Plans to include an office block as part of the first phase of development of the former Denny Bacon Factory site in Tralee town centre in Co Kerry have been given the go-ahead by councillors.

Constructing more office space in a town which has much vacant office space already drew some criticism from the public in their submissions to the plans which went on display between March and May.

But Covid-19 had shown major technology and financial companies and their workers were "seeking halfway houses", ultra modern and secure office space to relocate from large city office blocks to quieter towns, councillors said.

They approved a targeted marketing campaign to ask the likes of Microsoft and Facebook for their input into the layout and design of the new office block.

Tralee was identified as "an unemployment blackspot" by the Central Statistics Office in 2016, with unemployment at 27.2% versus the county rate of 12.4%, management said in their report on the submissions.

"The current Covid-19 pandemic is further contributing to this situation," as Tralee was reliant on worst hit sectors like retail and tourism.

High-quality satellite office accommodation attracting high-quality workers would enhance the economy of Tralee, the chief executive's report said.

The 2.3 acre site known as the Island of Geese at the western end of the town centre has been in use since medieval times and it was gifted to the people of Tralee by Kerry Group in 2016.

The factory buildings have been cleared apart from the old chimney stack, which is to be extended from 15 metres to 32 metres as a monument to the town's bacon producing past.

A park with a digital interactive children's play area, and permanent umbrellas are to be built as part of the public realm plans for a third of the site.

The need for a 3,700m square three-storey office block for around 250 people was questioned.

Denny factory workers representative Kevin O'Connor said "given the high vacancy rate in Tralee" already, "a sterile building" would only undermine the objective to attract people into the town centre to shop.

The Green Party, Kerry Branch, said an office block was no longer necessary.

"Covid-19 has changed the way people work and live. People are working from home and there is no need for an office block," the Greens had submitted, the meeting heard.

Instead of new office blocks, existing ones should be refitted, the Greens said.

However in a proposal supported by the council, Fine Gael Cllr Jim Finucane, former mayor said Covid-19 had shown that people were looking for "a halfway house" between working from home and from major cities.

"These offices must be ultra-modern and with the proper security and meeting room facilities," he said.

The council must "get off the blocks as quickly as possible" and target major technology companies in a marketing campaign seeking their input in the design and layout of the new office, Mr Finucane said.

His proposal was seconded by Fianna Fáil Cllr Johnny Wall, who said good broadband was needed urgently to facilitate workers from major companies like Facebook and Google move to Tralee.

Many of these were in their 30s now and with young families and wanted to move out of city apartments, Mr Wall explained.

The town's garda station is alongside the Denny site, and senior gardaí had concerns about being overlooked from the upper floors.

Obscure glass will be provided on the third floor to prevent overlooking, in response to the concerns of the garda.

The site will serve to connect the large private Bons Secours hospital and clinic and its workers with the main streets and shopping area of Tralee.

Councillors approved the three-storey office development with a retail/restaurant/café unit on the ground floor.

Around a third of the site is designated "public realm" and work on the public realm part of the project on paving, curved seating, the digital play ground, and a shallow amphitheatre to accommodate performances and markets is likely to begin in November.

Plans for housing and community facilities on the site are also being drawn up.