*Ground investigation works continue in Abbey Street. Photograph: Ray Conway.
A WAR OF words has erupted between the Ennis 2040 DAC and Save Ennis Town.
As evident by the majority of views at the Retailers of Ennis meeting held in May, attended by over 200 people which led to the formation of the Save Ennis Town group, there is strong opposition to the mixed-use development identified for Abbey Street car park as part of the Ennis 2040 Strategy.
Commencement of the ‘big dig’ in the car park to allow for archaeological works to be undertaken has led to the first of what is expected to be many spats between the Ennis 2040 DAC and Save Ennis Town.
Ennis 2040 DAC have accused Save Ennis Town of making “false claims” in their criticism of the ‘big dig’ and labelled them as a “protest group” in a statement to The Clare Echo.
They said the description of the DAC as a private company was misleading and indicated it was a 100 percent owned subsidiary of Clare County Council and “is a not for profit and the members of Board consist of public, private and local elected representatives which give their time voluntarily”.
Reference to the “ill-conceived and expensive development” in the Market by Save Ennis Town was also criticised by Ennis 2040 DAC who noted it was “an entirely separate development and bears no relation to any of the Ennis 2040 projects”.
Views that Ennis 2040 DAC have little interest in engaging with the public and businesses on their plans were rejected. When defending the levels of engagement, a spokesperson for the DAC said the strategy was completed in 2021 “by international experts on behalf of Clare County Council after two years of study, analysis and extensive stakeholder consultations with local representatives, local communities, and businesses”. Public consultation will be held on the Abbey Street development in the autumn or winter of this year “when draft plans become available, giving everyone the opportunity to have their say”.
Although a historical record of Ennis has been published by the Royal Irish Academy, an archaeological excavation licence has not been granted for Abbey Street car park before, the spokesperson stressed. “The Ground Investigations are necessary to shed light on the rich archaeological heritage of the site. The findings from these excavations will inform the design process of a landmark building”.
On the loss of 25 car parking spaces and parking charges income during the works, the Ennis 2040 DAC spokesperson stated, “Every effort has been made to minimise disruption over the short period of these excavations. Loss of income from car parking should also be minimal as 60% of the car park is allocated to permit holders”.
Save Ennis Town in a statement to The Clare Echo took umbrage with the response of Ennis 2040 DAC. A spokesperson confirmed, “Save Ennis Town are currently working on a detailed statement to refute these unfounded allegations, which we will issue in due course”. The statement added, “Save Ennis Town reject these allegations and regret the implication that we would, in any way, attempt to mislead or supply false information to the public on an issue of such crucial importance to the future of our county town”.
Referring to Save Ennis Town as “protesters” and a “protest group” was incorrect according to the group who clarified that it was “a voluntary community group” formed following ‘deep concerns’ over the proposed plans “to build on the Abbey Street Car Park and the destructive effect such an ill-conceived development would have on the business and civic life of the town”.
“From the outset Save Ennis Town have been clear that, as a group of townspeople, some with family connections to Ennis going back many generations, we only want what is best for the place where we live. Save Ennis Town is not against the right type of development in the right location in Ennis. However, the group, and also the more than 3,700 individuals who have signed our petition, believe that the proposed plans for the riverside car parks in the town are the wrong type of development in the wrong location,” the statement added.
In June 2021, Clare councillors voted 23-5 in favour of setting up the Ennis 2040 DAC and giving a loan of €10m to deliver the Ennis 2040 Economic & Spatial Strategy. In April of this year, the transformational sites were included in the Clare County Development Plan 2023 – 2029 which was adopted unanimously by Clare County Council.