Green light for second cinema in Killarney

An Bord Pleanála overturns KCC refusal

Sinead Kelleher

Killarney is set to get a new five-screen cinema following news last week that planning has been granted by An Bord Pleanála for development on the former Torc Great Southern Hotel on the Park Road.

The new cinema would be the first development of the disused site which has been lying idle since the hotel was closed and demolished.

Kerry County Council had refused planning permission for the entertainment facility but, last week, An Bord Pleanála overturned that decision to grant permission. The proposal entails a two-storey building with gross floor area of almost 2,500 square metres, located in the centre of the site, providing for five cinema screens. 

The largest cinema screen is a premium large format (PLF) screen which will have 301 seats, with three of the other four screens providing for 95 seats each and the fifth providing 119 seats.

Killarney's current cinema, Cinema Killarney, is a five screen facility without PLF. The new proposal also includes plans for a two-storey restaurant, to be operated independently, but would be ancillary to the cinema, according to the planning documents, while 200 parking spaces will also form part of the development.

The cinema is to be operated by Omniplex. and the developers are Torcbridge Ltd.  A submission made on the development by Fehily Timoney and Company on behalf of Sean Culloty of Four Star Pizza based at Cinema Killarney, claimed that the proposal could result in the demise of the existing facility and that planning authorities are obliged to protect existing retail operators.

The same submission states that a third cinema would interfere with the relationship with Tralee where there are eight screens, including a PLF screen. A cinema impact assessment submitted as part of the planning application states that there is a need for a new cinema as the average occupancy of Cinema Killarney is above the national average.

Kerry County Council had refused planning on the grounds that it would affect both the night-time economy of the town and the tourism product. It also said it would give rise to unsustainable single-car trips.

The same site was to be developed previously as a visitor, retail and conference centre but the proposals were withdrawn. A retail development was granted in 2007 with parking but was never constructed.

In giving permission to the development, the planning officer stated that the development "would not seriously injure the amenities of the area or of property in the vicinity, would not have an adverse impact on the vitality or viability of the town centre and would not give rise to a traffic hazard or to traffic congestion."

The site, one kilometre from the town centre, was purchased by the Robert Butler Group, who paid Aer Rianta a reported €7.7m for the property in 2003. It was later put on sale for €3m in 2012.

Meanwhile, Cinema Killarney is due for major renovations later this year. Owner Tommy Cooper this week said that it was a "curious" decision to make for the town. 

Cllr Donal Grady said he is opposed to the plans as it would be detrimental to the local family-owned cinema in the town. He said that the site should have been purchased by the former town council and used for the good of the town.

"I am totally opposed to it. I'm for progress but this is interfering with local business which is wrong," he said. "The Cooper family have a long tradition in the town and a long history with film."