Columb Barracks Mullingar Regeneration Submission July 2021

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26th July 2021

Dear Members,

Re:         Columb Barracks Mullingar Regeneration

As you may be aware Mullingar Chamber sits on the Land Development Agency [LDA] Advisory Group in relation to the Columb Barracks Project and what it might deliver in terms of investment and development for Mullingar town in the coming years.

Mullingar Chamber is fully supportive of the LDA mandate to deliver housing at the Columb Barracks site as well as the preservation and conservation of all historically important elements of the Columb Barracks.

In relation to the other key potential outcomes at the Columb Barracks, we would like to outline the following positions:-

  1. Enterprise and Education [EUR30m / 100 jobs / 1,000 places] – Mullingar Chamber welcomes the potential development of a centre of excellence for the built environment, an education centre, incubation space or remote working hub at Columb Barracks.  Currently, Mullingar has no real third level education provision and we feel this offers an outstanding opportunity to deliver a facility in this space for these sectors that could also knit well with the new national apprenticeship strategy where a new emphasis is being made on apprenticeships as valid career routes to address key skills shortages in the economy.  This could be led by LWETB or come under the Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands Midwest, or a mixture of both.  Mullingar Chamber estimates if a new build facility of 10,000sq.m. were to be developed for this it would be a capital investment of in excess of EUR30m and employ in excess of 100 full-time staff and inject a further EUR5m per annum to the local economy and could train or educate over 1,000 candidates on an annual basis
  2. Housing [200 units / EUR60m / EUR600 residents] – Mullingar Chamber welcomes the provision of housing at this location and feels strongly that this housing should be located in the land to the rear of the barracks and that alternative uses to housing be found for the main barracks as set out in the other priorities.  The rationale behind this approach [all housing in the camp field location] is that we feel the economic delivery of housing in the old barracks buildings simply does not make sense owing to the layouts of the buildings, change of use permissions and adaptations required and the costs to adapt them to meet with the building standards will be well in excess of the economic value of the finished product.  Furthermore, we feel the main barracks can become a superb commercial / education / cultural space without the need to living space therein and the complications that can arise from mixing these uses in buildings and locations like these.  Mullingar Chamber estimated that over 200 new residential units could be delivered in this area with an investment of in excess of EUR60m to accommodate over 600 new people in this location and welcomes this development as part of a wider, balanced, mix of uses
  3. Community, Recreation, Civic, Culture & Heritage [1,000sq.m. / EUR5m / 20 jobs / 30,000 visitors] – Mullingar Chamber welcomes the prioritisation of cultural and heritage preservation in this location coupled with recreation and civic element that might form part of an outdoor concert area that may be used when the main buildings are not being used [weekends, festival events etc.]. In terms of preservation, we strongly advocate the establishment of a museum in this location to preserve the heritage of the barracks and also consider the inclusion of a musical museum and café and restaurant amenities.  Assuming a 1,000sq.m. facility like this would form part of this scheme we would see an investment of in excess of EUR5m to deliver it as well as the creation of over 20 jobs and attraction of over 30,000 additional visitors to the town on an annual basis
  4. Sustainability – Mullingar Chamber would welcome the delivery of points 1-3 above in an environmentally sustainable manner with social sustainability by way of integrating community uses and facilitating community groups with specific needs in specific areas where these can be funded and managed properly as part of the long term solution as set out
  5. Construction Innovation – Mullingar Chamber would welcome a strong focus on construction innovation as part of this regeneration.  We feel this ties in well with the apprenticeship model set out on point 1 above and that, in a country with over 2m homes to be retrofitted by 2050 as part of our net-zero carbon commitment and a cost of over EUR100k per home for deep retrofit this area requires EUR200bn of investment over 30 years or EUR6bn per annum and is one of the largest growth areas in terms of construction and knowledge growth in our economy.  We also feel these old buildings could form an excellent training ground for this if the main centre were to be developed as a new build facility standing alone or in close proximity to the old barracks

Summary – EUR100m Scheme – 150 Jobs
In summary, Mullingar Chamber feels this is a once in a hundred-year opportunity for Mullingar to reposition one of our most important cultural and heritage sites into a position to deliver development for the town that is unprecedented in terms of capital investment in housing, education and training as well as preservation of our heritage with an economic value of over EUR100m to the town and its economy and the creation of over 150 long term employment opportunities in the town.

Next Steps – Engagement
The LDA are seeking feedback from businesses and persons in relation to this project.  If you support this approach above as set out we would welcome your support for this and look forward to advancing with the next stages of this development.

If you could email us some commentary on this or a general response in support of this approach by 4pm on Friday 30th July [and cc the LDA on this would be most appreciated.

Many thanks in advance.

Yours sincerely,
John Geoghegan