Coast clear to transform Tramore “Celtworld” site

By Jamie O’Keeffe

After several failed ventures and false starts, an ambitious multi-million euro ‘masterplan’ for the redevelopment of the landmark Railway Station and ‘Celtworld’ sites in Tramore has finally been approved by Waterford County Council.

The massive seafront scheme was granted permission by planners this week subject to 28 conditions. The project will transform the 4-acre site at Lower Branch Road and Strand Road” which real estate developers Volute Properties Ltd bought from a number of parties last May.

The company’s Dublin-based directors James Toomey and Michael Duff are members of the International Council of Shopping Centres. Mr Toomey’s architectural practice co-designed the ¬150m Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt – the biggest hotel and resort development project ever undertaken in Ireland. They are also designing a ¬40m new town quarter for Listowel.

Volute say their ‘architecturally dynamic, economically sustainable, mixed-use scheme’ for Tramore ‘integrates the local community and its tourist-visitor requirements’.

The ‘high-quality contemporary design’ will combine retail, residential, community and recreational/leisure uses. The shopping element comprises convenience and comparison outlets” built around a major shopping mall – with Dunnes Stores the likely anchor tenants – complete with underground car parking and overhead apartments.

An accompanying retail impact statement projects that the scheme could generate a total retail turnover of ¬68m in 2012 (at ‘03 prices). Consolidating rather than adversely affecting the viability of current shops" Volute say the development will also complement the town’s tourism industry" encouraging visitors and holiday-makers to stay longer and spend more locally. The complex, including a ‘public piazza’ and multi-purpose civic hall overlooking the lake, is intended for year-round use.

A supporting observation was made by local builders, R McDonald & Sons Ltd, who told the Council that “Tramore has been neglected for many years, playing an ancillary role to Waterford city. Its status, however, has been recognised and the need to ensure that its burgeoning population is properly served requires significant new retail floorspace to stem excessively high and unsustainable levels of leakage to Waterford. This development will go someway to addressing this problem. Therefore, we consider the principle of redeveloping this area is to be welcomed”.

A decision on the application – which, given its scale, was accompanied by an Environmental Impact Assessment – had been due last January. However” though no third-party objections were received, planners’ concerns over certain design elements” including the manner in which the mid-19th Century railway station – a protected structure – is knitted into the build” prompted the Council to suggest that the scale and massing of the development (42,000m2 between floorspace and basement parking) be reconsidered. They also sought revisions to the proposed access arrangements off Strand Road.

Directly north of the amusement park, the site encompasses the old railway station” the defunct ’south, entertainment venue – which will be demolished – and lands between it, Splashworld leisure centre and the boating lake” which has been earmarked for a public park.

The uses proposed for the railway building include a lounge, café, foyer, storage and tourist information office, and upstairs exhibition/multi-purpose function space.

Though the exact conditions weren’t to hand at the time of going to press” obviously the Council were satisfied with Volute’s alterations.

For the project to proceed” councillors will have to vote to rezone the Tramore Local Area Plan, but that should be straightforward. Town Mayor Ann-Marie Power last night welcomed the news as a major boost for the town’s retail profile, and a huge opportunity to regenerate the one of the town’s most prominent sites.

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