PLANS for the new community centre in Durrow will have to be long-fingered for a while after a number of Patrick Street residents lodged an appeal against it with An Bord Pleanala last week, claiming a loss of car parking spaces.
However, a spokesperson for the Durrow Development Fund (DDF) says this is a “misconception” and that “actually they will be gaining eight extra spaces”.
As reported in the Laois Nationalist two weeks ago, the DDF was given permission to amalgamate two buildings on Patrick Street – the Methodist church and the old civil defence site adjacent to it.
However, a minor spat has developed in the heritage town over the plan, with four of the Patrick Street residents protesting against the development, while another 19 have written to the planning department to give it their approval.
The four who have written to the appeals board have raised a number of boilerplate objections, namely on the necessity for it, the lack of consultation, the projected noise and on its height.
Their main objection, though, is their perceived removal of 375 sq m (approximately 15 car parking spaces) in the yard of the former civil defence building, a space that has provided off-street parking for Patrick Street residents for the best part of 40 years.
“There’s nothing we can do about that (the appeal). Everyone has a right to protest and you can only go through with it … you’ll get that in every community. It’s 100% democracy,” said DDF secretary Emer O’Brien.
However, Ms O’Brien was quick to dispel some of her neighbours’ “misconceptions” with regard to the planned project.
“All the plans were shown in the Castle Arms Hotel (during the process) and the town plan is being launched next month,” she said, explaining the level of consultation employed by the DDF.
With regards to the contentious car parking spaces she was quite adamant, saying: “If you look at the plans, they’re going to gain about eight extra spaces.”
“It won’t be on our land, it belongs to Laois County Council, but we’ll be knocking a wall and then it’ll be surfaced and lined and lit. You can’t park there now. Well, you can in summer or daytime, but it’s full of potholes and it’s not a safe place to park. There’s abandoned cars out there.
“Obviously, it’s a bit disappointing, but it’s all part of life. What can you do? … just trudge along,” she said.
Ms O’Brien again mentioned the imminent launch of the town development plan, which “we hope to have by the end of April … all the plans will be there”.
The plan – green-lit last month – called for the demolition of the former civil defence building, two of its storage buildings and a toilet block attached to the church before erecting a part single/part two-storey community centre attached and internally connected to the former Methodist chapel.
The DDF acquired the former Methodist chapel and ICA meeting hall in 2015 and spent the next two years renovating this protected structure, arresting further deterioration by replacing the roof and all of the windows.
Then in 2017, Laois Civil Defence deemed its building in Durrow surplus to requirements due to a countywide restructuring, which the DDF then also acquired.