A £60 million plan to redevelop the former Bessbrook Mill site and one-time army base into a mix of housing, retail and office accommodation has been lodged this week.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has now received two formal applications – one for full permission and the other for listed building consent – relating to the now vacant Bessbrook army base site.
The proposals would create scores of jobs during construction, with more upon completion.
The earmarked site is that of the former Bessbrook Mill, on the Derrymore Road.
It has been largely vacant – barring a local flooring business – since 2007, when it closed during the ongoing process of demilitarisation and the dismantling of security watch towers. In fact, at one stage Bessbrook became the busiest military heliport in the whole of Europe.
The expansive site now looks set to be brought back into productive use, with applications brought forward by the Keady-based Farlstone Construction Ltd.
The project would be delivered in three phases.
It will “incorporate the retention and refurbishment of the existing Bessbrook Mill complex” – hence the listed building application.
In all, a total of 272 residential units of various sizes are planned. This would comprise 214 apartments and 58 houses.
A total of 149 of the apartments would be provided within the existing Bessbrook Mill, which is to be refurbished and adapted to facilitate the residential use, along with associated works.
This would include the provision of an additional storey to the historic building.
The Mill will also incorporate three new offices, as well as a new gym.
The remaining 65 apartments will be built across the site in three and four-storey blocks.
Of the total 272 residential properties, 46 are one-bedroom, 143 two-bedroom, 71 three-bedroom and 12 four-bedroom units.
The ambitious development also includes the construction of two new shops on site.
There would be a total of 327 parking spaces provided for residents and visitors.
Storage and refuse/waste facilities feature within the overall proposals too.
According to a planning statement accompanying the application for full permission, works will also be provided to include for improvements to existing internal roads, pedestrian walkways, a high-quality landscaped realm and children’s play area.
It adds: “The design proposals will provide a balanced residential and community-focused development.
“The proposal will bring a significant local landmark back into productive use and re-integrate what was historically the focal point of the village back into the urban fabric of Bessbrook.
“This proposal is presented to council as a viable option which will secure the site’s future for residential development and which is considered to complement local services and facilities.”
The planning statement says the Bessbrook Mill scheme will represent a ” capital investment in the order of £60 million”, while there will be a “significant gain for the region and the village” during and post construction.
A pre-application community consultation exercise found “broad support” for the redevelopment of the site.
The planning statement says the project will bring new jobs and investment in the local economy.
It would see the “removal of redundant site features from its use as former military base – such as security fencing – which are unsightly and detract from the village”.
It would also see the introduction of “badly needed housing in the area” and bring about the refurbishment of a Listed Building.
Planning permission had previously been given for a similar mixed-use scheme in 2012, but lapsed five years later, given that “no material start” had been made to the development approved.
The planning statement says the development will be of huge benefit to the area and should act to bring further investment.
It adds: “The proposed development at Bessbrook Mill represents an excellent form of sustainable development by bringing back into use an important listed building which has been vacant for some time and has fallen into disrepair.
“The vision of the project is to re-establish Bessbrook Mill as the focal point of the area through the sensitive redevelopment of the site as a foundation of the village.
“The proposed development for a mixed-use development is in line with the zoning in the local development plan for the area.
“The plan also acknowledges that such development at Bessbrook Mill can act as a catalyst for the regeneration of the site, Bessbrook and the wider area.”
The proposals will now be advertised shortly.