Agreement is about to be reached between South Tipperary County Council and the newly merged Tipperary Institute/Limerick IT which will see a major development of third level education facilities in Clonmel.
TI/LIT is expected to proceed this year with the building of a multi purpose education, training and research centre on the Science and Technology Park at the Ballingarrane Estate on the Clonmel by-pass. The TI/LIT will also retain their site on the by-pass ending years of speculation that the campus would transfer to Ballingarrane with a private developer/or joint venture taking ownership of the land the TI now occupy opposite the Clonmel Og grounds on the by-pass.
It brings to an end years of speculation about the future of the Tipperary Institute in the town and the transfer to Ballingarrane.
The progress on the future of the TI/LIT has been warmly welcomed and was announced on Monday by South Tipperary County Council manager Ned O’Connor. A final memorandum between the Council and the TI/LIT which involves a €4million local authority loan to the TI/LIT, is expected to be drawn up and ratified within the next few weeks.
A breakthrough in discussions between the Council and the T1/LIT came about when the Council offered a site fronting the Ballingarrane Estate on the Cahir Road, a site originally earmarked for a hotel. That eleven acre site will be the location for the new third level facility and the amalgamated body of TI/LIT will hold onto its facility and lands on the by -pass.
After agreement is reached on the memorandum, the TI/LIT will have three months to apply for planning permission for the new campus at Ballingarrane and it is expected that the development will take thirty months to complete.
Originally the TI had been offered Ballingarrane House as a headquarters with the option of building on adjacent lands but the amalgamation with Limeerick IT has led to a new direction. TI/LIT turned down a link with the Ballingarrane House which is now set to be occupied by South Eastern Regional Authority and the County Enterprise Board after the property has been restored.
Mr O‘Connor said the amalgamation opens up huge prospects in terms of availability of the range of courses while the development in Ballingarrane was an exciting one in terms of link up with local industry as it was the intention of TI/LIT to be well located to service local industry.
The members of the council said the move was a significant one for the future development of South Tipperary. They congratulated the manager on the vision shown by the council in the securing of the Ballingarrane Estate and praised the role he played in the development of the facility.
The manager said that originally the TI were in favour of transferring to Ballingarrane, setting up headquarters in Balingarrane House and building adjacent to the house with a developer taking over their lands on the by-pass on a cost neutral basis.
Unfortunately with the economic downturn such an arrangement did not come to fruition. In an effort to keep the proposal alive, the council made a proposal to take over the lands on the TI by-pass and facilitate a TI move to Ballingarrane.
Again events overtook the proposal as the McCarthy Report recommended the closure of the TI. Then following the merger between TI and LIT, the issue was looked at again. The amalgamation body took a different approach and ruled out a re-location, preferring to have two sites in the town, the existing one and a new facility at Ballingarrane on a different site to the one originally proposed as they were not in favour of occupying Ballingarrane House.
The TI/LIT wanted a site that would place them close to industry, enabling them to act as a pillar to provide a focal point for the science and technology park and facilitate industries in the park. Agreement was now on the verge of being reached with the final memorandum of understanding about to be drawn up.
The manager said it was a very satisfactory outcome which would result in an expansion of the Institutes presence in Clonmel with the retention of the by-pass campus and the provision of a new campus in Ballingarrane. The deal was announced at the meeting by Mr O’Connor when he gave an update on the development of the Ballingarrane Estate.
He told members that it contained a fifty acre IDA site which he said remained an important site for the authority who were committed to promoting it and in terms of national strategy regarding the site as a key location. The estate also contained an area of one hundred acres which the council had designated for indigenous industry and a science and technology park. In recent times some strong interest had been shown in that area which if they materialise will represent important developments for South Tipperary.