Fire at St Kevin's results in renewed calls for action on historic site

Fire at St Kevin's results in renewed calls for action on historic site
Aerial shot of the damage caused by a fire at St. Kevin's in July 2017. Picture Evan Shelly.

A CORK City councillor has slammed the lack of action on prominent, historic structures in Cork after yet another fire was reported at the former St Kevin's hospital in Shanakiel.

Just over 18 months ago, a massive fire destroyed half the iconic structure, which overlooks the Lee Fields.

In the months since there have been several reports of antisocial behaviour at the site and, while some steps have been taken regarding its future, no concrete development plans have been revealed.

Another fire was reported on St Stephen's Night at the former hospital, prompting criticism from Sinn Féin councillor Thomas Gould about the lack of progress.

Mr Gould said that while the fire on St Stephen's Night was a small one, confined to just a few bins on the site, it should serve as a warning about the long-term future of the entire complex.

"There was a major fire 18 months that destroyed half the building," he said.

"Here we are, almost in 2019, and it has not been resolved. This latest fire could have easily become something much bigger. We have seen numerous small fires on the site over the years and similar damage done at other historic buildings like Vernon Mount and Our Lady's.

"These protected buildings are not being protected."

The site is owned by the HSE, which had taken some steps to secure the gutted building in the wake of the fire in July 2017.

Just two months ago, some months after it was confirmed that the site was for sale for almost €3 million, it was confirmed that the State's Land Development Agency (LDA) was in discussion with the HSE about transforming it into a major housing development.

While the talks are ongoing, the site has been removed for sale.

Feasibility studies are understood to be ongoing.

Previously, it has been reported that the likes of Cork City Council, Cork County Council and some private developers had shied away from buying the site due to infrastructural shortfalls, such as the poor access roads.

Mr Gould called for immediate action to be taken to bring the site back to the market for development.

"In a few years time, we could all be looking at the rest of this historic building engulfed in flames and being totally destroyed," he said.

"There would be a lot of crocodile tears if it was to happen but the steps haven't been taken to prevent it.

"We could have had student accommodation, homeless services, social or affordable housing or a mix of all of this up there, but we haven't.

It is clear that it has not been looked after properly."

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