Work on the second stage of the reconstruction of St Mel’s Cathedral in Longford town has been cleared to proceed, after An Bord Pleanála rejected an appeal which had been lodged against the planning application.
“I literally received confirmation just 10 minutes ago,” said a delighted Fr Tom Healy of St Mel’s, when contacted by the Leader last Friday. “It goes without saying that we’re extremely pleased with the news and we’re very grateful to our design team, who have put in an awful lot of work on this. It’s an important step forward for the project.”
The approval of the planning application clears the way for work to proceed on renovating the interior of the cathedral. This will include the fitting of windows, redesign of the sanctuary area, including relocation of the tabernacle, bishop’s chair, alter and baptismal font to the central aisle, and a new organ, which is to be located in the east transept of the building, along with a tiered choir stall.
Also covered by the application is the reconstruction of four confessional areas located in the alcoves along the east and west aisles of the building, and an elevator which will provide access to all floors.
Works associated with heating, water supply and hydrants, electricity and other services are also dealt with by the document, as is the cleaning of the cathedral’s facade, removal of concrete slabs and installation of natural stone replacements in the portico, and a new external door at the north face of the crypt to facilitate services.
A list of eight conditions was attached to the planning approval, dealing mainly with the architectural integrity of the structure, pollution and traffic management.
The decision in relation to the planning permission, which had been lodged with Longford Co Council in August of last year, had been delayed after an appeal was placed by Longford-based architect, Liam Madden. Mr Madden previously told the Longford Leader he had a number of issues with aspects of the proposed work relating to what he called “exempted developments.”
Mr Madden also outlined reservations about the elevator which is to be installed as part of the renovation work. In documents submitted as part of his appeal, he stated that, “the proposed glass-fronted lift located in the centre of the vestibule... would give rise to problems of modesty for visiting Scotsmen in their kilts.”
Meanwhile, those behind the cathedral rebuilding project are making preparations to commence the final stage of work on the landmark building. “We will soon be submitting the third and final planning application, which will cover the area surrounding the cathedral, as well as traffic management,” Fr Healy explained. “All told, it looks like we’re still on course to have St Mel’s ready in time to celebrate Christmas Mass next year.”