made this plan even more relevant to the future of Ennis,” he stated. It is intended to give Ennis 2040 a statutory basis under the new County Development Plan by including the transformational sites for zoning, he confirmed. Conneally listed certainty, confidence and ambition as “the three words that sum up our approach to the plan”. He concluded, “Ennis 2040 will be a legacy to future generations of Enins, Clare and the Mid-West”.

Chairman of the Ennis 2040 DAC, Gerry Cahill believed the public/private partnership underpinning the strategy was “really interesting”. He outlined, “We all recognise in the last 20 months that world has changed, COVID hasn’t brought change on us, it has sped up the rate of change, we’ve climate change, technological innovation, digitalisation, the world is changing, we as people are great we will generally adapt to change but the town we live and socialise in needs to adapt. The Ennis 2040 Board is tasked to deliver a vision of what Ennis will be in 2040, it needs to be populated and filled in, it’s there with primary goal of improving economic activity in the town”.

Newly appointed Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Ennis 2040, Kevin Corrigan flagged that sustainable growth and quality of life was at the core of the strategy. He commented, “It is a chance to leverage international finance like never before. A plan that everyone dislikes for different reasons is a success, a plan that everyone dislikes for the same reason is a failure, a plan that everyone likes is an Act of God”.

Mayor of the Ennis Municipal District, Cllr Ann Norton (IND) told the launch that Ennis was now looking with hope to “a bright future”. She felt the “sustainable approach will deliver for the town and for our children’s future. It will assist in attracting regional investment”.

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