Plan demanded for vacant Portlaoise schools

Portlaoise Town Councillors expressed their concern for the centre of the Town, once the primary schools move to their new site in Summerhill.

Portlaoise Town Councillors expressed their concern for the centre of the Town, once the primary schools move to their new site in Summerhill.

The two secondary schools have been vacant for the last two years, since the new schools opened on the Borris Road and the VEC moved to their new school a few years ago.

At last week’s meeting of the Town Council, Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald called on the planning section to arrange a meeting with the members of the Town Council and the board of management of the CBS Tower Hill, Scoil Criost Ri, Sacred Heart School and St Pauls to discuss the future plans for the buildings of each school.

Cathaoirleach of Portlaoise Town Council, Cllr Matthew Keegan asked the planning section to offer its vision for the soon to be vacant school sites in the town centre, as he said they may become large derelict sites.

In a written reply to the meeting, Angela McEvoy said the Planning Authority has had pre-planning meetings with parish representatives and their agents for the provision of new schools.

“The Planning Authority will bring this request for an information meeting to discuss the future plans for the buildings of each school to the attention of the parish representatives,” she said.

Cllr Fitzgerald said there was no possibility of the sites being sold in the near future.

“There’s a huge safety issue but also the visual aspect of the empty buildings. I look forward to that meeting. We need to plan for the future.”

Cllr Keegan said it was a potential great area in the centre of town.

“What happens to those sites could be the hallmark for Town Councils for the future,” he said.

“We need to make it a people area, not just a residential area which will add to the quality of life of the area not just to the numbers of people.”

He said the council needed to think how people would look back on it in 50 years time.

Cllr Alan Hand said the schools were an important part of the “historical lineage of the town and must be protected and used for other purposes.”

Cllr Caroline Dwane said she would also like to see the former VEC school building included in the motion, as she said a huge amount of money had been put into renovating the building for Educate Together.

Cllr Willie Aird said he hoped a lot of thinking would go into any decision.

Cllr Kathleen O’Brien said she was not looking forward to the schools moving out of the centre of town.

“What will happen to those buildings. The convent is a listed building. But this will need on-going meetings.

“We’ll have to see what happens, the patrons are not living in Portlaoise. Dilapidated buildings will give Portlaoise a bad name.”