A group of Ennis Chamber members this week lodged a submission/observation in relation to the proposed offline service area at Junction 12 adjacent to the M18, at Killoo, Clarecastle.
While the group is not opposed to an online motorway service area (i.e. those accessed only from the motorway), as per TII policy guidelines, they object to an offline development of this magnitude located at the cusp of Ennis, on the commuter corridor serving Shannon/Limerick.
The proposal includes a service station building totalling 2,462sq.m. (26,500 sq. ft.) which includes retail shop, food court and seating areas, staff offices/training room, children’s play area and travel and tourism information area. General site development externally includes fuel filling points, fuel delivery area, general amenity space, parking for 142 cars, 10 coach, 15 HGV and eight motorcycle spaces.
The objectors are drawn from existing businesses involved in the convenience grocery, forecourt, general retail, hospitality and tourism sectors in Ennis.
Hogan’s Mace, Ryan’s Centra, Donnellan’s Centra, Daybreak Crusheen, The Old Ground Hotel, Temple Gate Hotel, Hotel Woodstock, Treacy’s West County Hotel, County Boutique and The Woollen Market are amongst the businesses to object.
The objection lists a number of reasons, including:
1) The offline nature of the proposed service station which may result it in becoming a destination in its own right.
2) Scale of proposal in an un-serviced rural area and the visual impact of the proposed development on the rural landscape
3) Traffic safety issues
4) Impact on vitality and viability of Ennis town centre including negative impact on tourism/ seasonal footfall to the town (including stop-over coach tour business currently using Ennis Coach Park) and job displacement.
5) The application is contrary to National and County Development Plan Policies
The group raises concerns regarding jobs displacement – as opposed to the creation of wholly new jobs – pointing to the fact that a Motorway Service Area accessed off the local road network will have a strong negative impact on local businesses, many of whom may be forced out of business.
In addition to established businesses directly affected in Ennis, the group also highlight that tourists who currently stop, shop and eat in villages on the way to Cliffs of Moher and other attractions in West and North Clare may instead stop at the motorway service area.
In October 2017, Ennis Coach Park, adjacent to Clare Museum and Ennis Tourist Office won ‘Coach Friendly Destination’ accreditation for the town, making Ennis one of only three towns in Ireland to achieve this accreditation from the the Coach Tourism and Transport Council of Ireland (CTTC).
This has resulted in the CTTC creating an awareness campaign amongst its coach tour operator membership of the facilities available in Ennis and the town’s attractiveness as a destination. The committee responsible for getting the accreditation across the line has since built a strong relationship with the Cliffs of Moher management team, to work towards diverting traffic to and from the Cliffs to Ennis and the fruits of that work can be seen with greater tourist footfall in Ennis this year, something the objectors believe will be threatened by the construction of a motorway service area incorporating coach parking spaces.