An aerial view of what the revamped public area at the marina might look like. Photo: Offaly County Council Banagher Marina Plan.

Hugely ambitious masterplan envisages bright future for Banagher

With overseas visitors to Ireland generating over €5.3 billion last year alone, Offaly County Council is hoping to capture a bigger share of that lucrative market with the official launch of a hugely ambitious masterplan for the under-utilised Banagher Marina and environs area.

It is hoped that the masterplan will drive the social and economic development of an area which has been sadly lacking in investment for decades, and create a sustainable tourism product which will appeal to both the domestic and overseas tourism market.

The plan was prepared by P lace + Urbanism and CHL Consulting, who worked in close partnership with Offaly County Council and a broad Steering Group of local stakeholders on the development of what they have described as “a transformative town-centre regeneration project for Banagher, which has a population of 1,907, according to the 2022 Census.

In order for Banagher to grow as a community and as a tourism destination, CPC Consulting said it needs to draw on not just the catchment population, but also on domestic and international tourism markets and special interest visitors, and the masterplan sets out a vision as to how the area can attract more visitors.

Banagher Marina, as depicted in the council's masterplan.

A large focus of the masterplan is on sustainable modes of transport, such as the development of pedestrian spaces, along with walking and cycling trails. Among the improvement works at the location of the Banagher Marina itself, the masterplan identifies the following:

- Provide public moorings, parking spaces, and car and trailer parking

- Remove parking along waterside, and allow for pedestrian access

- Improve ground surfaces along jettys, for pedestrian access

- Potential for expansion in boat hire yard

- Develop existing marina with new board walk for barge/ tour boat access

- Install seasonal barriers (barriers that will be open during a certain time of year & closed at others for vehicular access) at entrance to parking/ boat launch area

- Incorporate public toilets and small public spaces along the waters edge.

- Provide a space for a dedicate management at boat launch area/business opportunity

Similar ambitious projects have been set out for the wider Marina area such as the provision of a public plaza behind the Royal Shannon Hotel with the relocation of the playground to this area; pedestrian links and road crossings to the Old Army Barracks; the creation of new cycling and walking links along the banks of the River Shannon; widening footpaths and increasing traffic-free and low-speed traffic zones and devising a “palette of street trees” of different mature sizes and qualities, including some large specimen trees to enhance the streets of Banagher town and environs.

Marina parking

It is proposed to restrict parking around the area of Banagher Marina itself through the provision of dedicated parking spaces in a safe area and the implementation of a one-way parking system. Seasonal bollards will also be used to restrict vehicular access to the marina at peak times.

The masterplan states that there is “a possibility to promote a further link” under the existing bridge, linking the Marina to the public open space, and market space in the Old Army Barracks.

The masterplan states that the parking measures are “intended to balance the requirements of existing commercial operators with the need to create a more pedestrian friendly environment, making the marina area a destination in its own right.”

Swimming Pool

The river water swimming pool located at Banagher Marina, which is widely used by locals and tourists alike during the summer months, is due to be upgraded, according to the masterplan, as is the surrounding public park. The plan states that there is scope to upgrade the pedestrian walkways across the bridge to link the park and its facilities to the wider Banagher Public Realm.

The masterplan also notes that “improved and safer facilities for canoe, kayak and SUP launching, are to be provided as part of Waterway’s Ireland’s plans to upgrade the Harbour area and expand the infrastructure for existing and future water based activities in Banagher.”

Vacancy Rate:

The masterplan identified “a significant number” of vacant premises within the town core of Banagher, and expressed concern about the fact that the vacancy rate in the town is 15%, which includes both new and old buildings, including a number of ground floor retail units, upper floor residential and a three-storey building adjacent to the Town Square.

The most notable vacant building identified by the authors of the masterplan is the Royal Shannon Hotel, a protected structure on Main Street, which has lain vacant and semi-derelict for years. The key building has recently been acquired by Offaly County Council and is the subject of a separate Conservation analysis, with the Banagher Masterplan authors describing it as “a key opportunity site” and suggesting that it “should be considered in terms of developing a civic function and/or accommodation.”