A major development plan to rejuvenate Bunclody was unveiled at this month's meeting of Enniscorthy Municipal District
Senior architect with Wexford County Council, Shay Howell, outlined the details of the plan to the councillors.
He said the area in question adjoins to the main street and the area next to the river Slaney.
During is presentation of slides to the members Mr Howell said: "The bit on the right-hand side of the bridge is a bit we are in the process of trying to acquire.”
He said the area where the toilets are is in the ownership of the local authority but the area of land behind the toilets isn't.
"We would like to acquire it also, if possible, but that’s not progressed at all at this point,” he said.
Mr Howell said the initial development plan for Bunclody ran out in 2015 and the current proposals “are under the influence of the Wexford Development Plan which is in draft form at the moment.
"There are a number of objectives there within the Bunclody part of the development plan which are interesting objectives," he said.
In particular he highlighted an objective of the plan ‘to protect and promote the sense of place, its culture and quality’ and also objective B44, which aims to ‘identify a suitable location of a neighbourhood park including a play area, adult gym and playground close to the town centre’.
Another objective highlighted by Mr Howell was one that sets out 'to support, where resources allow, the provision of a community centre facility in or close to the town centre’.
In his presentation to the members Mr Howell said the context of the plan – relative to the Draft County Wexford Development Plan – was to create and sustain “a vibrant settlement with a strong sense of place, an attractive public realm, mix of uses and a high quality residential environment” while also maximising the role of Bunclody as a strategic service and employment centre.
The proposed plan also aims to develop the town’s tourism and leisure potential with particular emphasis on its cultural heritage.
Mr Howell said the overall aim of the plan is to create a town park that’s well connected to the river Slaney, Market Square and the Mall, while also improving the public realm adjacent to Market Square and create a civic space for a variety of uses.
He presented two concepts to the members and said the first one was the preferred option.
He said Concept 1, based on the local authority acquiring the land it hoped to get, was a concept of what could be done.
It would utilise a site adjacent to Market Square for parking, incorporate new toilets and a community facility such as a tourist information office or something similar.
It would also create a one-way system around Market Square to encourage pedestrian activity while generating 10 additional parking spaces. The members were told the e-parking spaces would also be provided around the square.
It would also see Market Square, the new civic space and proposed town park interconnected with no vehicular access to the town park.
"So we would have a new civic space, an extended civic space which would very much be interconnected with what’s there,” he said.
Concept 2 would see the existing toilets upgraded and a small community space added with a smaller civic space interconnecting with Market Square and the town park.
Mr Howell said that option was similar to the first concept except it was based on the local authority not owning the piece of land north of the toilets.
“We don’t that piece of land at this point so we can’t really assume that we’ll get it,” he said.
“However, if we don’t then we would be still be extending the town square out towards the new area,” he said.
There would be parking spaces within the town park and around 12 additional car park spaces. Mr Howell said that of the area in question being considered for the proposed development, some is in the ownership of the local authority, some is in the process of being acquired and some “we would like to acquire”.
“We are making progress there,” he said.
“It incorporates about an acre of land which is in the green zone,” he added.
“We want to create a town park that is well connected to the Slaney and maximise the resources of the town and in particular tourism and the Slaney is a huge one.”
While describing Market Square as “a nicely appointed area that is well used”, Mr Howell said the aim is to enhance it by adding more space to it.
He said the river strategy is something that has to be kept in mind because it’s very important in relation to the river and said the nature of the river has to be protected.
“What we are proposing is to stay back from the river with our paths and cycleways, our equipment and seats so that we have a natural gap,” he said.
Mr Howell said the vision would include having some natural walkways leading out of the park with a natural look with solid walkways in the park itself capable of taking bicycles and prams comprised of a coloured, fixed-sand concrete finish.
“We would like the play areas to be very natural with mounds and slides down the mounds or having logs to climb over and that it would be more like a countrywide walk than being a coloured metal variety,” he said.
“That type of polished metal finish would give a different feel altogether than what we envisage,” he added.
He said that in the future when the focus would be on building a community building or toilets the idea would be to develop something modern but in keeping with the nature of the park to bridge the gap between the natural park and the town.
“The longer term hope is that we get the park in place as a starting point and there is a huge potential to have walks up and down the river,” he said.
“We haven’t approached any landowners outside the area at this point so I didn’t want to show any plans that we have there for what might be the second phase of this,” he added. The presentation was met with widespread approval from the members.
Cllr Jackser Owens asked about the overall number of car park spaces that would be developed to which Mr Howell said between 10 and 20.
