Durrow Development Forum is preparing to plough ahead with work to build a €1 million community hub in the centre of the picturesque Laois town.
An Bord Pleanála granted planning permission for the huge development despite an appeal from residents with 20 signatures against the plan.
The principal issues of the appeal related to conservation of a Protected Structure, design of the proposed new building blending in with the street and issues with parking for residents.
An Bord Pleanála's Inspector’s Report goes into detail on these issues. It found that the residents objecting to the development are outnumbered by those on the street in favour of the development, there were no issues found with the Protected Structure plans or design of the building overall.
Chairperson of the Durrow Development Forum, Evelyn Clancey said they are delighted with the outcome of this plan which has been underway for two years now.
“We are thrilled. We purchased that building it was an ICA hall and we bought it and the Civil Defence amalgamated in Laois so that became vacant and we bought that too.
“The plans are between €900,000 and €1 million to bring these buildings back into the community. We hope that it will help to start up new and different organisations. It will be a place where people and groups can hold meetings and develop it into a community centre.
“It will be a space for clubs to come together, we used to have an over 50s club in Durrow maybe that could come back and there is no place for youths in the town. Not everyone wants to go to a pub. There are plans for a Men’s Shed meeting place, the choir is stuck for a place to meet and even Durrow Development Forum itself meets in the library or in someone’s house if it is in the evening.
“Anyone starting up a group will have a space to be without moving around. There will be storage space for the likes of art class materials. We would like to think that it will initiate more groups to form and we hope that businesses would hot desk here to make it that bit more sustainable.
“The ICA hall will be left in the heritage style but the Civil Defence building will be knocked to make way for a more modern looking new build.
“Laois County Council has facilitated us with the use of their car park in return we will be taking down the wall and adding to the car park which is derelict, we will resurface it and mark it, adding extra car parking spaces. This car park will then be used by residents and people using the centre. This is progress for the town, it belongs to the community,” she said.
Evelyn said that people were within their rights to object to the plan.
“That is people’s democratic right and it all went through the planning process and was granted,” she said.
“Funding is coming from the hugely successful scarecrow festival, they have been granted €200,000 through Laois County Council and are in talks with Laois Partnership about further grants. The Scarecrow festival money will be used to match-fund grants.
“The festival is a huge asset, we get a substantial profit every year and we hold onto it, we are very frugal because this has been our aim for the last few years.
“All systems go, we have a meeting on progressing this next week,” she said.
The plan includes the demolition of the former Civil Defence building and ancillary store, demolition of toilet block extension to side of former Methodist Chapel and demolition of boundary walls between the three parts of the site.
It also includes the construction of new two-storey community building with a link to the former Methodist Chapel, construction of new, detached boiler-house/store to the rear of community building (45m2), provision of 19 on-site surface car-parking spaces, renovation of existing former Methodist Chapel building, water supply from existing mains, foul sewer connection to existing main sewer and surface water disposal to existing main sewer.