A view of part of the St Brigid’s site in Ballinasloe.

HSE seeks experts to advise on disposal of St Brigid's lands

Some 225 acres and 31,500 square metres of buildings involved

The HSE is progressing with plans to dispose of a large portion of the land and buildings at the former St Brigid’s Psychiatric Hospital in Ballinasloe.

Despite the move being first revealed as far back as 2019, it is only in the last week that the HSE has sought to appoint expert property service providers to prepare open market valuations and offer strategic advice on the property and buildings on the St Brigid's Campus ahead of potential disposal.

The HSE has said its overall aim is to dispose of the majority of the lands and buildings to achieve the most advantageous outcome for itself and for relevant stakeholders.

The massive landbank is seen as a pivotal opportunity to help revitalise Ballinasloe and to provide a platform for future growth and development.

The move towards disposal will be warmly welcomed in Ballinasloe where there has been concern about the increasing dilapidation of some of the historic buildings, many of which have been untouched since its closure ten years ago.

The landbank comprises of a mixture of undeveloped lands and existing buildings totalling over 31,500 sq. m (340,000 sq. ft.) and circa 91 ha (225 acres).

The property portfolio has been divided into five separate parcels but the HSE said its preference is to dispose of the property and land in a single lot. However, it added that it is willing to consider disposal of the lots in parcels if alternative proposals are made.

The HSE said it intends to retain part of the lands for future development of healthcare facilities, however, the majority of the buildings and land in the central section of the former St Brigid's Psychiatric Hospital are being considered for disposal.

Included for retention are the the CNU building and St Brigid’s Hospital (known as the Admissions Building). Lands adjacent to the CNU, extending to the Creagh Road, will also be kept, for future development of healthcare facilities, including a Primary Care Centre, Enhanced Community Care Centres and an Ambulance facility.

The HSE said it has agreed to dispose of a circa four-acre site to the Department of Education (subject to planning) adjacent to and north of the Ballinasloe Enterprise & Technology Centre (formerly St Enda’s). It also references the possible disposal of a sports pitch to St Joseph’s College.

St Brigid’s was opened as the Connaught Asylum in 1833 with accommodation for 150 patients. St Brigid’s remained the Connaught Asylum until 1850, when it was renamed Ballinasloe District Asylum, to serve the counties of Galway and Roscommon only. New buildings were added in 1848, new wings were added in 1871 (male, east side) and 1882 (female, west side). Various alterations and additions were constructed on the complex between 1880 and 1915 including the Roman Catholic Chapel, a new dining hall and laundry, a school and farm buildings.

What is known as the new hospital, a detached H-shaped block on the eastern side of the complex, was constructed and first occupied in 1901. In 2001 the male wards at the east end of the original hospital were demolished. At that time the hospital was still in use as a long stay psychiatric hospital for 270 patients. The hospital finally closed in 2013.

A number of years ago, a workshop initiated by local TD, Denis Naughten, produced a report on potential uses for the campus, which suggested a multi-use space including, an interactive museum and heritage site, forming a global centre of excellence around this centre with research and training facilities, as well as a wellness village and trails. These would complement a commercial development and training and education facilities.

The HSE is advising potential property service providers to note that part of the site is designated as an Architectural Conservation Area with protected elements and structures and includes buildings of local and historic importance.

The area is identified as a regeneration site in the Ballinasloe Local Area Plan 2022-2028.

The HSE said the selected property service provider will be expected to engage with local community, local authority and other relevant stakeholders, including state bodies and to remain sensitive to historic significance of the properties, their former use and to legacy issues.

Whilst the HSE has divided the property into five areas for the purpose of the tender process, it said the areas could be reconfigured to best match the disposal advice provided. The HSE has also asked potential property service providers to consider a sequenced approach to preparing smaller sites within the overall landbank for disposal, repurposing or transfer to other State agencies.

The main St Brigid’s complex, on a site of some 45.7 acres, is part of the land being considered for disposal. This portion includes some of the main buildings on the site, such as the main hospital building, the ‘new hospital’ building, gate lodges and main entrance gates, the priests house, the original church and more modern church building, the master’s house, recreation hall, school building, former residential and store building, engineering workshop and farm buildings.

An area comprising the former nurses’ residence, together with undeveloped lands to the rear comprising a total of 64.55 acres on the southern side of the N6, directly opposite the main St Brigid’s Complex is also part of the tender process, as is a disused healthcare building (St Joseph's) north of the admissions building.

The HSE said it is currently engaging with Irish Water to transfer a disused/decommissioned sewage treatment plant.

Since late 2022 the HSE and their legal team are working with the Property Registration Authority to deal with registration matters so the title is in order for disposal.

The tender contract is expected to be for a year commencing in mid-May.