Feelings are running high in Doneraile as work got underway in the past fortnight on transforming the main street in the north Cork town, one of Ireland’s original planned demesne towns.
According to local residents, the proposed changes, which were the subject of a Part 8 planning consultation last year, will ruin the town’s historic Georgian character as well as making it next to impossible for residents to secure parking on the main street.
Doneraile’s character as a planned demesne town was set out in 1728 by the St Leger family. The result was a wide and elegant main street which, according to legend, could accommodate to cavalry regiments walking side by side.
The elegance and Georgian character of the town is now under threat, concerned residents feel, but there are also practical issues relating to access through the town of heavy traffic, parking and congestion.
The plans being implemented by the council include widening the footpaths on the main street and including a raised area, similar to Mallow’s Plaza.
Prior to the consultation last year the plans included a parking space for tour buses visiting Doneraile Park and also a parklet outdoor dining area adjacent to a café but these were not included in the final plan.
Local historian Norah O’Callaghan, the author of a number of history books, has written to the Irish Georgian Society outlining her concerns about the threat to the historical character of the town from the development.
In her note, to which she’s still awaiting a response, the historian wrote of her dismay about the ongoing destruction of the character of the town. According to Norah, this began in 2002 when the Council intervened and, from that point on the town’s Georgian character and elegance began to wane as the paths were widened in some places and reduced to oblivion in others, different types of parking, length ways, vertical and diagonal parking, became the order of the day.
“The latest plans are a continuation of this,” she wrote. “The visual effect of all this is the direct opposite to the elegance and class we were used to.
“This plan is at odds with the County Development Plan which states its objective for any new development for Doneraile is to be in keeping with the scale and character of the town.”
Cork East TD Seán Sherlock has raised concerns about the access of traffic through the town in correspondence with Municipal District Officer, Matthew Farrell.
In his response to Deputy Sherlock, Mr O’Farrell wrote that a public consultation had taken place during the Covid restrictions but insisted this public consultation and engagement with local residents and stakeholders had been ‘carried out to best practice standards, so as to best ensure a ‘bringing together’ of stakeholders, residents, and business owners’.
In the email response to Deputy Sherlock, Mr Farrell wrote that there had been a number of written submissions and email submissions.
“Currently the Doneraile public realm works, which are one of 3 distinct works projects in the area, are almost 90% complete.
“Two of these works projects are now complete and the final project (on the main street) is nearing completion and expected to be so very shortly.
“In essence the public realm works involve replacing paving slabs, tightening the kerb radius of a junction and providing a new road surface over a short distance at this location.
“I am assured that in the case of all 3 of these projects, heritage value has not been lost.
“Also I can confirm that the footpath refurbishment works prescribed in Doneraile will not result in a loss in the number of allocated car parking spaces in Doneraile.”
Speaking to The Corkman this week, Deputy Sherlock said he was concerned that agricultural and commercial traffic was already being adversely affected and that he also was focusing on the heritage issues for the town.
“We’re all absolutely delighted that the urban and village renewal scheme has brought about such changes throughout the country, and that’s to be welcomed, in the case of Doneraile I’m not exactly clear whether the Conservation and Heritage aspects of a planned demesne town were properly taken into account and I have not seen any report from Council’s own Conservation and Heritage Officer in respect of this particular scheme and that worries me slightly.”
Deputy Sherlock suggested there should be a review of the scheme in Doneraile. A request for information and clarification was sent to Cork County Council but there was no response yet.