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Council Risks Opposition to Multi-Million Library Development

Irish Examiner, Monday, 16th June 2008

Concerns have been voiced over a multi-million Town Council plan to construct a new library on the 'post office field' in Ennis. Councillor Frankie Neylon has warned the council risked a second campaign to prevent development on the town centre site, adjacent to the river Fergus.

After plans were mooted by a developer in the mid-1990s to build a hotel on the unspoilt property, a major campaign was launched by local interests to "save the post office field". The campaign culminated in Ennis Town Council purchasing the four-acre field on behalf of the community. More than 7,000 signatures had been collected in a petition which called on the council to rezone the entire field as an amenity area in the Town Plan. No development has taken place on the site since then.

However, in November 2006, Town Manager Tom Coughlan revealed plans to relocate the de Valera Library in Ennis to a site on the post office field. The proposed development of the 25,000 sq. ft. library would be built on a 0.3 acre site at the edge of the post that office field, with frontage along Bank Place. Mr. Coughlan re-assured councillors the remaining 3.7 acres would remain unchanged as open space. The rezoning of the proposed library site requires three quarters of the nine-member council to vote in favour of the plan.

Last year, consultants informed the council that the proposal to build a library on the post office field site "is the most practical in planning terms". However, the consultants expressed concern that the site is not big enough to absorb the 4,100 sq. metre building required by the library service. The consultants stated that while re-developing the existing library site may be appropriate in some instances, consideration must be given to the continuous operation of the library.

At the council's June meeting, Cllr. Neylon said that the council had spare capacity for library services at the County Museum building now that the council has relocated to its new HQ on New Road in Ennis. However, Mr. Coughlan told the meeting that the objective all the time has been to locate all the library services under the one roof. Cllr. Neylon said that the "people have held dearly to their hearts the post office field or meadow field". Cllr. Neylon said that the council had adopted a motion a number of years ago that the post office field remain as it is. He said, "That hasn't changed".

Fine Gael Councillor, Cllr. Johnny Flynn, said, "I have a huge problem with the site being rezoned to allow the development of a library. I won't be voting in favour of the rezoning and I would question the spending of public funds on something that will meet opposition. If there is a protest against the development of the field, I will be part of that".

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