€15m Abbeyleix retirement village development planned
AN ambitious retirement village and commercial development is planned for the centre of Abbeyleix.
And the man behind it is no stranger to ambitious undertakings, as Peter Stokes oversaw the renovation of Castle Durrow, after buying it in 1998, and he and his wife Shelley recently opened Bramley department store and restaurant in the town.
Now that those previous ventures are up and running, Peter is turning his mind to his next project which he hopes will be off the ground some time next year.
Should the planned new sewage treatment plant be in place to increase capacity in the town, then a planning application for the development will be submitted early next year.
The latest development involves a retirement village, nursing home, primary medical care centre and a number of commercial units.
Peter is also keen to transform McEvoy's pub into a boutique 10 to 15 bedroom hotel.
He also plans to develop a Dutch style cafe featuring coffees, cheeses etc. as well as a cookery school.
As Abbeyleix is a heritage town, Peter is well aware of the planning constraints involved and he cites the year and a half it took to finish the Bramley store as an example. With no conservation officer in Laois, he has been in contact with Department of the Environment and has engaged a conservation architect for the planned development. "It certainly makes the job that little bit more difficult," he said of planning any development in a heritage town.
About three years ago Peter bought a derelict house and McEvoy's pub and around five and a half acres of land which is zoned for commercial and residential use, with the retirement village etc. in mind.
The site can be accessed from Temperance Street although Peter also hopes to make an opening to the development from the Main Street.
Having had a number of pre-planning meetings with Laois County Council, with feedback so far being very positive, Peter has also sounded out local people on their views.
"Not one person has given me any hassle about it, or negative vibes," he said.
"The county council is very happy with what I'm proposing and I want to get the HSE on board," he said.
"A local GP is very keen on participating in this venture and hopefully we will set up various services such as chiropody, dentistry and physiotherapy," he said. He is also keen to enrol the services of local consultants which would reduce the need to travel to Dublin for surgery and treatment.
Should the retirement village get the go ahead, Peter reckons it will be able to cater for a hundred or so retirees.
He acknowledges that his expertise is in the restaurant and hospitality business, having being the proprietor of Coopers restaurants in Dublin, and not in the medical care industry.
"I have no plans to run this myself. There are big management companies out there who run retirement and nursing homes".
What makes the site for the retirement village and nursing home so attractive is its location, close to so many services including the Catholic and Church of Ireland churches, local shops etc.
Pedestrian access and no requirement for transport for such a centrally located retirement village only adds to its appeal.
Since the plans were first floated, Peter acknowledges that the economic climate has greatly changed.
"I had very keen interest from the banks," he laughs before adding, "hopefully their door will still be open and they will give me a good hearing".
Peter hopes the development will dovetail with the eventual by-pass of the town. With the Cullahill to Cashel by-pass to open shortly, Peter is keen that the government "doesn't renege on finishing it, or we will be the only bottleneck left on the main Cork road".
He emphasises that he is keen to develop something which is sympathetic to the heritage status of the town.
"I am not in it for the quick buck," he said, pointing out that he knows the type of finish he wants to put on the development.
He added that the local tidy towns association is very happy with the work they did on the Bramley store and any development would be along similar lines.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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