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Visitor centre near Hellfire Club 'no threat to protected wildlife areas'

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Main room inside the Hellfire Club

Main room inside the Hellfire Club

Main room inside the Hellfire Club

A controversial visitor centre proposed for the Dublin Mountains will have no adverse impact on protected wildlife and habitats, its promoters have claimed.

South Dublin County Council claims new surveys show increased visitor numbers arising from the €19m centre on Montpelier Hill, near the iconic Hellfire Club in Rathfarnham, were unlikely to lead to a significant rise in numbers venturing further into the uplands.

The visitor centre is strongly opposed by many residents, environmental groups and local politicians, who want to safeguard the natural beauty of the area, while also expressing concern about additional traffic.

The Save the Hellfire group has described the visitor centre as a "vanity project".

But the council has said that a new Natura Impact Statement had concluded "beyond all reasonable doubt" that the centre would not adversely affect the integrity of the Wicklow Mountains Special Protection Area.

It acknowledged measures were needed to prevent an impact on merlin, a bird of prey, because it would result in a decrease in hunting habitat.

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Dublin's iconic Hellfire Club

Dublin's iconic Hellfire Club

Dublin's iconic Hellfire Club

However, the council said the report showed such measures would reduce impacts on merlin "to imperceptible levels".

The report is contained in the council's response to a third request by An Bord Pleanala for further information.

The latest request was made following an oral hearing on the project in November 2018.

An Bord Pleanala subsequently said it was not satisfied that an earlier survey on the impact on merlin was adequate.

It also said it was not satisfied that increased visitor numbers would not have an adverse effect on protected habitats in the area of the Hellfire Club.

However, the council said an updated Environmental Impact Assessment report did not change any conclusions and that a three-fold increase in Hellfire Club visitors would not result in significantly more people accessing protected heaths.

Cafe

The project is sponsored jointly by South Dublin County Council, Coillte and the Dublin Mountain Partnership.

The plans include a cafe, shop, toilets, changing facilities, a walkers' lounge, exhibition space and education centre.

The plans also provide for a shuttle bus from a park-and-ride facility at Tallaght Stadium.

Parties who have already made submissions to An Bord Pleanala have until March 23 to comment on the latest information.


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