Thursday, September 30, 2021

By Carmel Hayes

A NATURAL amphitheatre, 87 homes and outdoor sports facilities are included in a masterplan for a huge site on the Stradbally Road in Portlaoise, which has gone out for public consultation this week.

People have until 25 October to make submissions on the Tyrrell’s Land plan, which reached the public consultation stage on Monday 27 September.

A total of 87 residential units, together with substantial open space and amenity areas, are planned for the important heritage site, located behind the Ridge of Portlaoise esker and next to the People’s Park.

A natural amphitheatre built into part of the esker is proposed, while the stone lookout point on the esker ridge will be retained. There will be ‘sensitive treatment’ around the protected structure of Portrane House, with a tree-lined path leading from the house to the new residential development.

The 26-acre site, which has extensive road frontage, was bought by Laois County Council for €1.4m in 2019. It was the previous home of the Tyrrell family, who were well known through their long-standing veterinary practice, equestrian interests and involvement in local voluntary and charitable organisations.

The land has a key location near the town centre and has three separate zonings for ‘new proposed residential’, ‘open space and amenity’ and ‘community, educational and institutional’.

Only five acres of the land is considered suitable for housing due to flood zones, mature woodland and the protected esker ridge.

New housing would consist of 37 two-bed apartments, ten one-bed apartments, 18 two-bed duplexes, ten one-bed duplexes, eight two-bed terraced houses and four three-bed town houses. The residential area would be ‘book-ended’ by two apartment blocks, one four-storey and the other five-storey.

The inclusion of multi-storey apartments drew opposition from Portlaoise councillors when the masterplan was unveiled to public representatives in August, with designers asked to go back to the drawing board on this aspect of the plan.

A nature exploration area, planting and wildflower meadows and a dedicated play area with playground equipment are also envisaged. Outdoor sports facilities would include a full size all-weather soccer pitch for multiple sports, with a viewing pavilion, a full basketball court with three smaller basketball courts and a plaza for multiple uses, but there is no provision for an indoor sports hall.

The viewing pavilion would include a café with an outdoor seating area, public toilets and changing room suites. The park and amenity area is designed to have easy access from the three schools nearby.

The site is described by the council as having ‘enormous heritage value to the town and the county’, which the masterplan aims to protect and enhance.

The masterplan was developed by the council, working with a multi-disciplinary design team and was informed by a previous consultation with stakeholders and the local community.

The council says it wants to “capture a diverse set of opinions, experience and ideas that are representative of the local community”, as it invites submissions that will help shape the development of the masterplan.

The council says its “ambitious vision” for the lands can be summarised as follows:

Creation of a new sustainable residential community, along with high-quality passive open spaces and an active community zone for the benefit and enjoyment of all who live in, work in and visit Portlaoise.

The masterplan seeks to integrate and connect the new sustainable community with Portlaoise town, the People’s Park, the surrounding residential areas and the existing natural and built environment in a sensitive manner.

The masterplan incorporates a mix of residential units, in response to local housing needs and has been designed to ensure that it will be resilient and respectful to relevant economic, social, environmental and climate change considerations.”

Implementation of the plan will depend on multiple sources of funding. The masterplan can be viewed online at consult.laois.ie and submissions can be made up to 5pm on Monday 25 October.

Submissions and comments can be made by email to [email protected] or by letter to Senior Planner, Laois County Council, Áras an Chontae, James Fintan Lalor Avenue, Portlaoise, Co Laois, R32 EHP9, with all correspondence marked ‘Stradbally Road Masterplan’.

The Tyrell’s Land site in Portlaoise, shortly before it was bought by Laois County Council for €1.4m in 2019

The 26-acre Tyrell’s Land site, outlined in red, on the Stradbally Road, Portlaoise

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