Proposal to revitalise historic The Oaks demesne outside Derry

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Proposals to revitalise The Oaks, a historic demesne on the outskirts of Derry, has been submitted to Derry City and Strabane District Council.

The Faughan Valley Community Interest Company (CIC) has applied for permission to develop an ‘administration centre and residential accommodation' in the listed building off the Glenshane Road which was originally constructed between 1785 and 1790 by James Acheson, a prominent Derry businessman of the day.

The Faughan-side property was extensively damaged by fire in the 19th century and from 1867 was restored by the contractor John Nolan to plans by the architect John McGurdy, who designed the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin.

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It is believed the land on once the building stands was once a monastic settlement dating back to the 1200s.

The Oaks as it currently looks.The Oaks as it currently looks.
The Oaks as it currently looks.

A design and access statement newly submitted by KJS on behalf of the applicant explains that the period home, currently used as a private residence, has fallen into a state of disrepair, and is due to be vacated.

"This will leave the listed building vacant, in need of a purpose and much needed investment to secure its future health and the long-term use,” the statement notes.

The Faughan Valley CIC has thus been set up to ‘take charge of The Main House’ and ‘to look after the listed buildings long-term needs’.

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"The plan is to obtain statutory approvals for a proposed use and to secure funding to bring the building back to life. The company is made up from four board members with a broad range of specialised skills who are interested in providing a new facility in the locality, that serves the locality and acts as a focal point of interest to the entire northwest and beyond,” the planning documents state.

The Oaks as it once looked when it was in its prime as a period home.The Oaks as it once looked when it was in its prime as a period home.
The Oaks as it once looked when it was in its prime as a period home.

The applicant is aiming to convert the house into an administration centre for visitors to the Faughan Valley Woodlands Area and residential accommodation for visitors and tourists who want to or will be encouraged to visit the area.

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The design statement notes: "The overall vision for ‘The Oaks’ is to link it seamlessly to the wider Faughan Valley Woodlands area, acting as a destination for visitors, offering accommodation, activities, amenities, and an information point.

"Until now the Main House has had an uncertain future but with the development of the new A6 dual carriageway and significant investment by The Woodland Trust in the area the listed building has been handed an opportunity not to be missed.

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The Oaks today.The Oaks today.
The Oaks today.

"The valley has approximately 35km of walking trails incorporating sculptures, wooden bridges, amphitheatre, waterfalls, and car parks all free to the public but with little to no services available in the area.”

The planning documents point to the surrounding neighbourhood’s status us one of the most important areas of green infrastructure in the whole of the North.

“It is the largest publicly accessible natural woodland in the whole of Northern Ireland and The Woodland Trust are already expanding their offering.

“The Oaks can provide a solution to the needs of visitors to the Faughan Valley Woodlands area and breathe new life into a beautiful, listed building that is in slow decline, but now can be protected for future generations to come,” the design statement declares.