McNamara voices opposition to demolition of Francis Street houses

Independent Clare TD Michael McNamara has expressed his strong opposition to the proposed demolition of five houses at Francis Street in Ennis and a more recently constructed home behind the properties to accommodate the development of a temporary carpark.

Deputy McNamara said the idea that the homes would be demolished without any certainty that they will be replaced by residential units in the midst of a housing crisis “seems to me to be misguided.”

He continued, “It would be crazy to see diggers knocking houses in Ennis town centre that were used and can still be used to accommodate families during the worst housing crisis in the history of this county. While I accept there is a shortage of available public parking in parts of Ennis town, Francis Street is one of the few areas where there already is plenty of on-street carparking with additional spaces provided at the nearby Cloister/GAA car park.”

“While I accept that it would be possible to construct a far larger number of dwellings in the form of apartments on the site, as it stands there isn’t even a concrete proposal to do this, much less an application for planning permission and much less still actual planning permission. Furthermore, a decision has not yet been made about what type of development will be on some or all of the site other than a temporary carpark.”

Deputy McNamara has called on Clare County Council to engage with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage to determine how the dwellings can immediately be brought back into residential use and the very recent residential use of at least one of the properties maintained.

“While I accept that some of the houses would require substantial works to make them habitable, that is not the case with all of them as they are in varying states of repair,” he said.

Deputy McNamara noted that the demolition of the houses would also change the unique character of the entire streetscape of Francis Steet.

“I would respectfully suggest that Clare County Council find a use for the fiasco that is the €1.75, Ennis’ Market building before the transfer of any other public assets is even considered,” he added.

Deputy McNamara has also urged the Local Authority to explore other ways of providing housing accommodation in the town.

He stated, “Almost every business premises in Ennis once had families living over them. The vast majority of these units now lie empty for a variety of reasons including particularly building regulations and insurance costs. This is a problem Ennis shares with every other market town in the State. I would love to see Clare County Council and Ennis 2040 DAC lead the way to bring families back to living in the medieval streets of Ennis. Clare woman and internationally recognised architect Shelley McNamara from Lisdoonvarna has well developed ideas about how this can be achieved, and I would like to see the Local Authority and Ennis 2040 DAC approach her with a view to making this a reality in Ennis. That would really put our county town to the forefront of urban regeneration efforts in the country.”

Commenting on further plans by Ennis 2040 DAC for the town, Deputy McNamara said while there are some positive and exciting aspects to the Ennis 2040 proposal, he would also have concerns around how it is structured.

He explained, “It is envisaged that substantial public assets such as Abbey Street Carpark and Harvey’s Quay Carpark (Parnell Street Carpark) will be transferred to the company and the company will have the power to sell them to private interests. While I am assured that the current board of Ennis 2040 DAC would not sanction such a move, board memberships inevitably change over time and the bottom line is that it will have the legal power to turn these public assets into private ownership.”

“At the very least, any transfer of such public assets must be accompanied by a legally enforceable guarantee that they will not become private property because on too many occasions in the past we have seen wealthy developers make a killing from what was initially public assets with little or no benefit to the public,” he concluded.