Festina Lente are “delighted” that plans for a new training facility in Kilpedder has been given the go-ahead by Wicklow County Council.
Permission was sought by Hughes Planning and Development Consultants on behalf of the charity to construct an equestrian, horticultural and community-based training, learning and educational facility on a 15.7ha site at Belfield House in Kilpedder.
The equine and horticultural training organisation recently launched a campaign to raise €3 million to secure the purchase of Belfield House and lands.
Festina Lente CEO Dr Jill Carey said the charity has raised around €500,000 so far and hopes to reach its target by mid-July.
"We’ve had a great response,” she said.
Speaking about the plans for the charity’s new home in Kilpedder, Dr Carey said they are “delighted” that Wicklow County Council have granted planning permission for the training and educational facility.
“It will certainly put Wicklow on the map in terms of the facility and the provision of services.”
The organisation is currently renting premises and land on Old Connaught Avenue in Bray and must vacate the lands when the lease expires in 2024.
Dr Carey said the organisation wants to create a “purpose built centre of excellence” in horticulture and equestrian training, where they can continue with their current programmes and services and develop additional ones.
"We are at capacity at the moment," she added.
The new premises would allow the organisation to extend its services and increase its staff numbers. Construction is expected to take between 12 and 18 months. Festina Lente hope to be able to relocate to Belfield House in 2024.
“We would ask people to help us make this centre a reality”, Dr Carey added.
Festina Lente is the biggest organisation of its type in Ireland, helping over 400 people each week and employing 60 staff with support from volunteers.
It also has a successful outreach programme, which visits St Patrick’s Hospital, DEIS schools and nursing homes.
The charity provides a range of training courses in equine assisted programmes and social and therapeutic horticulture. Up to 40 people graduate from these programmes each year.
The organisation has an international reputation and is involved in research for the use of equine facilitated learning.
Festina Lente was established in Kilternan in 1988 and moved to Bray in 1996.
Permission was sought from Wicklow County Council for the new training centre.
The project would include two indoor horse-riding arenas with associated viewing galleries and an adjoining building containing a conference room, office space, classrooms, equipment rooms, and a mechanical horse circuit.
A horticultural training, learning and educational building, a training, learning and educational canteen facility and an administrative and farm shop building.
The application also sought the green light to develop a stable yard with a horse–walker, a horse-box parking area, ancillary equine/site management sheds and single-storey stable facility accommodating 36 individual horse stalls with 18 adjoining outdoor stalls and associated facilities, a single-storey garden workshop building, two polytunnels, an allotment garden and an outdoor horse-riding arena.
Permission was also sought to remove the existing vehicular entrance serving Belfield House via the N11 and to develop a replacement vehicular entrance and access driveway via Ballyronan Road and other associated site works.
Wicklow County Council’s planning section initially sought further information about the proposals, which was submitted in April.
Hughes Planning and Development Consultants said Festina Lente intend to retain Belfield House, a protected structure, and lands in single ownership.
Wicklow County Council granted planning permission for the project at Belfield House, subject to 16 conditions.
If you'd like to make a donation to Festina Lente’s fundraising campaign, visit festinalente.ie/a-new-home-for-festina-lente/.