The medieval Island of Geese site was gifted to the people of Tralee by Kerry Group, which operated the Denny bacon factory there until 2008.
The council has already received €1.5m in EU funding for urban renewal for the regeneration of the site in Tralee west. This will provide half the cost of clearing the site, doing a master plan, and developing the amentiy area and adjoining streets.
The council has now announced six weeks’ public consultation — asking the people of the county and of Tralee for their ideas.
Over the next six weeks, members of the public will be able to pick up survey forms from any of 19 different locations in Tralee and propose ideas which will be used to form a master-plan. These could include submissions from public bodies — the area is already being eyed for a new garda station.
A minimum of 30% of the island will be retained as a public amenity space, said Michael Scannell, former Tralee town clerk and now director of services with the council.
“It’s a complete blank,” he said. “We have no pre-conceived ideas only that it will be an economic and social driver for the town and to act as a catalyst for the adjoining streets.
“We are conscious that this site was donated by Kerry Group to the people of Tralee. Essential to the future development of the site will be a sense of ownership of the site by the people of Tralee and by having this open consultation in an informal way, we hope that sense of buy-in and ownership can be achieved.”
Mayor of Tralee Terry O’Brien said: “This is the most exciting development for Tralee in many years. We must acknowledge the generosity of Kerry Group in donating the site to the people of Tralee. It will now be up to Kerry County Council, working with the people of Tralee, to rejuvenate and revitalise this historic and valuable location. The people of Tralee and the whole county are being given an unprecedented opportunity to have a direct input into what should be done with a site such as this.”
Director of corporate affairs with Kerry Group, Frank Hayes, said he is delighted to see the project advance to its next stage.
The Island of Geese lies west of Tralee’s two historical settlements located around the Dominican friary and the 13th century Norman castle, and the area has long been a nucleus of trade, craft, and industry.
In an Ordnance Survey map dating from 1878, the area is identified as a ‘Pork Shambles’ — ‘shambles’ being an archaic term for a butcher shop, testifying to the fact that pork manufacturing was present on the site long before the establishment of Slattery’s bacon factory in 1922. Maps from the 19th century also reveal industries as diverse as clay-pipe making and salt-extracting clustered around the historical pork shambles.
In 1943, Slattery’s was purchased by the Denny Company. The plant employed up to 400 people at its peak. In 1982, it was acquired by Kerry Group. The factory closed in December 2008. In February 2014, Kerry Group’s director of corporate affairs, Frank Hayes, announced the company had decided to gift the site to the people of Tralee.
It had become apparent when it closed that it was no longer feasible to have a traditional manufacturing process in a town centre location, Mr Hayes explained.
Former employee, councillor Sam Locke, said in the transfer of animals had begun to be seen as a particular problem — there had been numerous occasions when he had to chase pigs around the town.