A sensitive revamp of the landmark St John’s College seminary in Waterford City for use as sheltered housing has been sanctioned by An Bórd Pleanála.

The site at Richardson’s Folly is a protected structure in the City Development Plan and included in the National Inventory Of Architectural Heritage as a building of ‘National’ importance.

Built in 1867-68, the Gothic-style seminary has been vacant since its closure in 1999 due to a serious decline in vocations to the priesthood. It was sold by the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore in April 2007, two years after the lands were somewhat controversially rezoned by councillors.

Being developed by the Waterford-based Respond! Housing Association, the multi-million euro project will entail refurbishment and conversion works as well as internal alterations to house 60 one-bed apartments (21 in the existing building, the rest in 3-storey-high blocks).

The complex, which will take in part of the former institutional grounds, also includes provision for consulting, office and communal facilities in converted outbuildings. A larger curtilage of the St John’s lands have been separated from the immediate seminary site since its sale. These heavily wooded grounds to the north of the College feature a number of institutional uses and structures, but the future of a large chunk of the remaining site is in limbo amid the apparent collapse of a €12.2m property development deal.

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