1.0 Castelcomer- Introduction

Function and Aims

The Plan has two main functions:

1. To provide the strategic guidance for the physical development of Castlecomer
2. To provide the basis for assessing the detailed planning applications submitted to the Council.

The aim of the Castlecomer Draft Development Plan, as part of the Draft County Kilkenny Development Plan is to ensure the proper planning and sustainable development of the town. It will therefore facilitate the co-ordinated social, economic and environmental development of Castlecomer and its environs and for the conservation and enhancement of its natural and built environment. The Local Authority also has an obligation to promote principles of sustainable development as outlined in “Sustainable Development - A Strategy for Ireland” 1997, as adopted by the Government. It is therefore the duty of the Local Authority to ensure a sustainable balance between socio-economic growth, cultural growth and the environment.

2.0 Locational Context

Castlecomer is situated 12 miles north of Kilkenny City in North-East County Kilkenny. The N78 National Secondary Route links the town with Kilkenny City, Athy and Dublin. The R694 route links Castlecomer with Ballyragget while the R426 route links it with Abbeyleix.

As the second largest town in the county with a population of 1,380 (Census of population 1996, Central Statistics Office.), Castlecomer is primarily a market and service centre for a rich agricultural hinterland.

3.0 Historical Development

The earliest record of a settlement at Castlecomer dates from circa 1200 when William Marshall erected a motte and castle east of the existing bridge. The name ‘Castlecomer’ comes from the Irish ‘Caislean an Chumair’, which means ‘the Castle at the meeting of the Waters’. The ruins of an ancient Norman Castle exist close to where the Rivers Dinan, Brokagh and Cloghogue meet. The town was laid out in the 17th century by Sir Christopher Wandesford who also constructed Castlecomer Demesne. The town developed from wealth generated from the mining resources of the immediate area. The town acted as a principal market town for North Kilkenny and as an ‘estate village’ for the Castlecomer Demesne of the coal mine owners; the Wandesford family.

4.0 Urban Structure

The town is essentially a cross-roads development whose main feature is the magnificent broad and tree-lined High Street (also known as Market St., Bridge St., Main St. or the Square). The secondary public space of importance is Market Square where the Courthouse is located and where much dereliction exists. Development has been restricted to the east of the town by the Dinin River, the eastern bank of which is the location of Castlecomer Golf Club and Sawney’s Woods which is subject to a Tree Preservation Order.
Other important woodlands include those in Castlecomer Demesne. Development of the town was formerly restricted to the west by the railway line. However, as it is now abandoned, it no longer serves as a constraint.

The town has a large number of very high quality buildings, some dating from the 1640s and others from the 18th and 19th Centuries. A number of buildings of high architectural quality are listed for preservation (see Volume Three of Development Plan). The conservation of these buildings, including particularly their details such as timber sash windows, slate roofs, railings, and shopfronts will be the basis of ensuring that the high amenity environment required to attract incoming firms and tourists is safeguarded and improved.

It will be an objective of the Council to designate a conservation area for the town in order to protect the town’s historic core including its important amenity areas which are an intrinsic part of the towns setting. The Council’s Policies for conservation and preservation set out in chapter 9 of Volumes One.
Future development in the Plan period will consist of infill within existing developed areas and in-depth development to the West of Kilkenny Street on rising ground. Because of the prominence of this area careful landscaping and building design will be required.

The vacant line of the former railway runs north/south through this area and links a number of open spaces. These lands provide the opportunity for the creation of an amenity wood with foot and cycle paths. Support of the Department of Agriculture Food and Forestry will be sought for a scheme of tree planting in this area which would raise the level of amenity to the west of Kilkenny Street and which would soften the impact of in-depth development of this area.

4.1 Urban Structures Objectives

During the period of the last plan many of the objectives set out were achieved such as the provision of public toilets and the refurbishment of the Court House on Kilkenny street.

The following are the objectives of the Council

1 To conserve and enhance the town’s distinctive historic built environment by seeking to preserve those archaeological, architectural and industrial items, which are listed as protected structures in the County Development Plan.

2 To conserve and enhance the wooded surroundings of the town, including Sawney’s Wood.

3 To encourage well-planned in-depth development and infill construction within the Development Boundary and to zone lands for this purpose.

4 To support and assist project development for the future tourism and amenity development of the Castlecomer Demesne in co-operation with local Community bodies, Coillte, the South East Region Tourism Organisation and Bord Failte.

