Thursday 18 July 2019

Planners give former Mitchelstown Convent development green light

Bill Browne

Cork County Council planners have given the green light for a 32-unit residential development on the grounds of the former Presentation Convent in Mitchelstown. 

In June of last year an application for the development was lodged with the authority by Limerick-based Rockspring Properties (Newport) Limited. 

It made provision for a total of 32 new units on the grounds of the protected structure, which has been idle for years and has become a major eyesore after falling victim to vandals, who have destroyed much of its historic facade and interior. 

Under the plan, the Convent building itself will be repaired, restored and converted into six residential units comprised of four dwellings and two apartments, with the existing chapel remaining in place. It also provides for the demolition of the former convent nursing home wing and other ancillary buildings on the site. 

The development will also consist of nine new detached, six semi-detached and 11 'townhouse' dwellings, and five garages. 

The plan also provides alterations to the site entrance from the local road, the provision of internal roadways, associated car-parking and landscaping of the entire site. 

Following the submission of the application, a single observation was lodged by the Mitchelstown Heritage Society, which was were quick to point out that it broadly welcomed the development, going on to say it had always been its "express goal that a viable and appropriate future can be found for this important site." 

However, it did raise a number of concerns relating to the conservation of the convent building, the proposed demolition of the nursing home wing, the retention of gates at the entrance to the site and the layout and design of the scheme. 

In granting permission for the development, planners stipulated a total of 52 conditions that must be observed both before and during construction.

While planners ruled that works could commence on the six units within the Convent structure and up to nine of the other units, the remaining 17 units have been put on hold until the start of upgrading work on the local waste-water treatment plant and can not be occupied until that work is complete. 

Other conditions dealt with a variety of issues, including the proper conservation of historic and protected structures on the site; that a survey be undertaken to see if bats are living in the building before work can start;  that provision be made for an internal play area; that building only be carried out at specific times of the day; and that all works are carefully controlled so as to safeguard the amenities of the surrounding area and local wildlife. 

Planners also ruled that none of the dwellings can be occupied until water and sewage connections are installed and working; all internal roads and footpaths have been completed; and all public lighting is in working order. 

The developer was also ordered to lodge a bond of €41,444 to guarantee the restoration of the road surface at Convent Hill; and to pay a development contribution of €55,737.69 to Cork County Council. 

Although the decision to give the development the green light was welcomed by local Fianna Fáil TD Kevin O'Keeffe, he expressed concern that 17 of the units would be stalled pending works to the waste-water treatment plant. "This is yet another example of more residential developments being held up in Mitchelstown because the plant has not yet been upgraded," he said. 

"Irish Water need to give this priority and urgently give time-frame for the commencement and completion of these works," he added.