“We are mindful of encouraging people to stay back from the river and there will be a bit of flexibiity there and we might be looking at more spaces through the one-way system as well,” said Mr Howell.
Cllr Owens welcomed the overall proposal and said it “will be grand for the town”.
Mr Howell said one thing the town hasn’t done to date is address the river as the great resource that it is.
Cllr Kathleen Codd-Nolan said the proposed plan was “very positive for Bunclody”.
“It’s great to see it because there really hasn’t been a huge amount done in Bunclody and it’s such a beautiful natural town with natural resources and the river is hugely important,” she said.
She asked if there were two separate landowners involved in relation to the areas not in ownership of the local authority and she also asked about any possible flooding issues.
“When it’s bad it does flood along there where you’re talking about a walk in towards the fire station and across the N80 there so I’m just wondering what impact that would have on the whole thing and how would you rectify it?” she asked. Cllr Codd-Nolan also pointed out the area is also part of an SAC [Special Area of Conservation].
Mr Howell said water would be an issue if there was flooding and that water would “certainly intrude onto paths” but he said the river strategy made allowances for activities that are not building orientated.
“You wouldn’t want to be building houses or shops because they will flood eventually because it’s becoming more regular now but the strategy would be that if flooding a path or planting trees, well the paths can be cleared off again once the water has receded so you are not damaging property as such,” he said.
“Certainly, if there is a flooding there and no-one can use it for three or four days well that’s the bad side of it but you’re not flooding homes or shops,” he added. “Within the strategy those things are allowed within those distances so you can have your cycle paths.”
Cllr Barbara-Anne Murphy also welcomed the proposal before commenting that Bunclody was built “on two rivers”.
“Bunclody is built on two rivers and we don’t actually have public access to either one,” she said.
"At least we didn’t until the adventure hub was built and we have access through that for now but there isn’t public access to either the Clody or the Slaney and I think this plan is hugely welcome,” she said.
“It has been an objective of the County Development Plan going back to have a path or walk along the river Slaney and the hope that it would turn into a blue way and utilise the river as the main artery of the county,” she added.
"The river Slaney goes right down through the county and is very important to our entire county, but if we can start it here it would show that we are starting walks in Bunclody.”
She pointed out there are walks in Enniscorthy and they’re being worked on in other areas and commented: “If we can get them up along the river then it would turn into a spectacular thing for the county not alone for the town of Bunclody.”
She then reiterated her point that access to the river has been “hugely absent” in Bunclody and that it’s something that is wanted and needed.
“Bunclody is also a hub for walks in the entire district both for County Wexford and County Carlow and even into County Wicklow and if you had proper space where you could have your boards, meeting places and setting people off on their walks along the cycleways such as the Nine Stones cycle trail it would be ideal to have it there too.”
She also pointed out there is a playground in the town already but it’s in County Carlow and is over 30 years old,
“We don’t have a playground on the Wexford side and it’s where the majority of people live and I think it’s something that hugely needs to be addressed,” she said.
“This would be part of the major plan that we have been adding on money in terms of rates and property tax going back to 2014, that a development proposal for Bunclody was supposed to be coming along so I am delighted to see it come before us.”
Mr Howell then said he was presenting the idea to the members looking for their support and emphasised that it wasn’t “the finished article”.
"What would we hope is that we can either get more land to make it a little bit bigger,” he said.
Cllr John O’Rourke asked, in the event the land the local authority hoped to acquire didn’t materialise, how much the project would cost if Concept 2 was the one implemented.
He also asked if the development of a playground would also include facilities for people with autism and other disabilities.
Mr Howell said it was too early to provide a cost figure on the project because factors such as land negotiations had to be factor in but in relation to Cllr O’Rourke’s second query he said: “Any park or any walkway we do will incorporate access for all.”
“The equipment would also have to be suitable or all to use,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do but also because we would be looking for funding on it and the first question on the funding would be ‘does it cater for all?’ so it would be a requirement.”
The Cathaoirleach, Cllr Cathal Byrne, cautiously welcomed the proposal but added: “My fear is that so often we come here with solid and comprehensive proposals and the proposal and plan doesn’t turn into an action and reality.”
He said there is funding set aside for a project in Bunclody and said: “I would hope we will see this project through to completion. The work you’re talking about doing shouldn’t take years and years to be built and I would like to see us implement this. It’s a solid plan and I would be supportive of it.”
The plan was then proposed by Cllr Murphy, seconded by Cllr Owens and agreed by all the members.