Two Harbours on our Eastern canals are included in County Development Plans; they are Naas Harbour in the Naas Local Area Plan 2021-2027 and Tullamore Harbour in Offaly’s Development Plan 2021-2027.  Work has started on the planning phase for Tullamore. 

This is a Long-Read, an attempt to gather everything in one place on what is happening with Tullamore Harbour.  Here we show the planning steps, comments, background docs, media reports, heritage timeline and pertinent images.    

Steps

We believe that Offaly County Council (OCC) will be taking these steps to plan the re-development of Tullamore Harbour.    

  1. The first step is for the County Council to choose the Architectural Consultancy they will be working with, when developing plans for the ‘Opportunity Sites’ that have been identified in Tullamore.
  2. The Consultancy chosen with OCC’s Planning Department will then produce Draft Plans for the sites – this to take place within 10 months.
  3. When the Draft Plans are complete and available on line, interested parties will have the opportunity to make submissions.
  4. The Final Plans will then be published with any changes OCC deem valid.
  5. Work can then start on the actual redevelopment.

Note: we will update and add firm dates when clarified. 

Comments

So far, it appears a high-density option is the only one being discussed for Tullamore Harbour, showcasing four City Tower Blocks.    

Tullamore Harbour forms the eastern side of a lived-in place, stretching to the Tullamore Dew Tourist Centre on the south side of the canal.  Many of the structures in this area, including the Harbour, Basin, Drydock, Canal, Buildings, Locks and Bridges form part of Offaly’s List of Protected Structures approved by the County Council in 2015.  In the area are the Canal Agent’s House, the Canal Stores and the houses along Harbour Street, many dating from the 1790s to the early 1900s and refurbished by their owners in recent times.  Currently the walls, drydock and buildings in the inner harbour/basin can only be seen from the rear of the shops and buildings on the perimeter, as the harbour walls and steel concrete workshops block the area. 

The Harbour is one of two areas in the town identified in the County Development plan 2021-2027 as being suitable for Taller Buildings. The other is the former Texas site.

This area, part of our cultural and industrial heritage, can be accessed by boaters, cyclists and walkers, many of whom are looking forward to both the completion of the Grand Greenway and being able to navigate the Grand to Tullamore, after two years of Covid. 

There is an opportunity here to celebrate the built and social heritage of the harbour area, by regenerating it as a centre for recreation, tourism and culture, melding the past with the future, forming a gateway to other Offaly attractions, and at the same time bringing additional income into the area. 

Background Documents

Offaly County Council in their OCC Development Plan 2021-2027 Page 255 under ‘Taller Buildings’, state:   

‘The following two sites in Tullamore are open for consideration to accommodate taller buildings based on the mix of adjacent building heights, the desire to have higher densities at these brownfield central locations and their extensive site sizes. These two sites are also designated Opportunity Sites;

  • Grand Canal Harbour site, Tullamore (Opportunity Site No. 1)
  • Texas site, Tullamore (Opportunity Site No. 2)’   located between Bury Quay and Patrick Street.

(Below are copies of two drawings from this report outlining the area for development at each of these locations)

The OCC Development Plan 2021-2027 also sets out the Council’s protected structure policies including on Page 334, BHP-26It is Council policy to seek the retention and appropriate repair/maintenance of the historic bridges and harbours of the county whether they are protected structures or not.’

Waterways Ireland on P 18 Section 14 of their Annual Report for 2019 state their progress to date on this initiative. 

‘Continue to progress plans to redevelop Tullamore Harbour and branch line as a focal point on the Grand Canal and a new water quarter in Tullamore with commerce, tourism and housing. Commence development of a new depot site.

Discussions continued with Offaly County Council during 2019 with regard to the development of Tullamore Harbour site. The proposal to redevelop Tullamore Harbour is being progressed through development of a Masterplan to assess development potential of the site, including an Economic Appraisal of the various development options for site and models of delivery. Offaly County Council in partnership with Waterways Ireland has applied for funding through the Urban Regeneration Development Fund (URDF) to part fund the Masterplan.

Separately a planning application for development of a new Waterways Ireland Tullamore depot was submitted in 2019 and subsequently approved in April 2020, subject to third party appeals, for this development to progress.’

Dublin Government  Gov Press Release Mar 2021 – Funding – Revitalising the Midlands

Other Sources  with useful background include the Irish Waterways History site and the Offaly History site.

Heritage  Timeline

While the first section of the Grand Canal was built in 1755 near Sallins, followed by the stretch from Dublin, the canal did not reach Tullamore until forty years later, under the direction of the renowned engineer and surveyor, John Killaly.

  • Grand Canal was built to Tullamore in 1798
  • Bury Bridge, the Harbour and the Stores were complete by 1799
  • Collectors House and Hotel by 1801
  • Grand Canal to Shannon by 1804
  • By 1798, 375 Trading and 10 Passenger boats were operating on the canal      

Media Reports

Over the past couple of weeks, the re-development of Tullamore Harbour has been in the news. 

Offaly Express:  Apr 26 2022 ‘Consultants sought to develop Masterplan for harbour and vision for Tullamore up to 2040’

THE tendering process to appoint a consultant to develop a masterplan for Tullamore harbour is underway.

Provisional approval has been given to develop an option, viability and overall plan for the harbour under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund. The receipt of tenders for the project is this Friday April 29.

