Soup kitchen boss warned he faces jail over planning row
A LOCAL authority has told the operator of a network of soup kitchens that he could face a six-month prison term or a large fine if convicted of operating an unauthorised soup kitchen in Ennis, Co Clare.
In a warning letter issued to Co Galway man Oliver Williams, Ennis Town Council has told him that his soup kitchen operating at St Flannan's Terrace, Clonroad Beg, Ennis, is unauthorised as it does not have the benefit of planning permission.
The council has told Mr Williams that if he is convicted in the courts of carrying out the unauthorised development, he faces a prison term up to six months or a fine up to €12,697.
The move by the council follows opposition to Mr Williams's soup kitchen in the area. Last Monday, Mr Williams opened up the Twist soup kitchen and was confronted by local residents angry at the lack of consultation by Mr Williams before opening up the kitchen.
At Ennis Town Council's September meeting, councillors backed residents' concerns, calling on Town Manager Ger Dollard to take action to enforce the planning laws at the site.
Now, in the warning letter issued, the council called on Mr Williams to regularise the matter, otherwise the council may issue an enforcement notice.
Mr Williams yesterday confirmed that he had received the warning letter.
He said: "I don't wish to upset anyone and I will be making a decision next week as to whether to seek planning permission for the kitchen or to seek an alternative site."
Mr Williams said there was a demand for a soup kitchen in Ennis.
He already operates soup kitchens at Roscommon, Galway city, Sligo, Loughrea, Athlone and Tuam and plans to open three more at Drogheda, Kildare and Mullingar.
A spokesman for the local residents in Ennis, Sean Doyle, said yesterday that the residents welcomed the council issuing the warning letter.
He said: "We recognise that Mr Williams is doing a good deed and kudos to him for the charitable work, but if he had gone about it the right way in Ennis and went through the proper channels, residents would have been a lot more welcoming."
Asked if residents would be opposing any planning application lodged by Mr Williams for a soup kitchen at the site, Mr Doyle said: "Yes, we would – on the grounds that it would attract an unsocial element to the area and the fear and worry it would create among older residents."