Saturday 24 August 2019

'Iconic' €14m rollercoaster for Tayto Park refused over noise impact on nearby residents

On a roll: The Cú Chulainn Coaster, one of the big attractions in Tayto Park. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
On a roll: The Cú Chulainn Coaster, one of the big attractions in Tayto Park. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Gordon Deegan

An Bord Pleanála has refused planning permission for an ‘iconic’ €14 million steel roller coaster for Tayto Park as the operation of the ride would be too noisy for nearby residents.

In a hammer blow to expansion plans at Ireland’s largest theme park, the appeals board has refused planning permission for ‘Coaster 2021’ in response to objections by four residents.

Meath County Council gave the plan the go-ahead in February.

However, local residents, Jeremy Butcher and Suzanne Galwey along Donal Greene and Clare Smith appealed the decision to An Bord Pleanála.

In their joint appeal, they claimed that the anticipated screaming from passengers on 'Coaster 2021' will increase noise disturbance in the area.

The appellants’ dwellings are located 430 metres to the north of the Tayto Park site and 480 metres to the north east of the theme park.

Now, in its ruling, the appeals board has refused planning citing noise impact on the residents from ‘Coaster 2021’ as the primary ground for refusal.

In its formal order, the appeals board stated that having regard to the location of the roller-coaster in close proximity to residential dwellings the board is not satisfied that the roller-coaster “would not seriously injure the amenities of property in the vicinity by reason of noise”.

Former Tayto crisps owner Ray Coyle
Former Tayto crisps owner Ray Coyle

The Board has made its refusal following a recommendation from its inspector to refuse planning permission at the end of a 49-page report.

As part of her on-site inspection on June 7th, the inspector noted the ‘rattling’ and ‘screaming’ sounds from the park’s existing Cú Chulainn roller coaster.

The appeals board also refused planning after stating that it was not satisfied that the proposed development would not be at the risk of flooding.

The board also stated it was precluded from granting planning as it was not satisfied that 'Coaster 2021' would not be likely to have a significant adverse effect on the EU protected site - the River Nanny Estuary and Shore Special Protection Area (SPA).

Coaster '2021’ was to be one metre lower than the park’s 32 metre high Cú Chulainn roller coaster and be 972 metres in length. The roller coaster was expected to add 40 full-time and part-time jobs at the park.

The decision represents a major blow to the future prospects of Tayto Park.

Planning documents lodged with the application state that if the Tayto Park operators do not add a major attraction at this time “the longer term viability of the park would be brought into question”.

The planning documents stated that ‘Coaster 2021’ will help projected visitor numbers to Tayto Park - owned by businessmen, Ray Coyle - increase by 15 per cent from 630,000 in 2019 to 725,000 in 2023.

Speaking last November, Mr Coyle said that the new roller-coaster “will copper-fasten the future of Tayto Park”.

He said: “The new roller-coaster will be two roller-coasters in one. It will be a first for Europe and ensure the future of the park. If you don’t create something landmark every three of four years, your numbers will start going down and that is the road to closure.”

Noise disturbance was the first ground of appeal by the residents and they stated that the existing Cú Chulainn roller coaster produces significant ‘rattling’ while moving accompanied by screaming from those on board every time it is in use, which is every few minutes up to nine hours a day.

The appeal contended “Although, the new new roller coaster is electric and may not produce the same rattle, it will inevitably bring the noise of participants screaming every time it is in use.”

They added that the application actually includes two roller coaster rides “tripling the total noise disturbance we experience”.

A report commissioned by Tayto Park stated that last year the Park produced a €32 million spend for the economy and sustained over 800 jobs.

The most recent accounts for Tayto Park for 2017 show that it recorded an 8pc rise in pre-tax profits to €3.65m.

This followed revenues increasing by 5pc to €17.533m - or an average of €92,770 a day in revenues for each of the 189 days Tayto Park was open in 2017.

Mr Coyle has been contacted for comment on the decision.

A spokeswoman for Tayto Park said the company said they are “very disappointed” by the decision and said it will affect their expansion plans.

She said in a statement: “The management of Tayto Park is very disappointed to be informed today of the decision by An Bord Pleanala to refuse the planning application for the construction of two new RollerCoasters at Tayto Park. We believe that our planning application and response to the objections raised to An Bord Pleanala addressed every concern raised.

“We now have no choice but to delay an investment of over €14,000,000 into the development of two world class rollercoasters which would have brought over 25 construction jobs to Meath and by 2020 40 new permanent jobs to Tayto Park as well as countless new visitors to the county from Ireland and abroad.

“We will continue to strive to create a world class facility encompassing a unique blend of nature and exciting attractions at Tayto Park.

“We will examine the decision of An Bord Pleanala in detail and decide our next course of action and although disappointed with the decision we will continue to look at ways of keeping Tayto Park one of Irelands most visited and loved attractions.”

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