€230m slice of paradise
Massive Center Parcs holiday complex gets green light and will create 1,000 full-time jobs
The go-ahead has been given for a €230m holiday village that will create 1,000 full-time jobs.
The Center Parcs Forest holiday village near Ballymahon in Co Longford is expected to open for business in 2019, after An Bord Pleanála granted planning permission.
It will be able to accommodate 2,500 visitors and is one of the biggest tourism projects ever to be developed in Ireland.
The scheme includes 470 lodges, 30 apartments, a spa, a sports hall, two lakes, restaurants and a "subtropical swimming paradise".
Planning permission was granted for the project at Newcastle Wood by Longford County Council last February. This was appealed to the planning appeals board, which has now given the green light subject to 21 conditions, including a requirement to make a financial contribution towards the local road network.
It also includes a requirement that the lodges are only used for tourist accommodation, and not as permanent residences.
There is also a requirement that staff from Inland Fisheries Ireland be given access to the Rath and Inny Rivers. Water from the rivers cannot be used to top up the artificial lakes in the development and the amount of water to be abstracted must be recorded and submitted to Inland Fisheries.
In addition, details of any fish counters to be installed must be agreed with Inland Fisheries, and the lakes or ponds cannot be stocked with fish without written consent.
A total of 750 jobs will be created during construction works. The company said it expected work to begin shortly and that the village would open for business in four years' time.
"We warmly welcome approval from An Bord Pleanála to proceed with our plans to develop Center Parcs Longford Forest," chief executive Martin Dalby said.
"Since we announced our desire to bring the Center Parcs experience to Ireland last April, we have been overwhelmed by the positive support we have received at both local and national level and we are looking forward to forging ahead to bring our plans to fruition."
Once open, the forest holiday village will have capacity for up to 2,500 guests. Many of the jobs are expected to be filled by employees aged 18 to 24, and most will live locally. Center Parcs estimates that, when operational, the new holiday village will add about €32m to the economy.
The objections centred on the scale of the project, traffic impacts and concerns about deforestation. But in its ruling, An Bord Pleanála said the project would not affect the local environment or have an impact on traffic volumes or water quality if the conditions were implemented.
"The board concluded that, subject to the implementation of the mitigation measures proposed, the proposed development would be in accordance with the proper planning and sustainable development of the area," it said.
Center Parcs said it would now move to the public procurement process for the building contracts.
Longford County Council chief executive Paddy Mahon praised the Center Parcs management team for the "professional manner" in which they dealt with the different authorities and local community after choosing the Longford site.
He added that the "immediate challenge" for the county was to enhance other aspects of its tourism product, which would encourage visitors to extend their stay in the county.
Just 10pc of the total site will be developed, and a dedicated team of conservation rangers will be employed to protect the woodland. Center Parcs operates five resorts across the UK.