New bid to build Bushypark Pastoral Centre

St. James' Church, Bushypark: plans for Pastoral Centre.

Scaled-back plans for new pastoral centre, as well as an overhaul of Bushypark church, have been submitted to Galway City Council.

Similar plans – which caused controversy among local residents – were approved by An Bord Pleanála in 2014.

The new application is for an 830 square foot pastoral centre (around two-thirds the size of the 1,300 sq ft one originally planned) and restoration and renovation works to St James’ Church. Proposed alterations to the choir gallery have been dropped.

“A new building, a pastoral centre, is proposed on or near the site of the old school. It is proposed in a simple contemporary design so as not to compete with the hierarchy of the church building on the site.

“The proposed materials include curved coursed random rubble local stone wall to the east continuing beyond the structure to accommodate a grotto, and a self-finished and weathering blockwork to the west, a low pitch roof, and painted napped render finishes to north and south.

“A significant alteration to the church includes the new porch at the reopened west entrance to the north transept. It is to facilitate access to all users of the church and an adequate, convenient parking space is proposed adjacent externally.

“The porch will act as both a draught and acoustic lobby, and minimise noise in the church caused by the road. The design of the porch is in keeping with the church character, but with subtle differences in the detailing, so that it will blend in but be noticeably new when the detail is reviewed. Alterations to the choir gallery are now not proposed in this application.

“The remainder of the works to the church are renovation, restoration and conservation works to increase the longevity of the structure in the most suitable method of construction. The works are not arising from liturgical requirements,” the application reads.

A conservation report included with the application states: “The proposed works to the church are largely concerned with extending its life and are more invasive than general repairs and maintenance.

The works include new stained glass windows and replacement of some of the windows and repairs to the roof.

External works also include replacing the front brick piers and tails with stonework planers; revisions to the carpark layout; a public noticeboard and external lighting.

The church itself dates back to 1837, while the bell tower was completed in 1840.

When the original application was lodged in 2013, the then Bishop, Martin Drennan, congratulated the Parish Council in what he described as “one of the most historic and significant churches on the Diocese”.

A decision on the application is expected from the City Council before the end of February.

There were 29 objections to the original plans, with the vast majority of those from local residents.

It was argued that the development would affect the green lawn to the front of the church – it was described as a unique feature in Galway City. There were claims that the size of the site was too small to accommodate a pastoral centre, while it was also argued it would be out of keeping with the church, a Protected Structure.

Objectors also claimed that the proposed pastoral centre would be located on pre-Famine graves, would block the view of the grotto and would attract anti-social behaviour.

One resident said that the pastoral centre – which would also be used as a mortuary – would lead to an intensification of use of the site in terms of generating additional traffic. The City Council approved the plans, and this decision was subsequently upheld by the Planning Appeals Board.