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Major £12m plan to build community hub and housing on site of former Newry convent and school

Over 120 jobs and apprenticeships will be created during the construction on the St Clare's site with the applicant already aiming for an opening date in 2022

Major Newry development High Street

A former convent and primary school in Newry are to make way for a new community hub and housing scheme at a cost in the region of £12 million.

And over 120 jobs and apprenticeships will be created during the construction with the applicant already aiming for an opening date in 2022.

Two formal planning applications are now being considered by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and are being publicly advertised this week.

According to a supporting statement by TSA Planning, the development would “facilitate the regeneration of an under-utilised brownfield site, which has lain derelict since 2011, and bring it back into viable use”.

It would be a “significant development investment with a gross value of circa £12 million”, according to the statement, which then reveals that “during the construction phase it will support in excess of 120 construction jobs and apprenticeships, with the economic impact set to positively benefit suppliers and subcontractors in the area”.

The lodging of planning papers follows the staging a pre-consultation event, as revealed by Armagh I last November.

There have been slight amendments to what was proposed at that time.

The number of apartments to be included as part of the Convent of Poor Clares redevelopment has decreased by one, from 14 to 13.

And the number of social housing units which would be created within the grounds of the former St Clare’s Primary School is now indicated as being 76 as opposed to the 90 new homes first envisaged.

The applications currently under consideration are seeking full approval for the works and also consent to carry out demolition within a conservation area.

The highly ambitious scheme has been drawn up by the Belfast-based Clonrose Developments Ltd.

The intention is to restore the B2 listed chapel building to provide a new community hub.

And at the same time, the St Clare’s Convent Building would partly demolished and converted to make way for 13 apartments. These are to provide much-needed social housing in the area.

St CLare's Convent in Newry

St Clare’s PS having amalgamated with St Colman’s Abbey in August 2014 and relocated to Courtney Hill as St Clare’s Abbey Primary School in September of that year. Their old school buildings, therefore, will be demolished and in their place will be built a further 76 “social affordable housing” units.

The application includes associated siteworks and new road improvements at the junction of High Street and Abbey Way. There will be car car parking, cycle stands, landscaping and open space provided throughout the expansive site.

The location is described in the planning application as “vacant lands and buildings since 2010 and 2011”.

The new community hub would stretch to 260 sq metres, representing no change in the existing floorspace of the existing chapel building.

The 76 housing units on the old school site would be comprised of 12 four-bedroom houses, 16 three-bedroom houses, 14 two-bedroom houses, 32 tw0-bedroom flats and two one-bedroom flats.

The apartments at the convent would taken the form of 11 single-bedroom units and two two-bedroom units.

According to a second design and access statement, the proposal is to be “reflective of the site’s long history as a convent and associated primary school”.

Granite from the existing boundary wall of the primary school will be “reclaimed” and used as a feature at the entrance of the site. A schoolyard tree will be restored and used as a focal point in the overall development.

Newry plans

Religious monuments which have been reclaimed will be reused for “public art purposes”.

The new development has been described as necessary to the area and is in “close proximity to local shops, school, service providers and public amenity areas”.

One of the supporting statements concludes: “The proposal has sought to promote choice and help meet the needs of the local community of Newry and the wider area through the delivery of a mix of social/affordable house types and sizes to cater for a range of families.

“It represents a sustainable form of development which encourages alternative modes of transport such as walking, cycling and use of public transport.”

Both applications are required to be endorsed by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council in order for the school to proceed. They are currently open to public views and recommendations will come before the planning committee for consideration in due course.

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