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New lease of life for Our Lady's site?
A view of the Our Lady's Hospital building in Ennis. Photograph by John Kelly.

New lease of life for Our Lady’s site?

PLANS for a development on the site of Our Lady’s Hospital, expected to generate hundreds of jobs, have been given a new lease of life. JJ Enterprises Limited is applying to Clare County Council to extend previously granted planning permission for the development of a healthcare facility at the historic site on the Gort Road.

Permission had been granted to Duesbury Limited back in 2013 for the development, subject to 23 conditions. The application to extend that permission has been lodged with Clare County Council and was at the pre-validation stage at the time of going to press.

The initial plans include the construction of a four-storey healthcare facility over the basement building, linked to the existing protected structure.

It is proposed to provide a full range of medical and related services, including 97 in-patient beds, 30 recovery cubicles, consultants’ suites, administration, office accommodation, pharmacy shop, catering facilities, crèche, energy centre, plant rooms and all ancillary accommodation.

The development will involve partial demolition of existing structure, provision of surface and basement car parking, surface water attenuation, connection to foul sewer and all associated site works and ground works.

At the time of the original application, Duesbury Limited stated that the proposed development would create up to 700 jobs, 100 in construction and 600 when operational.

A report by MH Associates architects, lodged with the planning authority on behalf of the developers, stated that the development of a major healthcare facility at this location would create significant employment opportunities.

“New employment opportunities will relate to a range of expertise, including medical and nursing, car assistants, catering, cleaning and domestic, porters, security, general management and administration. It is expected that 400-plus full-time jobs would be directly generated by the proposed development. In addition, as is the case with any new large centre of employment, there will be other indirect benefits to the local economy, including through suppliers and ancillary services.”

The report described Ennis as a “natural choice” for the complex, given its status as a hub town, accessibility and attractiveness as a place to live and work.

The former Our Lady’s Hospital is listed as a protected structure in the Ennis and Environs Development Plan. It also forms part of an Architectural Conservation Area.

According to an architectural heritage impact assessment, prepared by John Cronin and Associates on behalf of the developers, the impact of the proposed development will be “acceptable, given that they will be legible as modern additions to the hospital site, while remaining subservient to the historic structures already here”.

The report went on, “The distinctive Georgian façade will remain the dominant architectural feature of the facility, with the principal element of the proposed development being set back so as not to project beyond the line of the existing main south elevation.

“The planned development is of a considerable but not overly imposing scale, which is fully legible as a contemporary addition to the site that does not seek to dominate the existing historic structures.”

It states that the proposals will have an “acceptably limited” impact on the architectural heritage and visual amenity of the site, due to the “carefully considered” design of the layout and appearance of the new structures.

The site was purchased by hotelier Allen Flynn, builder Martin Fitzgibbon and Paul Talty for €5.2 million from Clare County Council in 2005.

Planning permission had been secured for a four-star hotel on the site but this did not go ahead. In 2012, An Bord Pleanála refused planning permission for a 100-bed hospital proposal for Shanvogh, Woodstock, Ennis, on a number of grounds.

Our Lady’s Psychiatric Hospital served 189 patients, prior to its closure in 2001. The hospital and grounds were sold in September 1998 to Shannon Development.

The hospital and reduced grounds were subsequently sold to Clare County Council in October 1998 and Shannon Development established an Information Age Park on its portion of the grounds.

Last year, the 16.65-acre site failed to sell at auction at a price of €800,000, down from its 2015 price tag of €1.25 million, with calls for Clare County Council to purchase the site for development.

PLANS for a development on the site of Our Lady’s Hospital, expected to generate hundreds of jobs, have been given a new lease of life.

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