Artist's impression of the convent site housing development, one of five big projects in Portlaoise funded by an Urban Regeneration Programme
Some of the five major Portlaoise housing regeneration projects in the pipeline are expected to start construction in 2021.
The ambitious schemes are hoped to return life to the town centre, fill housing shortages and save some of the town’s iconic derelict buildings.
Sites include the old convent, the former CBS school land beside Portlaoise train station, the former county hotel on Main Street, and two new housing developments .
All are being funded by the Urban Regeneration Programme.
Laois County Council’s Director of Housing Joe Delaney this week told the Leinster Express that he hopes to have shovels in the ground this year for at least two of them.
“The CBS project got planning approval last July and it is in a detailed design process now. It is a turnkey project in collaboration with Clúid and the site owner. We hope it will start in 2021, and finish by 2022 or 2023,” he said.
That plan for 67 units also includes a council owned public carpark with 94 spaces that rail commuters can use. Mr Delaney said this will be ready at the same time the housing is finished.
Also expected to start this year is a 60 house estate replacing the derelict Hepburn Court estate, adding in a disused field behind it, all on the Ballyfin road.
“It is possible for construction to start before the end of 2021, once we can lodge planning in the first half of 2021,” Mr Delaney said.
Next in line are 34 new houses for the O’Moore Place Regeneration. The renovation and expansion of what is probably the oldest council estate in Portlaoise, is held up over an access issue through Doran’s Field next door.
“There is a piece of land we are trying to acquire either by CPO or other means, discussions began last autumn,” the director said.
The convent site on Church Street near the new library is more complicated he said because it is a protected structure. That project would see the iconic building and its surrounding lands and buildings converted to 52 apartments and community spaces, largely for older residents. It has planning approval. Read about the €10m development with photos of plans here.
“We expect to start work on the main contract in 2021. We have done a lot of site investigation and further investigations will begin in January. I still think work can start in 2021, subject to department approval and procuring a contractor,” the director said.
Last of the five is the old county hotel on Lower Main Street. It got initial approval last September to convert it into 11 apartments. The building’s protected walkway is to be removed within weeks and replacd with a less obtrusive barrier under the eaves to stop slates from falling to the path.
“We hope to make progress on a design in the first six months of the year and I hope and expect to have planning approved in 2021,” Mr Delaney said.
He said the housing plans in the town centre fit in well with Portlaoise’s work to become Ireland’s first low carbon town.
“You can walk or cycle from any of these projects, and the CBS in particular is ideal for the train. The station is so close to Main Street in Portlaoise and that is a huge benefit to the town. They will enhance this transportation hub,” he said.
Mr Delaney said they are working on projects further down the line, such as Tyrrells land on the Stradbally road. “We can’t stand still, we z hope to write a masterplan for Tyrrells this year, so we can have pla anning in place for other schemes like that by 2022. I hope the country has the funds to deliver these projects. They would all be very significant interventions for Portlaoise,” he said.