THE chief executive of Ennis Chamber of Commerce, Rita McInerney, has expressed concern over the "doughnut effect" in the town due to the negative impact of out-of-town retail centres.
Her comments came after planners with Clare County Council warned a last-minute amendment by councillors on retailing in the greater Ennis development plan may deter, small and medium enterprises being set up locally.
As part of a variation to the plan, councillors insisted that a large site on the outskirts of Ennis would be zoned for a district centre or a large food store.
Currently, Ennis Town Council is adjudicating on a €40 million retail park plan for the site by Michael Lynch developers.
The plan is to provide 180-200 jobs when operational and 300 jobs during the construction phase.
However, a stream of local organisations including the chamber, the O’Connell Street Traders’ Association, the Abbey Street Traders, along with independent retailers’ group RGDATA, have lodged objections.
The proposed rezoning would possibly make it easier for the planning application to secure planning permission for a district centre.
However, in evaluating the councillors’ move to rezone the site for a district centre in a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), council planners stated the assessment "considers that this type of development may deter small and medium sized enterprise" which is encouraged in the Ennis and Environs Development Plan.
The SEA states: "It is therefore noted that any potential development must not only undertake an assessment of retail impact, but comply with all of the objectives in the Ennis and Environs Development Plan 2008-14."
The statement continues: "Consideration must also be given to the increased level of vehicles in the area which may give rise to increased levels of air pollution and implications [for] the quality of life [of] nearby residents."
Ms McInerney said the chamber had fears of a "doughnut effect" in Ennis, where businesses in the centre of the town would lose custom to out-of-town retail facilities. "The town must grow organically and Ennis can learn from the mistakes of others," said Ms McInerney.
The rezoning, she said, was taking place on a site where a live planning application was currently under active consideration.
Ms McInerney said the businesses in Ennis town centre have found trading difficult "but the summer has been good".
The Lynch plan is currently on hold pending the company lodging a raft of further information on the plan with the council.