5 To restrict linear development of the radial routes entering the town, and to encourage tree planting and use of local materials for boundary treatments where rural dwellings are permitted to meet established local needs.

6 To actively encourage the reinstatement of derelict housing and to incorporate such development into the County Council housing programme wherever feasible.

7 To encourage the establishment of new uses for redundant buildings and to implement the Derelict Sites Act 1990 in order to ensure the removal of dereliction within the Plan period.

8 To liaise with Coillte and the Department of Agriculture Food and Forestry to continue to protect and replace as necessary (as trees are shown to be in a dangerous condition) trees, which are of high amenity value to the town, including Sawney’s Wood and urban trees such as the Lime Avenue on High St. To extend and improve the existing avenue at Kilkenny Street.

9 To have a good social mix in new residential developments providing a range of unit types/sizes.

10 To investigate the provision of pedestrian/cycle paths linking parts of the town otherwise poorly connected.

11 The new developments should address the public realm in a manner appropriate to their use and location.

12 To seek the preservation of those items of archaeological, architectural and historic interest listed as Protected Structures in the County Development Plan including items of industrial archaeology.

13 That all developments within the town are of a high quality and use ecologically sustainable materials and construction details.

14 To encourage mixed use developments such as upper floor residential over ground floor retail; upper floor community/cultural facilities over ground floor retail/office and where appropriate, retail/community/cultural facilities incorporated into housing schemes.

15 That all developments in the expression of form should relate to its context and scale.

16 That all development should integrate with the town structure maximising potential for developing new or existing connections with adjacent areas of the town.

17 That all new public buildings should be fully accessible. This may not always be possible in existing buildings, particularly where the necessary interventions would mean the loss of important historic fabric or features. Where this happens partial access will be encouraged.

18 To provide a clear hierarchy of public spaces.

19 To encourage and facilitate street planting and seating in appropriate locations. Orientation of seating, shelter, shading by planting, nearness to traffic, sun-trap potential, etc are all issues to be considered in assessing the location of such features.

20 To have a high quality of public lighting in all developments appropriate to the area.

21 To ensure that new cabled services in the town are located underground and to seek to have all existing overhead cables undergrounded on a phased basis.

5.0 Population

Castlecomer’s population grew by approximately 80% between 1911 and 1981, with only the census of 1926 and 1956 showing a decrease. In addition, the most recent Population of Census figures illustrates a population of 1,380 for Castlecomer in 1996, as compared to a slightly higher population of 1,396 for the year 1991.

Year Town County Pop as a % share of County
1966 1,141 60,463 1.8
1971 1,244 61,473 2.0
No census in 1976      
1981 1,548 70,806 2.1
1986 1,494 73,186 2.0
1991 1,396 73,635 1.9
1996 1,380 75,336 1.8

As can be seen from the table above Castlecomer has not sustained its population share of the County over the years. Since 1981 its percentage share of population has declined from 2.1% in 1981 to 1.8% in 1996.

5.1 Population Objective

To assist in the provision of conditions within Castlecomer which allow the town to sustain and strengthen as a sustainable population centre within County Kilkenny.

A new census of population has been undertaken in 2002. It is an objective of the Council to monitor and analyse the results from the new census as they become available during the period of the new plan in order to identify problems and opportunities which might arise as a result of changes in the towns population.

6.0 Labourforce/Employment Industry

Mineral resources include deposits of anthracite coal, shale and fireclay and have been exploited for several hundred years, the most significant of which (coalmining) having had a major impact on the development of the town. Currently strong employers in the town include the Ormonde Brick which employs approximately 90 people directly in addition to providing indirect employment through haulage and pallet supply and Comer International with approximately 180 employed.

Industrial lands are available on the N78 south of the Town where Steel Roofing Systems operate.
Adjacent to this there is additional land available for the location of industry.

6.1 Labourforce/Employment Objectives

It will be the policy of the Council to:

