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Ennis’ elected representatives on Clare County Council have declared the local authority “will live to regret” passing up on the opportunity to buy 17 acres of land at the Rocky Rd if the purchase does not go ahead. 

Both Pat Daly and Johnny Flynn tabled motions for the March meeting of the Ennis Municipal District with the intention of seeing Rocky Rd be bought by the Council. Cllr Daly asked the MD to seek funding with a view to purchasing the site “for the people of Ennis and its environs”. Cllr Flynn sought “a report on the failure to spend dedicated budgets of circa €50,000 since 2014 on recreational facilities at both Ballyalla Lake and the Rocky Road”.

Addressing Flynn’s notice of motion, senior executive officer Leonore O’Neill confirmed that the current position has not changed since the December meeting when Director of Service Carmel Kirby stated the asking price for property at the Rocky Rd “exceeds the value of it as an amenity area” and €25,000 was ring-fenced for the site which may be revisited. O’Neill highlighted that GVA Consultants who are preparing the Ennis 2040 Economic and Spatial Strategy also examined Rocky Rd’s future potential as an amenity area.

Regarding Ballyalla, Flynn was reminded of communication given to elected members that a feasibility study was being carried out. “Once finalised the intention is to make an application for its implementation under the outdoor recreational infrastructure scheme. The members will be aware that the ring-fenced amount for Ballyalla in the sum of €50,675 is being retained as match funding for this purpose”.

Cllr Flynn admitted he brought Ballyalla to attention once more following regular exchanges with constituents “who are annoyed and frustrated” with access to the area. The Fine Gael councillor revealed the Ballyalla Special Protection Area (SPA) survey was his “bedtime reading”, by studying this he discovered “only two of the special protected species are of national importance”. “While it is important to protect the area for the birds, the birds are not attending the area as much as they were in the 90s, while we focus on protecting the birds we have ignored the humans,” Flynn remarked. “The Council haven’t provided facilities for the South or West of the town,” he said of the Rocky Rd, “we should proceed urgently to purchase it”.

“We’ve Lees Rd in the North of Ennis but nothing in the South, it would be a shame to let it go. It would be ideal for picnics for families. Houses have never been built on it, it has never been zoned and would be a great asset,” Cllr Daly mentioned of the Rocky Rd’s potential.

His Fianna Fáil colleague Tom McNamara supported both motions. “The 17 acre site at Rocky Rd should be purchased, I can’t understand how the Council can’t see value for money. It is something we need to do and do fast. If you can’t count it as value for money, I don’t know what you can”.

Mayor of Ennis, Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy gave her backing to the suggestions. “I fully concur with what was said especially by Tom, we will live to regret it if we do not purchase Rocky Rd”.

“This is a decision for Clare County Council and not Ennis Municipal District. I’m proposing it be put on agenda for the next meeting of the Council, I don’t think Ennis Municipal District have the power, we can talk till the cows come home but we need the support of all 28 councillors,” Independent councillor James Breen commented.

His view was disputed by Cllr Flynn, “If the executive have function in purchase of land, the Ennis Municipal District have role in sale of land”, Carmel Kirby deemed Flynn’s interpretation to be correct. “The Council does have to justify and show value for money, Ennis 2040 is looking at an overall plan for Ennis and I’m hoping it will put it in a context,” she added.

Kirby’s point was taken on board by Cllr Daly who agreed, “It might be advisable to wait for the 2040 spatial advice. We will be kicking ourselves if we don’t have buy the site”.

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