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Tholsel redesign work on hold but council tease major tourism project

Kevin Callan Tholsel
Councillor Kevin Callan and the Tholsel Building in Drogheda.

There has been no further progress on refurbishing the Tholsel building in Drogheda, home of the Drogheda Tourist Office, because Louth County Council were unsuccessful in securing funding from Failte Ireland for the redevelopment of the second floor of the building.

However, Director of Services Frank Pentony did tease councillors with news that the local authority were working with Failte Ireland in preparation for a funding application for a “major tourist attraction in Drogheda.”

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Councillors discovered the reason for the lack of work on the next phase of redevelopment of the Tholsel on Monday afternoon during the March monthly meeting of the Drogheda Borough Council when Independent councillor Kevin Callan probed the local authority’s Pentony on the matter.

Cllr Callan, who originally raised the issue last month, said it was his understanding that the council were successful in 2017 in a Failte Ireland funding capital grant funding bid for money to go towards new work on Tholsel.

He said that an application was also made at the same time for funding for Ardee Castle, which was rejected. However, Callan’s query hinges on the fact that in January a public consultation was held in relation to the future use of the ancient townhouse in Ardee. He says given Tholsel received funding sooner, that project should be at a more advanced stage.

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“It was said in April 2017 that works would be done in and around 2020 – which was the 250th anniversary of the building itself,” Callan asked.  “Where was the funding expended and why have we not seen any consultation on it to date?”

In response, Pentony said that the local authority were initially successful in their bid for €40,000 of funding in 2017. They money was seed funding to begin the development of the design of the first floor of the Tholsel building, but when costs exceeded a Failte Ireland threshold, funding was withheld.

” That €40,000 was allocated to prepare the design and concept for the refurbishment of the Tholsel. Unfortunately, the estimated cost of the design was way above the threshold that Failte Ireland had set so the application for the refurbishment of the Tholsel was not successful,” he told the meeting.

However, Pentony took the opportunity to suggest that the Tholsel may be funded through a new stream of Failte Ireland money. “We are engaged with FI in relation to funding an application for a major tourist attraction in Drogheda.

“It may or may not be Tholsel,” he added, coyly.

Pentony added that Ardee Castle’s has subsequently been funded by the Rural Regeneration Fund and in response to Cllr’s Callan question about whether consultants appointed to the Tholsel project were subsequently allocated to work on Ardee Castle, Pentony said they had not.

“Did council appointment consultants to the Tholsel? If so, did they go through that workload or were they allocated to another project in the county?” Cllr Callan asked.

“We hired consultants to do a Part 8 and we took on some conservational architects. If we had the money in the morning, we would be in a position to go to tender on that,” the Director of Services said. “We also engaged a conservational architect for Ardee but they are two different firms.”

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