Life

Skibb convent ‘will not be’ direct provision centre

June 1st, 2020 7:05 AM

By Jackie Keogh

The Convent of Mercy nuns private accommodation which had the most beautiful garden, which now instead has a giant water filled hole in front of it now. Photo: Anne Minihane.

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The CEO of a company that is seeking planning permission for the redevelopment of a former convent site in Skibbereen, and is already involved in the controversial Caherciveen direct provision centre, has denied the Skibbereen property will become a direct provision centre.

Paul Collins, chief executive of Remcoll Capital Ltd, confirmed that the site has been bought by Remcoll from property developer Bernard Hennessy, subject to planning permission. Mr Collins said: ‘Skibbereen is a very good town and we are trying to bring a development to a site that is in a pretty shocking state of neglect.’

There has been negative publicity surrounding the direct provision centre in Caherciveen in which Remcoll is also involved. However, speaking to The Southern Star after talk of the convent being turned into a direct provision centre had started to circulate locally, Mr Collins said: ‘We are still going through what can only be described as an onerous planning application and the last thing I need now is to fight a PR battle in the media.’

Mr Collins said: ‘The proposal is to build a private residential scheme that will be under single ownership management and will be retained by us. We will not be selling it.’

He confirmed: ‘There has to be a social element to the proposal and, in that regard, we are talking to the local geriatric society, and are willing to talk to other social organisations in Skibbereen as well.’

Mr Collins added: ‘I would be willing to make it a condition of planning that the former convent site – and its protected structures – would never be used as a direct provision centre.

‘This is a large development in a prominent location on the approach road to the town of Skibbereen and that is part of the attraction in developing it to a very high standard.’

The Skibbereen application is for ‘change of use and renovation’ of the protected structure to create commercial facilities, hot desks, and office ‘pods’, in the former chapel. Permission is also requested to renovate a former convent building to incorporate several apartments, a management office, and community space.

Social Democrat TD Holly Cairns said in light of what has been learned about the situation at the Skellig Star in Caherciveen, she would be cautious about welcoming any direct provision centre, anywhere.

‘Covid-19 issues aside, there have been claims of overcrowding, an initial lack of heating during March, and a general lack of decent conditions, all of which is extremely worrying,’ she said.

It is understood that on October 23rd, Cork County Council requested further information from the company with regard to the planning application and that the company sought a three-month extension, which means Remcoll Capital Ltd has until July 15th to respond.

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