Tyrrell's land on the Stradbally Road in Portlaoise. Photo: Leinster Express
The first glimpse of housing planned on a large tract of land in Portlaoise by Laois County Council has met opposition from councillors.
Portlaoise councillors have this week had their first view of a Masterplan for Tyrrells Land, a 26 acre parkland site off the Stradbally road near the town centre. (see images below story)
The site which was bought by the council for €1.4million two years ago, will largely be an extension of the People's Park, along with a multipurpose sports hall for public use, which councillors welcome.
It is expected to also provide land for playing pitches for five adjacent primary schools.
Only 5 acres of the land is considered suitable for housing due to floodzones, mature woodland and the protected esker ridge, known as The Downs.
Over half of the 87 homes planned would be one and two bedroom multistorey apartments for elderly people, and councillors have told designers to head back to the drawing board and redesign it.
Two of the councillors told the Leinster Express why apartments are not the answer.
Sinn Féin Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley says it is a "a lost opportunity" to build family homes.
"It is a complete and utter lost opportunity for young families looking to get onto the property ladder. I and my party have been pushing affordable and cost rental and social homes. This is just a glorification of apartments, like something you'd see in Disneyland," she said.
The plan is for two blocks of apartments up to five stories high, with 10 one bedroom units and 37 two bedroom. There would also be 10 duplex one bed homes, 18 duplex two bed homes, eight two bed terraced cottages and 4 three bed townhouses.
Cllr Dwane Stanley said it is her understanding that the development is being bought by the Clúid approved housing body, who have Government funding to creating housing for the elderly.
"I don't blame the consultants, they got their brief from Joe Delaney (Laois County Council Director for Housing) for what he wanted on the site. We want to see a mix of housing and a focus as well on the elderly and people with disabilities, that's what makes a community."
She is concerned generally at the number of small apartments only for the elderly currently planned in Portlaoise, including two separate developments of nursing homes and apartments at either end of Harpur's Lane.
"In my opinion, developers are looking for their best buck in high density housing, we will end up with the town destroyed with apartments. We are not going to pack and stack our elderly," she said.
Fine Gael Cllr Thomasina Connell said all of the Portlaoise councillors are in agreement on a redo of the Tyrrells Masterplan.
"I welcome that the council bought this land, we lobbied for that. It is a huge amenity for Portlaoise. Most of it will be a park and the second strand is housing. It is a beautiful plan but the fact that it delivers multi storey apartments does not meet the needs of people on the housing list. Most of them are looking for three and four bed houses because they are families.
"I know apartments are sustainable and families live in them in Europe but in Ireland it is not our tradition. It doesn't quite meet needs so we have looked for it to be revised.
"We have a lot of apartments for the elderly going up in Portlaoise, between the CBS, the convent and the county hotel, my view is we will have enough, we need to pause, that is the consensus. this is just a small bump in the road," Cllr Connell said.
She welcomed the sports hall plan.
"That is what the community have been calling for. We asked that it will accommodate basketball and handball and other sports for Portlaoise and the wider community and that appears to have been done."
The original vision for the site also included a small retail and services area, but there is no provision in the drawings for this. See them below.
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