By John Murphy
THE former home of Charles Bianconi, the Italian mayor of Clonmel who effectively put 19th century Ireland on wheels by establishing the country’s first transport system, is to become a 29-bedroom hotel.
Building contractor Dan Casey has applied to Clonmel Borough Council for planning permission to convert Silversprings House on the Waterford Road into a hotel. A previous application was turned down some years ago.
This time, however, the developer plans only minimal modifications to the three-storey house. The plan is to create a small bar, lounge, restaurant and conference room in the main house.
The major part of the development will involve the construction of a three storey extension at the rear of the main dwelling to accommodate all 29 bedrooms together with an entrance and reception area.
Charles Bianconi’s name will always be linked with the horse-drawn coach service which he operated in Clonmel in the 1800s from what is now Hearn’s Hotel in Parnell Street.
This latest planning application is just one of seven new hotel developments in the town. If all of them go ahead they will generate more than 500 jobs. This will add to the 1,000 job extension planned at Guidant, which was taken over two weeks ago by world healthcare leader Johnson & Johnson in a $24 billion-plus acquisition.
Guidant is the biggest industrial employer in South Tipperary with 1,000 on the payroll. The recruitment drive aiming to double that number will begin in mid-2005.
The veritable explosion of new hotels in the town is, according to local Fianna Fail TD Noel Davern, a massive vote of confidence in Clonmel’s future. "We are talking about many hundreds of jobs in multi million euro projects and the town is facing a boom of unprecedented proportions," he said.
The new hotels are earmarked for the 280-acre Ballingarrane Estate where an IDA business and Technology park is also planned, as well as at Marlfield where local businessman Frank Kent is also proposing to construct a golf course, and at Poppyfield, Moanmehill, Two-Mile-Bridge, and Davis Road.
Bekan Properties are also planning a large-scale commercial/retail development on the new bypass similar to the one successfully developed at Poppyfield.
Housing needs are certain to increase dramatically in the wake of these major developments. Local auctioneer Pat Quirke believes that not enough land has been zoned to meet the housing demands in the coming year and into 2006.
Mr Quirke said that while there is now tremendous confidence in Clonmel, there isn’t enough housing to fully capitalise on it.