Controversial plans to open a casino near a 400-year-old Quaker burial site in Waterford city have been approved by An Bord Pleanála.

Gambling company Blazin’ Aces Partnership is proposing to convert two retail units at St John’s Lane into a private members gaming club.

The application was subject to a number of objections on the grounds that the building will front onto a graveyard containing the remains of upwards of 200 people from the Society of Friends.

Ruling on an appeal by Brendan McCann against the City Council’s grant of permission last June, An Bord Pleanála this week gave the go-ahead with a number of conditions. Workers’ Party councillor Davy Walsh was also among the objectors, while Noel Keane, Clerk of the local Society of Friends Meeting, had described the plans as ‘utterly demeaning’.

The burial ground was used by Waterford Quakers for 75 years from the late 1600s to approximately 1764, when a new burial ground was opened at Parliament Street. About 200 people are thought to be buried there, amongst them some of the city’s most illustrious businesspeople, including members of the Malcolmson, Penrose, Jacob, Gatchell and Cherry families. The council intends to erect a memorial in the area at some stage.

The cemetery site was ‘gifted’ to the local authority by the Quakers in 1950 along with nearby Wyse Park, on condition that they would be used as an amenity and “be kept in decent order and under supervision as an open space in perpetuity for the benefit of the city.”

A group of visiting Society members were aghast last year to find the site was being used for pay-parking. Gambling is completely anathema to the Quaker ethos.