*Photograph: John Mangan

A SITE THAT had been intended to become a €1m temporary car park in Ennis is now earmarked as the county’s first location for an affordable housing scheme.

Last October, Clare County Council acquired a block of six cottages with the intention of using the site as a temporary car park and then a mixed-use development as part of the Ennis 2040 Strategy, they had initially been on the market for €700,000.

In March of this year, there was a split in the Ennis Municipal District when a Section 183 to dispose of the lands and buildings was passed by the smallest of margins (4-3) backing the plans to use it as a temporary car park and then a mixed-use development, the disposal was set to cost €1.1m for the 0.327Ha site.

These plans led to the creation of the Francis Street Alliance (FSA) who hold a public protest in April and within a month the County Council announced they were postponing plans to demolish the cottages.

Representatives of FSA met with Director of Social Development in Clare County Council, Anne Haugh and Director of Economic Development, Carmel Kirby in the past fortnight (October 6th). Both parites

Plans for a temporary car park at the Francis Street site are off the table and instead it is envisaged to be used for affordable housing, the first in the county. A spokesperson for Clare County Council told The Clare Echo, “As the focus for Francis Street is centred on the delivery of affordable housing, the Local Authority outlined the process for obtaining approval for a new affordable housing scheme, criteria to meet, timelines, eligibility of applicants, and the potential advertising and marketing of the scheme.

Clare was granted access to the Affordable Housing Fund by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage in early 2023. “Clare was one of a large number of counties that were initially deemed ineligible to deliver affordable housing but, following a detailed market analysis conducted for Ennis and Shannon, Clare County Council was successful in its submission to have schemes considered for both towns. Under the Government’s “Housing For All” action plan to date, Clare County Council has successfully exceeded its targets for delivery of social housing. The Local Authority looks forward to successful delivering a new affordable housing scheme in Ennis, subject to Departmental approval”.

FSA is comprised of Clare Leader Forum, Hands Off Ennis Post Office Field, Sinn Féin’s Ennis cumann and the Community Action Tenants Union (CATU) Clare. In a statement to The Clare Echo, the group said it “will continue to oppose projects that we feel may be a dilution of local democracy and may see the transfer or sale of public land by the Clare County Council to the Ennis 2040 DAC”.

Underperformance on the provision of social and affordable housing in Clare was among the items raised by FSA during their meeting with members of the Council Executive. “The Council Executive confirmed that the planned temporary carpark will no longer go ahead and that Co Clare will see its first affordable housing scheme built on the Francis Street site. Clare County Council and the Ennis 2040 DAC are planning and managing this scheme and this is ongoing. A detailed advertisement campaign is due in January 2024. Whilst some of the public’s concerns were alleviated, a number of questions were left unanswered and a number of new questions have arisen,” FSA stated.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

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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