A €3 million science and technology park development, that was feared stalled, is to go ahead in Clonmel.
The development, which will see a collaboration between South Tipperary County Council and Limerick Institute of Technology, will encourage business start ups, research and development, and foster enterprise, on a purpose-built site in Ballingarrane.
In what was described by one councillors as ‘Santa come early,’ contracts were signed on Tuesday with a local building firm who have won the contract for phase one of the development of ‘Tipperary Science and Technology Park.’
At Monday’s meeting of South Tipperary County Council, County Manager, Billy McEvoy, announced that an agreement has been reached between the council and LIT to develop a 1500 square foot research development unit on the site, just west of Clonmel.
It is hoped that LIT will establish its enterprise start programme in Ballingarrane as soon as the second or third quarter of 2013.
Contractors for the project are South Tipp company Clancy Construction, wit RKD Architects.
The budget for the project is ‘in the region of €3 million.’
As well as the purpose-build research and technology building for budding businesses, Ballingarrane House itself has also undergone upgrading works and it is hoped it will become a ‘one stop shop’ for economic development in the county. Enterprise staff are to be located in the historic house, with hopes to expand the services provided there.
The new building will include open plan office space, designated offices, research and development labs, training rooms and professional ‘meet and greet’ facilities.
South Tipperary County Council purchased the 320 hectare site in Ballingarrane several years ago, with the intention of promoting economic development, Mr McEvoy reminded the meeting. They invested heavily in the purchase and in servicing the site, and sold on 50 acres to the IDA.
Following the economic downturn plans were put on hold, but this has benefitted the project, Mr McEvoy said, as now tender costs are about one-third less than at the height of the boom.
Mr McEvoy went on to say that it is also an advantage for the council that there is now a focus on enterprise in Ireland. He said the county wants to sustain the manufacturing enterprises that are here and encourage new developments. This development is part of the council’s ongoing strategy to encourage innovation in the county.
Director of Services Sinead Carr, who was the head of the steering committee which oversaw the planning of this project in recent years, since the singing of a Memorandum of Agreement with LIT in March 2011, said the council and the college have forged a strong alliance. LIT recognises the potential of Ballingarrane and has even worked the site into its future strategy. “LIT’s vision for the site ties in with our own original vision for the site,” she told councillors on Monday. “We will highlight the site as a centre for economic development in the county.”
Ms Carr thanked the councillors for bearing with that vision, because there have been times over the years when the council was under pressure to use the land for other things.
The meeting also heard that the steering group were anxious the new building would meet the specific needs of local businesses, and work by the steering group has lead to the building’s design and layout.
Council official Michael Lynch said that the council are satisfied this is the right development at the right time, they have identified customers and the building is right in this economy when people need help.
There was cross-party welcome for the news.
Council Chairman, John Crosse, said it was positive for the development of South Tipperary and he was glad a Drangan company had won the tender. He praised the council officials for having the vision to stick with the plan for Ballingarrane and said he hoped all of Tipperary will have an economic benefit from the science and technology park.
Cllr Tom Acheson described the news as “the most exciting announcement I have heard since coming no the council,” praising the timing of the development, the good value for money and the focus on innovation.
Cllr Michael Fitzgerald praised the courage of the former County Manager Ned Gleeson, who oversaw the original purchase of the Ballingarrane Estate land, and he went on to say South Tipp would now have a ‘jewel in the educational crown’ of the region.
It was Cllr Siobhan Ambrose who described the good news as ‘Santa come early’ for South Tipp. “The message has to go out that we are alive and open to new business,” she added.