• Ensure adequate amounts of land are zoned for industrial development within the town
• Liaise with the Industrial Development Authority Enterprise Ireland the County Development Board, and with local development and enterprise organisations to encourage new firms to locate industrial lands in Castlecomer and to facilitate the expansion of and access to existing firms through the provision of infrastructure and the identification and reservation of lands.
• To improve the attractiveness of the built environment in Castlecomer as a place in which to work and live and as a location for industry, services and tourism investment.
• In the context of a County Tourism Plan, and in liaison with all relevant tourism and community bodies, to investigate the tourism potential of Castlecomer, and to assist in the town’s tourism development.
• To support and assist project development for the future tourism and amenity development of the Castlecomer Demesne in co-operation with local Community bodies, including the Castlecomer Demesne Committee, Coillte, the South East Region Tourism Organisation and Bord Failte.
• To investigate opportunities for additional training in skills relevant to the labour market, in association with local bodies and the V.E.C.
• To liaise with Coillte and the Department of Energy regarding the beneficial development of the natural resources of Castlecomer and its hinterland.
• To facilitate as practicable the provision of the following services within existing or proposed buildings, for example, an Enterprise Centre, Library or Community Centre, Tourism Information, Job Information, Exhibition Centre, and Local History Museum.
• To improve the quality of the built environment of Castlecomer through the Village Renewal Programme.
• To liaise with all relevant development and enterprise agencies in establishing premises for use by local start-up businesses.
• To take steps in association with local community bodies and business interests to improve the environment and appearance of Castlecomer in the interests of attracting enterprises and tourist visitors to the town.
• To encourage and promote the strengthening of Castlecomer as the local market centre for its rural catchment area.
• To require a high standard of design and landscaping in industrial development, in order to maintain the areas attractiveness to new enterprise.
• Encourage the location of industrial development in the town in order to promote the development and diversification of the local economy to provide additional employment opportunities.

7.0 Retailing

Castlecomer provides the normal services of a market town, including banking, post office supermarket credit union professional services and smaller shops.

The Council commissioned a retail study for the entire County. As part of that study the retail hierarchy of the County was confirmed. Castlecomer was placed in the sub county town category below Kilkenny City and on a par with Callan, Graiguenamanagh and Thomastown.

The study confirmed that Castlecomer performs an important function in its role as a market town for its hinterland. The location of significant retail development will be assessed through the sequential test. For details of the sequential test see sections 3.4.11 and 3.4.26 of Vol. 1.

For Castlecomer it is recommended that significant proposals for retail development of 500m2 (gross) or greater convenience and comparison would be assessed against a range of criteria. For details on this see sections 3.4.24 and 3.4.25 of Vol.1.

It is the policy of the Council:

• To maintain and enhance the role of Castlecomer as a local market centre for its rural catchment area and as a centre to service its anticipated expansion during the period of the Plan.

8.0 Tourism

Castlecomer’s wooded setting and fine architecture are its principal attractions. In order to become a tourism destination these features would have to be enhanced and emphasised and in addition accommodation and activities for tourists would have to be increased. Castlecomer Demesne, an 18th Century landscape park currently in the ownership of Coillte has potential for such development. Formerly with extensive lakes, cave, summer-house and a boat house, the demesne could provide the basis for a development, with camping, hostel and self-catering accommodation. Development of a tourist attraction of sufficient scale and quality based on the area’s mining heritage, would have the potential to bring day-visitors to the area and would be beneficial to the tourism development of the County as a whole.

It is recommended to build on the Tourism Resources currently available to the Town, namely the 18th century Demesne and associated woodlands, lakes and trails, Sawney’s Woods, Castlecomer Golf Club and river, which are all accessible from the river end of High St., and to link these along a ‘Tourism Axis’ running east/west along High St. to a proposed Heritage Centre of local industry with associated mixed-use craft/retail outlets based in the currently occupied Avonmore Co-op Buildings and property at the west end of High St.

8.1 Tourism Objectives

It is the policy of the Council to:
a) Co operate in the development of a tourism development strategy for the town and its hinterland in association with Kilkenny City and County Tourism, SERTA, Bord Failte and local development and enterprise organisations.
b) Consult with Bord Failte, SERTA, Kilkenny Tourism and local tourism groups in order to improve the adequacy of directional sign posting for tourists within Castlecomer.
c) Encouraging the development of outdoor recreational/leisure activities, which are based on the natural amenities and resources of Castlecomer.
d) Provide public rights of way to places of special beauty, amenity or recreational value or having views of outstanding quality. The council shall also seek the preservation and maintenance and improvement of all existing rights of way to such areas.
e) Provide a significant level of investment in the provision of roads and sanitary services infrastructure, which will help to foster the development of Tourism within the Castlecomer.
f) It is the policy of the Council to facilitate and maximise the tourism potential of the industrial heritage of Castlecomer and surrounding area in association with Colliery Heritage Association, Laois County Council, Carlow County Council and other local development groups and tourism interests.

9.0 Community Facilities
9.1 Recreation and Amenity

Additional recreational facilities are needed in Castlecomer. There is good provision for active recreation, with GAA, soccer pitches, Community Hall, and use of the Community School sport facilities.

