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Single objection sinks planned e30m Ballinskelligs hotel

By Kathy O’SullivanTHE decision by An Bord Pleanala to uphold an objection by one individual to the building of a ?30 million four star hotel on the site of the old Waterville Beach Hotel at Reenroe in Ballinskelligs has been strongly criticised by the local community.

Eccleston International Limited was granted planning permission by Kerry County Council in September 2004 to build a 106-bedroom hotel, conference centre and leisure facility in.

However, Eugene and Anne McMahon, who reside permanently in Canada but have a holiday home at Reenroe, lodged an appeal with An Bord Pleanála after planning permission was granted and it was announced this week their appeal had been upheld.

Speaking to The Kerryman on behalf of Eccleston International Limited, Galway woman Bríd Heinl said her company was bitterly disappointed that one person’s objections could stop the development from going ahead.

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“We are in total shock. We began this project four years ago and have been waiting a full year for An Bord Pleanála’s decision. This was a ?30 million investment but the investors will shy away now especially as the tax incentives no longer exist, she said.

“This would have been a four star hotel on the Ring of Kerry, which would have offered conference and spa facilities as well as a venue for weddings. The hotel would have created at least 200 jobs locally all year round as we had done a lot of research and were confident it would have a good trade even in the winter months,” she said.

Mrs Heinl said she did not know if Eccleston International Limited would continue to pursue the project.

“We do not know what we are going to do. We have the option of taking a judicial review but this could take up to a year and would be very expensive. It is particularly disappointing that the objection has put a stop to major investments by an international hotel group and with it the consequential loss of potentially hundreds of local jobs,” she added.

The Chairperson of the local development group Accard in Cahersiveen, Tom Dwane, said he was very disappointed by An Bord Pleanála’s decision.

“Any development of any nature in this area would have been very welcome. It would have been a major boost to the area. We are hopefully that the matter may still be resolved as it would have created much needed jobs in the area,” he said.

Local County Councillor Michael Healy Rae said news of An Bord Pleanála’s decision was ‘bitterly disappointing’.

“Any inward investment that would create jobs and bring more people to the locality would be very welcome. Everyone is disappointed to hear this project has been turned down,” he said.

The objector, Eugene McMahon, a native of Dublin who now lives in Canada, defended his decision to object to the proposed hotel. Speaking to The Kerryman from his home in Canada, Mr McMahon claimed the granting of planning permission for the hotel violated the Kerry County Development Plan. He said such a development would have, “destroyed the environment and there is far too much development in Ballinskelligs.”

Mr McMahon said he was sceptical about the development creating local jobs as immigrant workers now work in the hotel industry in Ireland. He added that he plans to retire to his home in Ballinskelligs and said he was delighted the objection was upheld.