The St. John of God Sisters have been granted planning permission with conditions by Wexford County Council for a major redevelopment of their existing convent in Newtown Road which is a protected structure.
The project follows the building of a new 30-bed community residence, six one-bed apartments and an oratory at the rear of the convent to accommodate members of the congregation.
The go-ahead has now been given to refurbish the old three-storey convent and carry out conservation repairs which will involve the removal of an external fire escape, the demolition of a laundry building and lean-to stores, roof repairs and the repointing of external masonry as well as changed to the internal lay-out.
A number of existing bedrooms will be amalgamated to provide larger rooms and en suite facilities, resulting in a total of 17 bedrooms in place of the existing 34 bedrooms.
The existing 140-year old convent, chapel and entrance are listed as protected structures in the Wexford Town Plan.
The planning application was reviewed by the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht which raised no objections but suggested changes to the facade finish. The Arts Council, Heritage Council, An Taisce and Failte Ireland were also notified.
The demolition of the laundry room will leave room for a car park extension including seven new car parking spaces.
Local authority planners said they believed the proposed internal and external alterations to the protected structure would be 'sympathetic to the existing building and would contribute to the sustainable use of this heritage asset'.
'It is considered the proposal would be acceptable in design and heritage terms and would ensure the protection and preservation of this protected structure and its heritage', commented a planning inspector.
Among the conditions attached to the permission are that before work commences, a full photographic record must be made of the protected structure and agreed in writing with the planning authority, having special regard to the interiors that will be potentially affected.
Details of the method to be used in refinishing the exterior facade must also be submitted to the Council and full specifications for the replacement of upgraded doors and windows must be agreed in advance, in the interests of the architectural heritage of the area.
Planners said they considered that the demolition of the fire escape will have a positive visual impact on the exterior of the building.
As the proposed development does not involve the creation of any new floor space, the convent will not liable to pay development contributions.
The applicants submitted an Architectural Heritage Impact Assessment to support their application, which was prepared by Jack Coughlan Associates Conservation Architects.