Minister casts doubt on plan to demolish protected shops


PLANS TO demolish a pair of historical buildings in Ennistymon, Co Clare, to make room for a roundabout on the road to Lahinch would be “contrary to the thrust” of the 2000 Planning Act, Clare County Council was told.

Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan said his department had advised the council that any proposal to demolish and rebuild the protected structures at Blake’s Corner, set back from the current building line, would “require strong justification”.

In a written reply to Michael McNamara TD (Labour), he said it would also require “a robust and detailed methodology that demonstrated that such an approach is both feasible and appropriate without any further loss of character than is absolutely necessary”.

The two mid-19th century buildings, with Liscannor-slated roofs and original shopfronts, were listed by the county council as protected structures several years ago after featuring in books on Irish vernacular architecture and posters of historical shopfronts.

Mr Deenihan said his department had also advised the council that “if the envisaged removal and set back were to proceed, a sustainable and suitable new use would have to be found for both structures” that took into account a potential increase in traffic.

Mr McNamara had asked the Minister for his views on preserving the two shop buildings and if he would support a proposal to move them “complete and intact” to allow for an improved junction or if he favoured “their destruction and reconstruction”.

In his reply, Mr Deenihan noted that both buildings were on the Record of Protected Structures for Co Clare and said this “places a duty of care” on their owners and, under the 2000 Planning Act, they could only be demolished in “exceptional circumstances”.

The Minister’s statement has been welcomed by the Save Ennistymon’s Heritage campaign, which wants the council to repair the two buildings pending an application under Part 8 of the Act to demolish and rebuild them some 10m further back.