Plans for café and retail exhibition space at Wicklow’s Abbey Grounds

The Abbey Grounds in Wicklow town.

Myles BuchananWicklow People

PLANS for the Abbey Grounds include a café and retail exhibition space, an amphitheatre, public seating and enhanced biodiversity of the area.

The elected members of Wicklow Municipal District received a presentation from architects MosArt on design proposals for the Abbey Grounds.

In May agreement was reached over the transfer of the Abbey Grounds to Wicklow County Council, after parishioners were asked for their input. The transfer followed on from an allocation from Fáilte Ireland to Wicklow County Council to make the grounds more welcoming for both locals and visitors.

MosArt are a team architects, landscape designers and urban designers.

Speaking at Monday’s meeting of Wicklow Municipal District, Art McCormack said; ‘This project will give the public a whole new facility. It will enhance the amenity and make sure that the heritage aspect is respected.’

The building currently known as the Coach House will be turned into a café and retail/exhibition space, complete with public toilets.

‘At the moment there isn’t much a view into the grounds so that is our starting pint,’ added Mr McCormack.

‘There are no limits to the wonders that lay beyond. Tourists who are visiting here for two days might not even know you have something so wonderful right on your doorstep. We want to make a connection between the street and the ruins. We will create a view through the Coach House which will frae the view of the ruins.’

Terraced seating of wood and grass will surround the planned amphitheatre. An arched-canopy will provide a through view, with the ruins as the backdrop. It will be set back from the ruins so as not to be too imposing and will involve the creation of a mounted terrace.

Galvanised steel railings will be required for the bridge to the Parochial House for safety reasons. More vulnerable parts of the ruins will also be enclosed by railings.

The current main access point will need extending so larger trucks and vans can enter and wheel around.

A second pedestrian access point will be created directly off the AIB car park, where people visiting the Abbey Grounds will cross over a stone bridge to get into the park.

Seating will consist of wooden, concrete and steel benches and wood, steel and Perspex pods. The public seating will also incorporate the stream.

The existing tree species will be retained while further native species will also be planted to enhance biodiversity.

Archaeological assessments will take place firstly before any works commence.

District Manager Brian Gleeson said; ‘We will have to next look at costing and agree the whole plan. It will go to the Senior Management team and then the Part 8 process kicks off. There are still a few steps to take but we are motoring along.’

It is hoped the Part 8 process may start around August or September, or possibly a little later.

Cllr Paul O’Brien commented: ‘We have to thank Fr Donal Roche and all the parishioners because only for them this wouldn’t go ahead. I’m a native of the town and I remember not even being able to access the grounds. I am also delighted the monastery will be protected and the biodiversity enhanced.’

Cllr Mary Kavanagh said; ‘The most important thing is to retain the integrity of the site. I’m glad the Abbey ruins and walls will be protected. Will there be any removal of trees, purely because they are in a strategic location?’

Cllr Kavanagh was informed that the only planting which would require removal was two small two small groups of elder.

Cllr John Snell said; ‘I’m Chair of the Wicklow Heritage Forum and I know they will be watching with enthusiasm and looking forward to seeing what will be proposed. I think as less digging as possible needs to happen on site. Projects like this also need to be covered by CCTV.

‘This is something that is very important to the people of the town. You have people going to other places that don’t have anything like we do right on our doorstep.’

Cllr Gail Dunne, the Cathaoirleach of Wicklow Municipal District, stated: ‘There is great excitement around the town about the Abbey Grounds. I will be great to hold concerts and lovely evenings in the summer. This will enhance even more all the other work that is taking place around the town.’

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