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*Photograph: John Mangan

Over €4m in funding has been granted towards the Ennis Town Centre Public Realm Regeneration Project while Shannon has lost out in bids to secure an allocation.

On Friday, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien (FF) announced that Ennis is among the successful applicants under the Government’s Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF).

Rejuvenation of O’Connell Square, High Street, Bank Place, Barrack St and Old Barrack Square will result following the funding approval. The project has an overall cost of €5,390,391 with 75 per cent of the cost being granted funded under the URDF, and the remaining 25 per cent being financed by Clare County Council.

Barrack Square and Old Barrack St will be developed as a ‘café quarter’ which is proposed to deliver a higher-quality civic space encouraging people to meet, relax and avail of local retail. O’Connell Square, High Street and O’Connell St will become more attractive to pedestrians with an expanded plaza to be provided incorporating seating and planting plus an “interactive pavement” and a public fountain and removable marquee at The Height.

Plans from Clare County Council “will deliver a new vibrant Town Centre that will benefit residents, business and visitors for many years to come,” Mayor of Ennis, Cllr Paul Murphy (FG) believed.

Chief Executive of the local authority, Pat Dowling detailed that the upgrade was “long-standing objective” and dovetails with Parnell St laneways and bow-ways project. “The result of this investment will be a safer and more attractive pedestrian environment and spaces that can also have a civic function, facilitating the Town Centre as a destination, improving its vitality and enabling Ennis to capitalise on its existing assets.”

Potential of a 40 percent investment in footfall and trading is hoped to follow the investment, Director of Services with responsibility for the Ennis Municipal District, Carmel Kirby outlined. “Public realm interventions are associated with subsequent increases in employment and tourism, increases in property prices and preferences to locate and shop in particular locations. Importantly, it raises the self-esteem and wellbeing of residents and creates a greater demand to locate permanently in an area”.

Project manager, Leonore O’Neill said the purpose in regenerating the public realm is to improve accessibility for pedestrians, provide an enhanced streetscape and “delivering two expanded, high-quality civic spaces with the overall aim of making the Town Centre experience more appealing and conducive for both retail and social purposes. The key features of the project include shared surface treatment, widened footpaths, high-quality surface materials with improved street furniture, lighting and signage, street trees, canopy structures, and an interactive pavement fountain”.

An “exciting future” for Ennis is secured by the allocation, Cathal Crowe TD (FF) maintained. “This is hugely welcome news for Ennis and will enhance the offering the town has for tourists but also make it even more of a focal point for the people of Clare on their visits to the town on weekends”.

Ennis will welcome a more “attractive pedestrian environment” and improve the quality of life for residents, workers and visitors to the town, Joe Carey TD (FG) commented. “The works will dramatically improve the civic space and public realm in Ennis town centre,” he predicted.

Carey called the works “the last piece in the jigsaw to regenerate the heart of Ennis”. He added, “O’Connell Square houses an iconic statue of Daniel O’Connell and is one of the most important public spaces in Ennis town centre. Public events of all natures have taken place there, from political rallies to sets danced at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann”.

Senator Roisin Garvey (GP) added, “We’re going to be able to make the space much more pedestrian friendly, more accessible to all users be they wheelchair users or older people, there will be more trees, a nice canopy for people to gather for outdoor events, it is very exciting”. Abbey St’s absence from the plans was flagged was by Frank Holly of Haven Pharmacy Holly’s.

Disappointed was also expressed by Deputy Crowe over Shannon losing out on its bid to develop a new gateway road into the town from the Ballycasey approach on lands owned by Clare County Council. “This is a hammer blow to the Shannon community,” he stated. “This would have fed into the masterplan for the town and made it a more attractive option for passing motorists to be lured in to stay and spend. Shannon lacks a town centre that most of the towns we know enjoy and the whole aim of this would have been to give more of a heart to the town to entice people in”.

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