A three-pronged community development could be on the cards for Rathdowney, with plans to convert the town’s old convent school into a creche, Youth Café and Men’s Shed.
An application has been to Laois County Council by the Rathdowney Vision Group, to change the use of the vacant convent school at Mill Street and Main Street to three separate community services. Named on the application is Cllr John King, acting on behalf of the Rathdowney Vision Group, and Laois Partnership Company is listed as a funding body for the project.
The original St John of God National School was built in Rathdowney in 1912, a single-storey primary school building containing six classrooms which was extended during the 1980s. The school relocated in 2012 and the convent building was purchased by HSE and occupied as a community residence and day care centre known as Erkina House.
It is proposed to subdivide the old school building to into three uses: a creche comprising 163 m2, a Youth Cafe of 191m2, and a Men’s Shed 222m2 with a shed of 85m2 and a toilet block of 101m2. Works will include the removal of asbestos, an enclosed outdoor play area for the creche, the upgrade of toilet facilities and the installation of ramps.
A feasibility report by Evelyn Duff Architects said the building is “considered of significant heritage value”, but is not listed as a protected structure. The report said that work carried out will “ensure that the character of the structure is maintained and any changes or alterations are carried out in such a way as to retain and enhance this character”.
A letter of approval has been provided by the HSE, who approve of the widening of the vehicle access route subject to conditions. Traffic calming measures are also to be implemented, and additional lighting is needed for pedestrian safety.
A letter of consent has been given by Fr Martin Delaney PP Rathdowney, acting on behalf of Rathdowney Parish, owners of the the old convent school.
A decision is due from Laois County Council by July 3.