A design image of what part of the proposed scheme would look like.

Moves to get Lissywollen housing plan back on track

With the housing crisis in Athlone and beyond in sharp focus, it's emerged work may begin on the biggest ever residential project in the town later this year which it's hoped could make serious inroads into the massive local demand for private and social housing.

The news comes after it was revealed that a second party has come on board with builders Alanna Homes to potentially move it forward.

The entire development was thrown into major doubt last year following the appointing of receivers to Roadbridge Holdings, who were part of the original Alanna-Roadbridge joint venture, which was granted planning permission by An Bord Pleanála in June of 2021, for the project, as part of the Strategic Housing Development process, along with a link road from the Ballymahon Road to Garrycastle.

The residential development is earmarked for a 17.6 hectare site alongside the existing Brawny housing estate, between the Scoil na gCeithre Maistri Gaelscoil and Garrycastle.

It would see the construction of 285 houses and 291 apartments and duplexes, to be built in phases over a number of years, in what would be the largest-ever housing project in Athlone.

When queried on the Lissywollen/Brawny housing project at a recent Westmeath County Council meeting, director of services in housing Mark Keaveney explained that the council has been going through the process of securing a replacement partner for the joint venture after a previous party went into liquidation: “We'll be inviting the new entity to tender within the next two weeks,” he stated several weeks ago.

Tender documents are currently being finalised and it's expected to be listed later this week, Cllr Frankie Keena confirmed on Monday to the Westmeath Independent, saying a new contract price has to be agreed with the new entity before the project can proceed.

He said he expects that process will be complete during the summer and work could begin in late summer or early autumn.

Some 174 of the Lissywollen units are due to be sold to the local authority as social housing, with the remaining 402 housing units to be sold on the private market.

A key road linking Brawny with Garrycastle, known as Lissywollen Avenue, is also part of the project.

While it is unknown who the second party in the new joint venture is at this point, it is expected the price of the project could be higher than previously estimated due to the higher cost of materials, services and labour since the project was first mooted.

Cllr Frankie Keena.

“I’m looking forward to Lissywollen getting started, it’s long awaited and with this, and other developments, it should help to address the serious housing shortage in Athlone,” Cllr Keena commented this week, adding that there could be new houses, private and social, built there on-site within twelve months. It will also be “a comfort to employers” who are struggling to attract employees to Athlone because of the shortage of housing, he said.

Lissywollen, along with the homes in Baylough due to be allocated shortly, and Greally Park, the second phase of the council’s social housing development in Arcadia comprising of 24 homes, will make a “serious dent” in the social housing list in the town and free up other homes in the private rented sector as local authority tenants move into new homes, the Fianna Fáil public representative believes. In addition, he said there will be substantial social housing coming on stream from the private developments current under construction in the Athlone area.

“When all of these come to fruition it will be a major help,” Cllr Keena said, acknowledging however, that there will be a shortage in supply, both private and social, until that happens.

At the time of going to press (Tuesday) there were just ten homes for rent on the daft.ie website in Athlone, the majority of which were two, four or five bed homes ranging from €1,500 to €2,000 a month. The least expensive listed is a one-bed apartment for €913 a month.

It was previously envisaged that the first phase would be located at the Garrycastle end of the 17.6-hectare development site which sits alongside the Old Rail Trail greenway, and between the Scoil na gCeithre Maistri Gaelscoil and Garrycastle. According to planning documents, this first residential phase would consist of 72 houses and 47 duplex or apartment units.