During a visit to County Clare today Minister of State with responsibility for Planning and Local Government Peter Burke TD visited a number of Clare County Council facilities and projects and received updates from Council staff on key strategic projects.
Minister Burke was greeted at Áras Contae an Chláir in Ennis by Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, Cllr PJ Ryan, Council Chief Executive Pat Dowling, and members of the Council’s Management Team.
Clare County Council welcomed the opportunity to highlight to the Minister housing projects delivered by the Council to date, and discussed the Council’s Housing Delivery Action Plan and the issues and obstacles to the successful delivery of the target of 833 social homes in Clare during the lifetime of Housing for All (2022-2026). The Council also focused on additional actions that if delivered would greatly enhance supported social housing delivery for vulnerable groups, namely homeless, Travellers, disability and elderly persons.
Minister Burke received a briefing on the Ennis 2040 Economic and Spatial Strategy, which was officially launched by the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in October and which will help guide future development and influence significant investment over the next 20 years. Ennis 2040 proposes the prioritisation of sustainable economic activities that will provide an additional 5,000 jobs and grow the town’s population to 35,000 by 2040. The Ennis 2040 Economic and Spatial Strategy has integrated location specific climate adaptation measures, setting the framework for Ennis to become ‘Ireland’s First Climate Adaptive Town’.
Council staff also provided the Minister with an overview of the Shannon Town Centre Masterplan. The purpose of the Masterplan, funded under the Urban Regeneration Development Fund (URDF) and Clare County Council, is to plan for the economic future and spatial pattern for the centre of Shannon Town. The Masterplan proposes to unlock development potential in Shannon Town Centre and guide its built and economic development. The Masterplan is at the concluding stages of development. It is intended following the current round of public consultation that the Masterplan, which will align with the emerging ‘Town Centre First’ policy, will be adopted in January 2022 and an application for significant funding under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) will be made to Government in the new year for implementation of the plan.
During today’s visit, Minister Burke viewed the works on the Ennis Public Realm: Parnell Street, Laneways and Bow-ways project. The project, which is substantially complete, represents an investment of over €5 million in Ennis Town Centre, funded through the URDF and Clare County Council. The project delivers a balance between the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles while retaining the heritage character of the town and supporting commercial activity. The result is a safer and more attractive pedestrian environment and spaces for all sectors of the community, facilitating the town centre as a destination for visitors, improving its vitality and enabling Ennis to capitalise on its unique assets. The next phase of the Ennis Public Realm Regeneration has also secured URDF funding, has Part 8 planning approved, and it is intended to commence construction in Quarter 3, 2022.
Minister Burke’s itinerary included a visit to Clare County Council’s Quin Road Campus, where the Clare Civil Defence headquarters and the newly opened Ennis Hub are located. The Ennis Hub is the latest digital hub to be provided by Clare County Council as part of its DigiClare.ie network, having opened in late November. Comprising hot desks, private office space and a suite of high-quality meeting rooms, the facility is serviced by high-speed broadband. Clare County Council currently has 11 digital hubs in place throughout the county, with additional hubs in Sixmilebridge and Flagmount due to open in early 2022.
The Clare Civil Defence headquarters, which was officially opened in June 2021, is a state-of-the-art, purpose-designed building that is utilised by the Civil Defence volunteers from around the county, and includes training facilities, office accommodation, storage and garage. The acquisition and redevelopment of the headquarters was funded by Clare County Council, supported by the Department of Defence. Clare Civil Defence operates one of the most modern fleets in the country, which is funded through the Civil Defence section of the Department of Defence.
Minister Burke visited John O’Sullivan Park, Lees Road, Ennis, to view the facility and meet with staff who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep the facility in optimum condition to cater for the increased usage. The value of the offering at John O’Sullivan Park was to the fore during Covid-19 restrictions with many people seeking alternatives to continue exercising in the ‘new normal’. Activities and the demand for the facilities is at an all-time high and the Council is seeking funding to consolidate the offering by accommodating Clare Sports Partnership with offices at John O’Sullivan Park.
Speaking during today’s visit, Minister Burke said: “I am delighted to be in County Clare today to view at first hand the impressive work that has been carried out and is ongoing on a range of Council projects. It is clear that positive progress is being made on many fronts, and I am very encouraged by the plans for future development that have been outlined by the Council today.
“There are challenges in housing but it’s clear to see the ambition of Clare County Council today in relation to housing being delivered locally and a significant number of units which will be coming on stream in the coming months. We have a record budget of €4 billion in the Department through Housing for All and it’s positive to see the impact of this budget on delivery plans in Ennis today.”
Cllr PJ Ryan, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, said: “I want to thank Minister Burke for meeting with Clare County Council and for the support that he has shown. Plans are continuing apace for the enhancement and development of our county and our communities, and we look forward to engaging constructively with the Minister and the Department into the future.”
Pat Dowling, Chief Executive, Clare County Council, said: “Minister Burke is very welcome to County Clare today. Clare County Council works closely with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. I am glad to have the opportunity to update the Minister on a number of key strategic projects, including the Ennis 2040 Economic and Spatial Strategy and the Shannon Town Centre Masterplan. I believe these projects will deliver significant economic and social benefits for the people of Clare.”