9.2 Recreation and Amenity Objectives

• To provide a library in the former convent premises at Kilkenny Street.
• To continue to preserve Sawney’s Wood as a site of scientific interest, for
• visual amenity and for walking and to improve public access.
• To liaise with Coillte regarding access to woodland walks.
• To liaise with the Department of Energy and local bodies regarding the creation of a linear amenity wood and walkway along the line of the former railway line west of Kilkenny Street.
• To investigate the need for playground facilities for pre-school children.

9.3 Education

Castlecomer is well catered for in primary and post-primary school facilities. There are four primary schools and one Community School within the town. There is ample capacity to accommodate a generous increase in pupil numbers in the Boys National School. The Presentation Convent primary is a larger school and has no available space to extend the school premises.

It is the policy of the Council to:

• Facilitate the provision of adequate primary school facilities in appropriate locations in Castlecomer in co-operation with the relevant educational and community bodies.
• Facilitate the provision of adequate post primary school facilities in appropriate locations in Castlecomer in co-operation with the relevant educational and community bodies.
• Facilitate and encourage the promotion of all forms of continuing education and training in skills needed to develop the local economy.

9.4 Health Facilities

The existing health facilities include a health centre on Kilkenny Street and the District Hospital located at Donaguile.

It will be the policy of the Council to
• provide for and encourage the development of health and other community facilities in the Town with the South Eastern Health Board and other statutory and voluntary agencies.

9.5 Library Facilities

Castlecomer library was officially opened in March 1999.This represent the Councils commitment to expanding the library service in the North of the County.
The library has the second highest membership in the County and is actively used.

9.6 Community Facility Objectives

a) To facilitate the provision of additional high standard formal recreation and amenity open space and ensure these are convenient and accessible for all sections of society, particularly children, the elderly and those with physical/mental disadvantages.

b) To ensure the provision of adequate areas of open space required serving new residential developments.

c) To ensure that environmental conservation and enhancement measures are incorporated as part of the design of sport and recreation facilities.

d) To facilitate community and statutory bodies in the improvement of relevant services in the town.

e) To make tree preservation orders where necessary, under Section 45 of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act 1963, for trees within the town environs where the future of such trees is endangered. Where developments are proposed which would endanger an unprotected tree/trees within the town, the Local Authority will ensure the developer has due regard to preserving the tree/trees and the respective habitats.

f) To provide a new fire station for Castlecomer on the Kilkenny Road.

10.0 Housing

The improvement and extension of Love Lane and the replacement or repair of derelict houses in High Street will be a priority.

10.1 Housing Objectives

a) To ensure that an adequate amount of residentially zoned land is available to cater for the expansion of the town.
b) To reserve land so as to offer opportunities for locational choice for housing development within the Development Boundary, and to seek to maintain a clear division between the town and the county.
c) It is an objective of the Council to implement the housing strategy contained in appendix A of the County Development Plan.
d) The Council will require that 18.7% of the land zoned for residential use or for a mixture of residential and other uses be made available for the provision of social and affordable housing.
e) To ensure the maintenance and preservation of housing within the town centre, and to encourage continued residential use of upper floors.
f) To encourage the rebuilding of new residential and mixed use infill development where vacant plots exist.
g) To encourage sensitive conversion and reuse of historic structures where an original use has become redundant.
h) To utilise the powers under the Derelict Sites Act (1990) to require the maintenance of residential properties in non-derelict condition.
i) To encourage planned housing development of serviced lands within the development boundary and to encourage a wide range and high standard of design within these developments. The Planning Authority will require that serviced/serviceable lands will be developed in depth and at sustainable densities. The use of degraded or brown-field sites will be preferred and utilised where possible in order to improve the environmental character of the town.
j) To provide serviced sites within the development boundary and to enter into joint venture to encourage housing development for the elderly
k) To encourage and assist a co-ordinated programme of restoration and refurbishment of the buildings throughout the town in conjunction with designations put forward in the Town Renewal Plan for Castlecomer.
l) That residential developments have a good social mix, providing a range of unit types/sizes.
m) To provide for good quality pedestrian/cycle links between new developments and the town centre.
n) To have a good social mix in new residential developments providing a range of unit types/sizes.
o) To ensure a high quality of building design and open space in all proposed housing, and other developments and to preserve where possible existing hedgerows, trees and habitats.
p) To encourage residential use on upper floors within the town over ground floor retail/office; or community/cultural facilities and where appropriate, retail/community/cultural facilities incorporated into housing schemes.
q) For residential units within the designated areas of the Town Renewal Plan residential units shall have the following minimum sizes:

