Over 100 Athlone buildings could become protected structures

The owners of historically and architecturally significant buildings in Athlone are to be offered an opportunity to have their say on whether they want their property added to the Record of Protected Structures.

Councillors set the process in motion this week for over 100 buildings which have been included on a list of recommendations to be added to the Record of Protected Structures (RPS ).

The owners or occupiers of the 124 buildings on the recommended list will soon be notified about the proposals with a letter and a map, and will be invited to make submissions over a six-week period as to whether or not they would like their building included. The council will then vote on whether or not to add the structures.

The recommended structures have been identified as being of architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social, or technical interest.

They include churches, houses, businesses, as well as railway bridges, post boxes, walls, and other structures. Several structures within Custume Barracks are included, as is Sean’s Bar, Burgess department store, Le Chateau restaurant, the Franciscan Friary, Goldsmith Terrace, as well as several other of the town’s well known buildings.

Conservation architect with Westmeath County Council, Bernadette Soban, explained that while building owners sometimes have reservations about the record, being on the RPS does not mean a building cannot be developed.

“Generally people don’t know that being on the RPD doesn’t mean they can’t do anything. Lots can still be done without planning permission; we just ask that the owner notifies the council and lets us know what is happening. Some works need planning permission and some don’t; for example if someone was thinking of changing their shopfront we might ask if they would consider redoing it in a certain design.

“We are trying to protect our heritage for future generations, and generally people are aware that their building is special.”

Ms Soban’s comments came in the wake of questions from Cllrs Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, Gabrielle McFadden, and Sheila Buckley Byrne, who were concerned that some owners may not want their buildings included, or that it might be more costly to retain their buildings.

However Cllr Mark Cooney said “We have to do this...This process is 30 or 40 years too late. Athlone is not a town coming down with architectural gems, but what we have we must protect. We should be mindful that the buildings have been mindfully included.”

A list of all the structures can be viewed at www.buildingsofireland.ie


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