*Photograph: John Mangan
A MAJORITY of Ennis businesses do not believe the Ennis Mobility Plan was necessary to ensure social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic – however almost two-thirds of the public have found the initiative to be a positive experience.
That is according to new data collected by The Clare Echo. More than 500 members of the public along with 69 businesses based in Ennis Town Centre took part in two separate surveys conducted online to gauge reaction to the Ennis Mobility Plan along with attitudes to pedestrianisation in Ennis.
Some 52 per cent of businesses do not believe the Ennis Mobility Plan was necessary to ensure social distancing, with 42 per cent in favour of the measure and a further six per cent in the ‘don’t know’ category. While conceding that “a plan was needed,” Michael McGrath of Safeway Tyres added, “but not the draconian measures that were taken, I feel the council overreacted and it’s not the first time… they don’t take criticism well.” Martin Casey of MF Casey Paper & Printing added that the plan was “understandable at the beginning of the first lockdown” but the streets “should have been fully reopened in September 2020”. Many traders reflected the viewpoint that the plan was necessary to ensure safety while shops remained open but not during level 5 restrictions.
However Maeve Sheridan of McHughs Bar on Parnell Street argued, “At the beginning of the pandemic no one knew what was happening and based on the scientific information on hand at the time, this plan was proportional in protecting the people of the town given the narrow streets.” One business owner on Abbey Street added that the Mobility plan was “definitely” necessary “to allow queuing outside shops and to adhere to social distancing as the streets of Ennis are very narrow.”
While the business community remains split on the initiative, there was little doubt that the majority of the public have found the Mobility Plan to be a positive experience. Some 63 per cent of visitors say they have enjoyed the increased space afforded by the Ennis Mobility Plan, a large majority compared to the 32 per cent who answered ‘no’. Five per cent were in the ‘don’t know’ category. An increased feeling of safety was the most noted reason for people enjoying the Mobility Plan. One respondent said, “It is so safe being able to walk up the middle of the streets during these pandemic times” with a wheelchair user stating that is has “changed my life”. Another said, “I have a baby in a buggy. There is absolutely no way to get around town on the footpaths unless the roads are closed” while another parent commented, “I have three young children and it’s a pleasure to bring them along Ennis’s beautiful streets without concern of traffic.”
However some commentators are not in favour of the plan. Safety concerns, damage to businesses and access for elderly and wheelchair users were among the most quoted reasons for people not favouring the Mobility Plan. Comments on this side of the debate included, “No thought given to elderly and people with poor mobility”; “It’s caused severe congestion on Carmody St and Mill Road”; and “the town is definitely a lot rougher since pedestrianisation”.