A planning application has been received by Wexford County Council seeking permission to demolish the office of Brownes builders in Mary Street and turn the site which contains a section of the old Town Wall, into a car park.
The applicants Richard and Angela Browne have applied for approval to knock down an existing office and store building, bounded on the eastern side by the historic Town Wall which is a protected structure given statutory protection under the National Monuments Act. A number of local residents in Mary Street and High Street have made submissions to the local authority on the proposal.
During pre-planning discussions with the Council, officials agreed that the principle of a car park is acceptable in the town centre location and requested the applicants to retain the services of a conservation architect or archaeologist to advise on how the Town Wall should be protected.
The applicants submitted a report by consultant archaeologist Stafford McLoughlin who confirmed that the site at 4 Mary Street contains an upstanding stretch of Town Wall on the eastern boundary and said it is likely that a town gate known as 'Friar's Gate' was once located in Mary Street which is across the road from the Franciscan Friary.
Mr. McLoughlin noted that a number of previous archaeological investigations were undertaken in the area. In 1993 the monitoring of main drainage installation in Mary Street uncovered a possible ditch. In 2016 no remains of the Town Wall or any associated material were found during water and gas main installations but substantial medieval deposits have been uncovered inside the line of the Town Wall in other archaeological excavations around the town.
There is an open concrete yard on the site running to the base of the Town Wall which is partially covered by a modern lean-to structure fixed in position by steel beams slotted into the wall and this will have to be removed for the car park. A cover of vegetation has prevented an assessment of the condition of the highest parts of the wall.
The archaeologist said the proposed development will not impact on the Town Wall but damage could be caused if the removal of the lean-to is not undertaken with care and the demolition of the office building has the potential to uncover archaeological features of deposits.
Mr. McLoughlin said the development will have a positive impact on the visibility of the Town Wall and the provision of a car park will open up a previously private section of the Town Wall to the public. There are already several small car parks in Wexford in which the Town Wall forms a boundary.
In order to safeguard the monument, he recommended that the lean-to canopy should be carefully removed by hand and the steel beams should be cut at the wall face and not pulled out and the work should be carried out under archaeological supervision.
The vegetation should be trimmed back to the wall face to assess the stability of the upper section. If it is stable, the vegetation can be treated with a weedkiller. If it is unstable, the vegetation should be left intact, as otherwise it would further destabilise the masonry.
Mr. McLoughlin also recommended archaeological monitoring of the removal of the foundations of the office building.
He recommended that future conservation work should be carried out on the section of wall and advised that grant aid may be available to the owner from bodies such as Irish Walled Towns Network and the Heritage Coumncil with any such work requiring ministerial consent under the National Monuments Act.