Conceptual design drawing for the old school building by REIR architects.

Old Shannonbridge school building to get new lease of life

Plans for the refurbishment of the former Oliver Plunkett National School in Shannonbridge, shut down in 2007, have taken a significant step forward. The first draft conceptual design drawing for the building has been presented to the local community.

The old school building will ultimately be transformed into a multi-use center, with accommodation elements, summer and winter schools, and leasing opportunities for local businesses all possibilities once the refurbishment is complete.

The renovation of the old school building is part of a larger overall plan for the renewal of Shannonbridge village, a project which the Shannonbridge Action Group is spearheading. It is a voluntary organisation which aims to "create a community for all that works together to provide a sustainable future for generations to come.” The aim is that the old school building will become a hub for environmentally friendly tourism, trade, and employment in their village.

Under the plans, portions of the building will have to be demolished. These include the older sections at the back of the school that were constructed in the 1970s and 80s. The front of the building that dates back to 1940 will be protected as it is a building of “historical and architectural significance”, according to the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Vincent Darcy, of the Shannonbridge Action Group, highlighted that the retention of the front of the old building was of great importance to the local community. “The public very much wanted that portion retained,” he said, and noted that people are “excited that the building will actually be used and restored from its derelict state.”

In its Development Plan (2021-2027), the Action Group welcomed Offaly County Council's consideration that “there is significant potential to develop a Green Energy Hub” in Offaly, and believes that Shannonbridge can play a part in this as a result of the EU funding. Mr Darcy notes that it is a “key focus” of the architects that are working on developing plans for the old building to be aiming for a “climate net zero development.”

As well as this, the Action Group believes that as a result of Shannonbridge's location in West Offaly, there is great potential for tourism opportunities as a visitor base for Clonmacnoise Monastic Site.

Additionally, an application for planning permission for the renovation of the old school building will be “strategically aligned” with the Athlone-Galway Greenway. There are plans in place for a greenway link through Shannonbridge, named the Shannon Monastic Greenway. By working in conjunction with Fáilte Ireland's 'Hidden Heartlands' marketing campaign, Shannonbridge will look to establish itself in the Midlands tourism industry. Mr Darcy said that the group hopes to submit its planning permission application by October.

The community reaction to the Action Group's work has been incredibly positive, he said, with many people engaging with the process by attending meetings about the development where they can input their own ideas and viewpoints.