Council buys key 20-acre landbank in Bealnamulla

The purchase of a prime 21.5 acre piece of land - known locally as the ‘Parkway site’ - by Roscommon County Council this week opens up the possibility of increased housing stock and enhanced recreational facilities for the growing population in the Monksland/Bealnamulla area of south Roscommon.

The announcement that the local authority had purchased the controversial site was made by Chief Executive, Eugene Cummins, at the December monthly meeting of Roscommon County Council on Monday afternoon of this week.

Mr Cummins, who described the site as “a very important and strategic piece of land”, revealed that the council had spent the past year in negotiations to purchase the 21.5 acres but had been “bidding against someone who went the whole way.”

The large vacant site has been the subject of much heated discussion at local authority meetings over the years, and was variously described by councillors as an “eyesore” and “an accident waiting to happen.”

The controversial site was placed on the market in March of last year by agent, Savills Ireland, with a guide price tag of €1.6 million. Five and a half acres of the site are zoned ‘new residential’ and almost six acres are ‘strategic residential reserve, while the majority of the site (9.5 acres) is designated as ‘recreation and amenity.’

Mr Cummins told Monday’s council meeting that the purchase of the lands in Monksland had endorsed the commitment of the council to “this important town” and also tied in with their plans, along with Westmeath County Council, to make Athlone a regional growth centre.

“There were so many times when we thought we had this site, and then we lost it again,” said the Chief Executive, who paid tribute to the “doggedness, determination and patience” of Director of Services, Majella Hunt, in securing the purchase. “It is a very big piece of the jigsaw that we now have,” he added.

In welcoming the announcement, Cllr John Naughten said it presents “huge opportunities” for the development of the Bealnamulla and Monksland areas, and will open up the possibility of recreational facilities such as “parks and football pitches” which are very badly needed.

“This site was left in a deplorable state, and this is a very good news day for the whole Athlone and South Roscommon area,” said Cllr Naughten.

Similar sentiments were echoed by Cllr John Keogh, who described the land purchase as “critical” and reiterated the need for the urgent provision of social and affordable housing and enhanced recreational amenities to serve the needs of the rapidly growing population in the Monksland area.

“It will make a huge difference to the whole area” declared Cllr Tony Ward, who added that while Roscommon “might have the oldest population in Ireland” the Monksland area of South Roscommon has one of the youngest populations in the country.

“There are huge housing waiting lists in the area, and there is also a need for football pitches and community centres to serve the young people who live in this part of South Roscommon,” said Cllr Ward, who added that development of the Parkway site would “bring balance to Athlone.”