- 1 bed unit: 500sq. ft. or 46sq.m
- 2 bed unit: 700sq. ft or 65sq.m
- 3 bed unit: 1,000sq. ft or 93sq.m

11.0 Roads Transportation and Car Parking

Castlecomer has good transport connections to Kilkenny and Dublin. Car parking in the Town Centre is inadequate with arbitrary parking along High St. and along Chatsworth Row. Speeding traffic along High St. and Kilkenny St. is a problem and is of special concern due to the location of a Primary School along Kilkenny St.

11.1 Road Objectives

1. To provide traffic calming measures on High St. and Kilkenny St.
2. To provide short stay (shopping) parking perpendicular to the road and long stay parking (resident/business) between the avenue of trees and the building fronts.
3. To monitor the adequacy of Castlecomer Bridge to cater for prevailing levels of traffic.

12.0 Sanitary Services

Currently there is ample amount of land served by the Sewerage Network within the designated Development Boundary. A scheme for the augmentation of the water supply is planned and will be completed during the Plan period if government monies for such schemes are released. The supply scheme currently will not allow Castlecomer to develop or grow as it otherwise could if the water supply network was improved.

12.1 Sanitary Services Objectives

1. To investigate the adequacy of the town’s sewage treatment facility, with a view to assessing future need for improvement.
2. To implement a scheme for water supply augmentation for Castlecomer Town.

13.0 Conservation

By preserving characteristic features of the County, we seek to maintain and nurture our cultural heritage as part of our identity. The intrinsic value of the Castlecomer townscape, the areas of nature conservation and the sites, monuments, and structures of historic, architectural, artistic or technical interest is a major resource for the development of tourism and economic development while contributing to the quality of life. The sustainable management of this heritage is a key priority. The Council will seek a balance of accessibility and tourism development along with the conservation and preservation of the protected structures and heritage items generally and their settings.

Castlecomer has a rich heritage and through the policies and objectives in Chapter 9 of Vol. 1 of the Development Plan the Council will seek to maintain and preserve that heritage.

It is the policy of the Council to use its powers and available resources to protect the architectural archaeological, historic and artistic heritage of Castlecomer both for its cultural and tourism value in accordance with the policies set out in Chapter 9 of Vol. 1 of the County Development Plan.

13.1 Conservation Objectives

The following are the objectives of the Council:

It is an objective of the Council to prepare an Architectural Conservation Area Plan for the town with the period of the Plan.

It is an objective of the Council to seek the preservation/conservation of the following structures.


Item Rating Location
Bank of Ireland R High St. (N.)
Five bay, two-storeyhouse, rendered with a single round-headed doorcase and leaded fan light R High St. (N.)
Carriage-arch and a five bay, two-storey house with a simple doorcase R High St. (N.)
Another carriage arch and a three-bay,2 storey house L High St. (N.)
Carriage arch and a pair of 3 bay, 3 storey houses one with a simple doorcase R High St. (N.)
5 Bay, two-storey house with dormer windows L High St. (N.)
5 Bay, three storey house rendered withraised quoins, parapet and raised end stacks.In front good railings and 2 sets of gate piers N High St. (E.)
House on corner and “Lyster” four bays,two storeys L High St. (S.)
Two public houses L High St. (S.)
“Coogan’s” Pub is a three-bay 2 storey house L High St. (S.)
“Medical Hall” has an ionic shopfront on a 4 bay, two storey house R High St. (S.)
Large 4 bay, three storey house with round headed doorcase, leaded light and carriage arch R High St. (S)
Four two storey houses and “McKenna” with a simple shopfront and good lettering L High St. (S.)
Three bay, 2-storey rendered house with two dormers and end stacks L Swan Road
Two 3-bay, two storey houses L Swan Road
Church of Ireland, 1818 R N. of town
Catholic Church R Kilkenny St. (E.)
Market House Main Block with pedimented wings. It is rendered with segmental-headed wyatt windows on the first floor N Kilkenny Street (E.)
“O’ Braonain” shopfront L Kilkenny Street
“Commercial Establishment”
L Kilkenny Street
“Quinns” Shopfront L Kilkenny Street
FlorenceTerrace L Kilkenny Street
Entrance gate and lodge to Castlecomer House R Castlecomer-Athy Road
The Old Mill Race L Castlecomer-Athy Road
The Spa Well L