ABBEY Street in Ennis risks becoming a  “ghost street” after it emerged a planned upgrade of the historic thoroughfare is likely to have slipped down the list of the government’s urban funding priorities. 

At the January meeting of the Ennis Municipal District (MD), a senior official with Clare County Council said that the planned Abbey Street public realm project “may not fit the criteria” for the next round of funding under the Urban Renewable and Development Fund.

Leonore O’Neill, senior executive officer, was responding to a motion tabled by councillor Johnny Flynn (FG) who sought a feasibility study for Abbey Street, in light of recent work to Parnell Street and planned upgrades O’Connell Street and Barrack Street.

Cllr Flynn stated, “Further to public realm upgrade projects completed in Parnell Street and planned to commence for  O’Connell Street and Barrack Street, which combined will have costed circa €20 million,  I and my fellow Ennis Municipal District Councillors ask that Ennis Municipal District carry out a feasibility study of similar works for Abbey Street  in order to apply for Part 8 Planning to enable the lodging an application to Government for Urban Renewable and Development Fund (URDF) funding under what would be a third phase of the Ennis Town Centre Public Realm Regeneration”.

At the meeting, Cllr Flynn said, “There is 800 years of history in Abbey Street. Brian Spring, in ‘Broad history of a narrow street’, refers to one or two tales of ghosts on the street. What we don’t want to see, is that we don’t want Abbey Street to become a ghost street and be left behind”.

Cllr Flynn said Abbey Street is included on the list of priority areas needing an upgrade in the Ennis area for the upcoming county development plan.

He said, “We are probably going to be spending close on €20m on Parnell street and other streets, whether it’s the surface or infrastructure. So Abbey a Street cannot be let become a ghost street and left behind”, he added.

In reply to Cllr Flynn’s motion, Ms O’Neill stated,

“The inclusion of Abbey Street in future public realm regeneration projects is a priority for Ennis Municipal District. Ennis Municipal District, together with Ennis 2040 recently met with the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) team to determine what the likely priorities under Call 3 of the fund will be.  Whilst we are still awaiting the guidelines under the next call, early indications are that there will likely be a focus on Housing for All and Town Centre First”.

Ms O’Neill told councillors that a meeting was recently held to try and gauge what the priorities might be for call 3 of the URDF funding.

She said, “We put forward proposal areas that we would like to include in future calls, one of them being Abbey Street. What are they indicating to us, obviously there are no guidelines at present, it is just an indication, is that the focus is going to be on derelict buildings and converting derelict buildings.”

Ms O’Neill said call 3 appears to have a different focus and is “unlikely to include public realm regeneration projects”.

“We want to advise councillors, that we have highlighted to the department that Abbey Street is a priority for us, but it may not fit the criteria for the next call”, she added.

There was widespread support for the Abbey Street project at the meeting.

Cllr Pat Daly (FF) said, “Abbey Street is the gateway into the square and the gateway into the town. I would not like to see it as a ghost street. I don’t think it will ever be a ghost street but it’s a street that needs upgrading”.

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