Fear of hostel plan for Mountmellick church

ONe of Mountmellick’s landmark churches is to be converted to a holiday hostel, if Laois County Council’s planners give their go-ahead.

ONe of Mountmellick’s landmark churches is to be converted to a holiday hostel, if Laois County Council’s planners give their go-ahead.

However a strong objection has been submitted to the planning office from the son of an elderly lady living close to the proposed development.

John Tierney of Patrick Street has given seven reasons to reject the planning application.

“I have serious reservations about this proposed development. Invastion of privacy, concern for welfare - safety of elderly disabled mother, noise, fear of trespass, unsavoury element, unsociable hours of traffic, health and safety issues and guidelines,” Mr Tierney’s objection reads.

Neighbouts to the left of the property, Dr Alex Bergin and his wife Catherine Bergin, also made a submission to the planners, though details are not disclosed.

Permission has been lodged to change the use of the vacant Presbyterian church and attached dwelling house on Patrick Street, to holiday hostel accommodation. A derelict outbuilding to the rear will be converted to an apartment, and parking for cars and campervans with an exit on to College Avenue are also included.

The church which features a limestone spire and a sheltered gravel forecourt, will be a dining room for hostel residents. A new kitchen will be built to the rear.

Both the church and adjacent house were built by Mountmellick’s Presbyterian community in 1855. In 2007, the small community had to discontinue their Sunday services because the church was in such disrepair, finding a welcome in the nearby Methodist church.

The Presbyterians first put the house on the market in 2007, in hopes of raising money to repair their church. However with no takers by 2010, they made the hard decision to sell both together, or risk the church falling into ruin.

The property was eventually bought by a Eugene Conroy for an undisclosed sum. Laois architect Evelyn Duff will oversee its conversion to Mountmellick’s first hostel.

Rev William Hayes who heads the local Presbyterian congregation, welcomed the change of use for the church.

“I am delighted that the building will get some use, rather than fall into further disrepair. It was sitting derelict during a long sales process. It might bring some business to the town too and that would be very positive,” he said, welcoming all to their Sunday Service at 10am, still held in the Methodist church, beside Mountmellick’s town hall.

A decision on the planning application is due on February 15.