The harbour is one of two areas in the town identified in the County Development plan 2021-2027 as being suitable for taller buildings. The other is the former Tesco site. It is also identified as a key opportunity site with major potential.

Meanwhile Offaly County Council is offering a lump sum fee of up to €200,000 (€162,000 excluding VAT) to the successful candidate who can develop a regeneration framework and vision for the entire town of Tullamore up to 2040.

The successful consultant will be expected to prepare a ”specific concise framework report for Tullamore which will lead to future development of a variety of projects. The Framework will support Town Centre First policy and incorporate a Public Realm Plan for the town centre and immediate environs.”

Regeneration plans for the town centre, concentrating on the opportunity sites and any others that may arise as part of this study will also be required.

In addition, the council is seeking a strategy for sustainable access and permeability for Tullamore town centre and its environs, with a key focus on the role of the opportunity sites in a ”coherent, liveable, safe and attractive town centre.”

The Project is funded by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) and Offaly County Council.

The final Framework document is required within 10 months from appointment. Consultants have until May 19 to bid for the project.

Offaly Independent April 22 2022 ‘ Experts to chart vision for town’s future’

‘Offaly County Council is in the process of hiring architectural and urban design specialists to come up with a regeneration blueprint for the centre of Tullamore.

The local authority recently went out to tender for the project, which will focus in particular on eight “opportunity sites” in the town.

The sites were listed by the council as: Grand Canal Harbour site; former ‘Texas’ site; Lands behind High St/O’Moore St; Lands south of O’Connor Square; Railway lands; Coen Site; Lands behind the Court House; and Tanyard lands.

These opportunity sites have the potential to be redeveloped “as high-density mixed-use developments” and could breathe new life into the heart of Tullamore.

“The redevelopment of the Grand Canal Harbour site in particular has potential for a flagship enterprise, recreation, residential, public realm and tourism related development,” stated the council in the tender documents.

“The integrated urban development of Tullamore town centre will increase potential new retail options and overnight stay of visitors.

“This will address liveability and encourage evening and night time entertainment providers to provide new facilities and to increase the opening hours of existing night time businesses.”

The tender documents, issued on March 31, call for an “architectural and urban design consultancy service” to produce a “concise framework report” that would outline “a vision for Tullamore town centre to 2040” and would “lead to future development of a variety of projects.”

Consultants have until May 19 next to bid for the project, which is funded by the council and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

Offaly County Council said the successful candidate would be paid a lump sum of up to €200,000 (€162,000 excluding VAT), and would have to deliver the final framework report within ten months.

“The Tullamore Regeneration Framework will be the principal impetus for compact mixed use urban development in the town centre of Tullamore, for the regeneration of vacant, derelict and underutilised town centre sites and actively promoting the bringing back of vacant buildings to use in a coherent and integrated manner,” stated the council.

It added that the consultant hired to produce the framework plan would be expected to consult with “relevant stakeholders including the private sector, public bodies and semi-state bodies.”

Westmeath Examiner Mar 19 22  Masterplan for Tullamore Harbour to be devised’

‘A plan to unlock the potential of Tullamore’s hidden jewel, the Grand Canal Harbour, is to be commissioned – with a scaled-down version of Dublin’s Grand Canal Dock among the potential development opportunities to be explored.

Offaly County Council, in partnership with Waterways Ireland, is currently advertising for consultants to prepare a plan to “unlock the unique opportunity to redevelop and revitalise the Grand Canal Harbour area of Tullamore”.

Consultants are being asked to appraise development options for the harbour, and to provide a masterplan for the site, subject to a preferred development option being agreed.

The move comes following the inclusion of work on the masterplan among a bundle of Tullamore projects approved for some €2.25m funding from the national Urban Regeneration and Development Fund in 2020.

The council is now seeking consultants to conclude the plan by Christmas, with April 22 the deadline for tenders.

The selected consultants will also be encouraged to consider the possibility of a high-density mixed-use waterside development scheme for the harbour area, or the creation of a “compelling destination” area including cafés, restaurants and water sports facilities, visitor experiences, and a day and night-time economy.

It has also been revealed that Waterways Ireland is planning to vacate the site by relocating its operational depot at the harbour to a new greenfield site.

Waterways Ireland and Offaly County Council say this provides a unique opportunity to ensure that the harbour becomes “an integral part of the town and works as an economic generator”.

The council and Waterways Ireland say they have long identified the harbour area as having “development potential to become a compelling waterfront space for residents, citizens, visitors, and enterprises, accessible by water, cycling, and walking.”

They said the integration of such facilities into the town of Tullamore and the provision of required linkages to the town will be key to a successful proposal.

It’s envisaged that the site could be opened up to the public through pedestrian entrances, canal bank walkways and seating.

The overall site area of Grand Canal Harbour, Tullamore including the land and water is circa 3.7 acres, with some 1.2 acres of the site developable with the remainder comprising the harbour, canal and the canal banks.

The Grand Canal Harbour site has been identified as an Opportunity Site and a site for consideration for taller buildings in the current Offaly County Development plan.’

Images

      Published recently, the Harbour area looking west, with four City Tower Blocks

                                                          Tullamore Harbour area looking west – © Waterways Ireland

       Tullamore Harbour Drydock looking north – © Waterways Ireland

                Tullamore Harbour looking north – © Waterways Ireland

   Map of Tullamore Harbour area in 1890 showing the original buildings and the two drydocks – UCD archive