When I lived in Laois the 'pass through' nature of the county was often lamented upon. "People only pass through Laois, they rarely stop," was a common complaint and referred to tourists, businesses, factories and job opportunities which passed the county by. Laois always seemed to feature as a stop on the way to somewhere else.
However, in the early 2000s an exciting and innovative concept too shape.
Designed to take advantage of Laois's geographical position at the crossroads of Ireland's southern and south-western routes, the idea envisaged developing what was called an 'inland port'.
Utilising the motorway and railway, there were plans to create an enormous distribution hub just beside the M7 Motorway near Portlaoise with a spur to the main Dublin/Cork/Limerick/Tralee rail line.
The venture was to be built on a partnership between the local authority, statutory agencies and private enterprise and it had all the appearance of a real winner.
The proposed location for this port was a farm on the outskirts of Portlaoise beside the motorway. The land with frontage onto the motorway and access to the town was purchased by a local developer for about €12m.
Plans for the farm included a full motorway service station, office blocks, a park-and-ride facility with a link to the railway station along with extensive warehousing and storage facilities.
Unfortunately it was the right idea at the wrong time, the collapse of 2008 took the wind and the finance out of the project.
The farm, extending to 109ac, is now on the market on the instructions of receiver McStay Luby and is being sold as agricultural land with a guide of €2.2m.
Some sources say that up to €600,000/ac was paid for the ground when it was bought, however, the price being quoted by selling agents Colliers and local agent John Dunne of Hume auctioneers is pitched at the upper end of agricultural prices at €20,000/ac.
Located at Togher, Portlaoise just off Junction 17 the property is surrounded by good farmland and progressive farmers but, according to John Dunne, the ground could do with a bit of attention not having been actively farmed for a few years.
Laid out in about 12 fields it has extensive road frontage and a derelict house.
The lower end of the farm is two fields away from residential and industrial developments in the town with access to all services like water, electricity, roads and sewerage.
According to Mr Dunne there is a range of interest in the property coming from farmers, retail companies, oil and service station franchise operators and investors.
The place can be bought in its entirety or in two lots of 33ac and 76ac. The 33ac is possibly the portion most suited for development while the 76ac is the agricultural section of the property.