Move to ‘protect’ 19th century shop is blocked

Gerard Fitzgibbon

Reporter:

Gerard Fitzgibbon

A MOVE to have an almost 200-year-old shop in Newcastle West added to the list of local protected structures has been blocked, amid fears that the building is “quite derelict” and could “end up falling down”.

A MOVE to have an almost 200-year-old shop in Newcastle West added to the list of local protected structures has been blocked, amid fears that the building is “quite derelict” and could “end up falling down”.

The Limerick County Council conservation office was seeking to have Reidy’s bicycle shop on Maiden Street protected due to “the character” it adds to the town centre, which would make it illegal to demolish the building.

However local county councillors have unanimously blocked the move, as they feel it would hamper efforts to redevelop the old building, which is currently unused.

The building dates back to at least 1840, when it was included in a town map, and may have been built as early as 1800.

Speaking at a county council area meeting in Newcastle West, conservation officer Tom Cassidy said that while much of the original building has been replaced “with non-traditional materials”, it should still be protected “because of the character the building gives to the area”.

However all five local county councillors voted down the proposal on the basis that the owner, Johnny Reidy, has been seeking to re-develop the site, and protecting the building would prohibit any part of the old building being demolished.

Mr Reidy has made two planning applications to demolish the old shop and build a new bicycle store since March 2009, but both were subsequently withdrawn.

Cllr Damien Riedy said that the building “is made up of mud and infill” and has “been lying idle” for a number of years.

“My concern is that this building has gone beyond saving. It should be allowed to be developed in the same character”, he added.

Cllr Michael Collins said that while Reidy’s “is a fabulous old building” which adds to the character of Maiden Street, he agreed that it is “quite derelict”.

“It’ll end up falling down... I’d prefer to see it not protected, but re-developed sympathetically”, he said.

Cllr Jerome Scanlan said that while it is “very important” to protect built heritage, conservation funding from the Department of Environment which could be spent on maintaining the building is “very limited”.

“The danger is, if the cost is prohibitive, no work will be done and it will end up in the same condition as many buildings on Maiden Street”.

Cllr Liam Galvin said that Maiden Street “needs an uplift”, as many of its buildings “have crows and magpies flying out them”.

“The building is old and falling down. I love old stone, but to me, there’s very little of this building that can be saved”, he added.

Cllr Francis Foley said that listing the building would place “excessive costs” on the owner that will “prohibit development”.

When asked how much it would cost to redevelop the building if it was listed and subject to building controls, Mr Cassidy said that it was “impossible to say”, but that it would be “less than six figures”.

Mr Cassidy said that if the building was listed, heritage and conservation officials would then carry out an extensive internal survey of the premises, in a bid to determine how much of the original stone work and materials exists.

All five councillors voted not to place the building on the protected structures list, on the grounds that much of the original building has been lost; that there is a danger of dereliction; the prohibitive cost it would place on the owner and the lack of conservation funding.