Fr Tom Mangan: “It is disappointing. We’ll go back to the drawing board"
A COUNTY Limerick priest may have the Good Lord on his side but not the powers that be on planning boards.
Fr Tom Mangan, parish priest of Knockea-Donoughmore, was first refused plans to demolish the existing parochial house and build a new one by the council.
He hoped An Bord Pleanala might be more forgiving but they too have sent him to purgatory.
“It is disappointing. We’ll go back to the drawing board, have a finance meeting in the parish to make a final decision about it and see where we can go from here. We have raised some money, but you’d certainly want a lot more money than what we have to repair it. Unfortunately it’s in such bad condition it would take a huge pot of money. It would have to be gutted to the foundations,” said Fr Mangan.
Located at Bohereen, Donoughmore, the parochial house was built in 1904. It has a lot of problems with wet rot and dry rot and would not be healthy to live in, said the popular priest. Locals are so anxious to have him living in the parish, and not in Castletroy, that they organised a skydive to raise funds.
In planning documents, he says it is structurally unsafe; in a deplorable condition throughout; unfit for purpose because of its scale, size and layout; economically not suitable for restoration; health and safety risk and subject to anti-social behaviour.
The plan was to knock it and build a smaller type abode but use some of the stonework from the old house “to make the connection between the old and the new”. A coach house was to be retained.
The parochial house was removed from the record of protected structures but it is listed on the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
An Bord Pleanala decided to refuse permission because the “County Development Plan contains a general presumption against the demolition of habitable dwellings where it aims to promote rehabilitation of existing buildings, over demolition.”
They said it was a medium sized house of regional importance that “retains a strong sense of its original historic character”.
“The board is not satisfied that there are sufficient grounds for demolition of this habitable dwelling of significant documented character architectural heritage.
“Therefore, to permit the demolition of this habitable house would materially contravene objectives of the County Development Plan and would set an undesirable precedent for the future preservation of such buildings in the county and would be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area,” they stated.
Fr Mangan said it will cost in the region of €500,000 to make the old house liveable as opposed to spending between €250,000 and €300,000 on building a new one.
“We are responsible to maintain the house as well, we can’t let it go to wrack and ruin,” said Fr Mangan, orignally from Ardagh.
It will be three years this September since he was appointed to the parish.
“Every priest likes their house to be situated in the parish but going forward I don’t think that’s going to be an option as well, with so few of us around. It would be nice to have a house that you can make your own, I know a rented house is fine, the house I’m in is grand, but I have some of my own little belongings stored away,” said Fr Mangan.