Clare County Council has received approval from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage to proceed with a €11.5m public realm regeneration of Ennis town centre.
A funding allocation totalling €8,576,920 has been approved for the Ennis Public Realm Regeneration Project under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF), with 25% match funding from Clare County Council, and will result in significant enhancements being made to the streetscape of O’Connell Square, O’Connell Street, High Street, Bank Place, Old Barrack Street and Barrack Square.
The project works follow on from the successful delivery of significant public realm enhancements at Parnell Street, and town laneways, and bow-ways in 2020 and 2021. Barrack Square and Old Barrack St will be developed as a ‘café quarter’ which is proposed to deliver a higher-quality civic space encouraging people to meet, relax and avail of local retail. O’Connell Square, High Street and O’Connell Street will become more attractive to pedestrians through the delivery of an expanded plaza incorporating seating and planting, an interactive public fountain and a removable marquee at ‘The Height’.
Part VIII planning permission has already been secured for all phases of the project following an extensive period of public consultation. It is anticipated that the project will proceed to construction stage during the final quarter of 2023 following further consultation with local businesses and it will coincide with major foul sewer rehabilitation works in the town centre by Uisce Éireann.
Cllr Pat Daly, Mayor of Ennis, described the project as “a transformational development” for the largest town in Munster.
The Mayor said, “An attractive town centre of Ennis can contribute significantly to its competitiveness from a retail and economic growth perspective. The benefits of an enhanced public realm include improved accessibility, increased pedestrian footfall, street activity and property value, and a longer stay by shoppers and visitors. It also enhances community pride and sense of place and complements the work of active community groups who strive to make the town a better place for all to enjoy.”
Pat Dowling, Chief Executive of Clare County Council, said the project is aligned to Town Centre First policy which recognises that successful settlements are characterised by an attractive public realm, including streets, spaces and parks, that is designed to invite people to meet, mingle and dwell.
“O’Connell Square and Barrack Square will be greatly enhanced to improve their amenity value and to facilitate their use as civic spaces. It also is an important project in the context of meeting our climate targets by significantly improving accessibility for pedestrians through the provision of shared surfaces and increased footpath widths where possible,” added Mr Dowling.
“This project is required to address the identified issues and to deliver a balance between the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles while retaining the historic character and supporting commercial activity,” explained Carmel Kirby, Director of Economic Development and Ennis MD. “The result will be a safer and more attractive pedestrian environment and spaces that can also have a civic function, facilitating the Town Centre as a destination, improving its vitality and enabling Ennis to capitalise on its existing assets.”
Seán Lenihan, Senior Engineer with Clare County Council’s Project Management Office, said that securing approval for the project is the culmination of many years of planning and consultation.
“An extensive public consultation process has been undertaken to inform the design and development of this scheme which is now shovel ready. The scope of the project changed following the public consultation process,” he added. “The Project Management Oﬃce has worked closely with the Ennis Municipal District Office to engage with the public and local businesses and to secure Part 8 planning approval, and we will continue to consult businesses and the wider public through all stages of the project.”
Leonore O’Neill, Senior Executive Officer, Ennis MD, said the primary goal of regenerating the public realm is to improve accessibility for pedestrians, provide an enhanced streetscape and to deliver two expanded, high-quality civic spaces with the overall aim of making the Town Centre experience more appealing and conducive for both retail and social purposes.
“The key features of the project include shared surface treatment, widened footpaths, high-quality surface materials with improved street furniture, lighting and signage, street trees, canopy structures, and an interactive pavement fountain,” she explained.
“The design development for the project was informed through an extensive process of public consultation, stakeholder engagement, walkability audits with various disability groups and the Older Persons Council and builds on the successful public realm enhancements recently completed in Parnell Street and the Laneways and Bow-ways to make the town centre a more accessible and enjoyable place to live, work and visit,” concluded Ms. O’Neill.
Clare County Council will proceed to appoint the successful contractor. The Ennis Public Realm Regeneration Project will be completed on a phased basis over an 18-month timeframe.