Green light for 'glamping' plan



KENMARE hotelier John Brennan and his wife Gwen have been given the green light to redevelop Dromquinna Manor.

The plans will see the installation of a luxury camping and caravan park to mirror a USstyle 'glamping' project.

Mr Brennan, who co-presents RTÉ's At Your Service with his brother Francis, said that while the green light from An Bord Pleanála meant the consolidation of 35 jobs and the potential for further employment, the rewards for the local economy would be far reaching.

"It's the best Christmas and New Year present Kenmare could have as it means so many bed nights and a huge spin-off for the entire community," the hotelier stated. "For instance, we catered for 6,000 wedding guests in Dromquinna last year and each guest stayed on average two nights in local hotels, spending money in local shops, eating in local restaurants and using facilities such as Seafari and Star Sailing."

Last year 12 luxury tents were pitched in Dromquinna, resulting in the council sending a letter to Mr Brennan requesting that no developments take place until the appeals process was completed. While Mr Brennan claimed he had done no wrong as they were temporary structures and referred to existing planning, An Bord Plenála's recent planning grant will now see 35 tents pitched at the 38 acre site.

It's part of an American themed 'glamping' initiative - a low density, eco-friendly, luxury family campsite, mirroring US parks such as Yellowstone. A further 12 recreational vehicle (RV) pitches will be up and running in 2013, eventually rising

to 62 by next winter.

"The permission now means I can actively promote Kenmare and our product to domestic and international audiences and, with advertising, I would predict around 9,000 guests in 2013 and more the following year," Mr Brennan, who also co-manages The Kenmare Park Hotel, claimed.

"I would envisage the likes of American honeymooners spending a night in the tents and a further two nights in hotels in the area, while Dutch and French RV drivers, for example, would also be targetted," he further added.

The permission also gives the go ahead for internal renovations within the 19th century manor and plans include transforming 23 original bedrooms into 12 luxury suites as well as a new reception, shop, kitchen and laundry facilities.

Kerry County Council members initially cleared the way for the venture in February 2012, voting unanimously to materially contravene the County Development Plan's stipulation that camping facilities or caravan parks are not allowed direct access onto national primary or secondary roads. The contravention was recommended by Director of Planning Michael McMahon who said improved access had been agreed with the roads department and added that there were positives including a new tourism facility and the preservation of the old building.

While there were eight submissions concerning the original application, an objection to An Bord Pleanála by Patrick Henderson, Faha East, put the project on hold until full planning was granted in December.

Mr Henderson said that while he supported the redevelopment of the manor, he was not fully in support of the 'glamping' aspect and raised questions over the overall development on the protected structure and its surroundings, including the boundary walls. He also raised concerns that the council's stipulation for a developer contribution of over €180,000 was for vertical realignment of the boundary with the N70, a protected structure.

The Faha man eventually withdrew his appeal on December 12.

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