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Old Court Demesne – What is the proposal all about?

As a child I played in the Old Court Demesne lands, although back then we affectionately referred to it as the Germans land or the woods.  The area is located right in the centre of Bray and it is now for sale.

This is not any ordinary site; it has huge significance and at a time when our focus is correctly on the environment we live it and its destruction, this site could be described as a ‘Green Lung’ in the heart of our town.


(Image from Savills brochure)


It consists of 16.4 acres with the original Old Court house, a protected structure, the remains of a 15th century tower still intact and a 10th century high cross. The Swan River passes through the lands and there are protected mature trees located along the river valley.  A feasibility study of the land with regard to the residential area proposes 124 new homes comprising of 80 houses and 44 apartments.


The site is complex however in that it is zoned Existing Residential, New Residential and Open Space.  In fact 8 acres of the 16.4 acres is zoned open space.


I, along with Cllr. O’Connor am proposing the acquisition of Old Court Demesne by Wicklow County Council.  It offers Bray's a unique opportunity to invest in both the town's rich cultural heritage and its urgent housing needs.


Our proposal outlined the following benefits and rationale for the Local Authority examining this site.


 Environmental and Community Benefits: A Natural Green Lung

Old Court Demesne is a remarkable green space, featuring mature trees, a river, and ponds. This "green lung" is crucial for urban biodiversity, mental well-being, and offers a natural space for community activities and educational programs.




Architectural Heritage: Georgian Farmhouse

The Georgian farmhouse on the property, with its south-facing aspect and views of the Sugarloaves, adds to the site's architectural and historical appeal. It could serve as a venue for cultural events or even an opportunity for a social enterprise such as a café. 


It has long been identified by many community development organisations such as Bray Travellers Development Group and Bray Area Partnership (to name a few), for the need for a communal space where shared services can be provided.  The existing Farmhouse provides a perfect opportunity for such needs to be addressed.



Historical Significance: 15th Century Tower House

An intact 15th-century tower house presents a unique historical attraction. Its restoration, similar to the successful project at Drimnagh Castle, could offer an immersive historical experience, boosting tourism and educational opportunities.



 

Archaeological Importance: 10th Century High Cross Base

The site also includes a 10th-century high cross base, adding significant archaeological value and providing insight into the area's early Christian history.


Cultural Essence: Holy Well

The presence of a holy well enhances the site's spiritual and cultural narrative, attracting a diverse range of visitors and adding depth to the historical experience.


Horticultural Attraction: Fine Gardens

The well-maintained gardens offer aesthetic and educational opportunities in horticulture, enriching the site's overall appeal. Such services are currently being provided by the horticultural arm of Festine Lente and are highly valued by the wider community.  Festine Lente is however moving from the area and there is scope for these horticultural services to find a new venue.


Revitalization of Bray's Cultural Status

Acquiring Old Court Demesne is pivotal in enhancing Bray's cultural and heritage offerings, reinforcing its reputation as a premier cultural and resort destination.


Housing Development Potential

A portion of the land is zoned for housing, presenting an opportunity to develop affordable, social, and cost rental housing units. This aligns with the community's need for diverse housing solutions and sustainable urban planning.  Bray Municipal District is in a difficult position at present as the available land to the local authority is minimal; the demand however continues to grow. This site presents an opportunity for the local authority to address this with town centre land.

 



What the proposal is not is an attempt in any way to reopen any discussion regarding the shelved Swan River Greenway.  This proposal has already been considered by the community and rejected. 

This site is on the open market and eventually a developer will purchase it.  I believe that Wicklow County Council and Bray Municipal District should be front and centre in acquiring this site or part of it for the people of Bray and the surrounding area.  This is a unique opportunity for those living in the town currently and for our future generations.


I appreciate that it is not going to be easy and believe that it will be necessary to call on the skills of others to ensure that the site is protected and managed properly, but the appetite is already there and we already have people within our community and local authority with skills in the areas of conservation, biodiversity and housing that we can call on and are eager to get involved.


The purchasing Old Court Demesne represents an investment in Bray's soul, balancing the preservation of its rich cultural and historical tapestry with contemporary needs for sustainable housing and community development. It is a unique opportunity to enhance the town's environmental, cultural, and social fabric and one that we believe should not be missed.

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