An Bórd Pleanála’s decision to refuse planning permission for a would-be €150m golf and tourism resort near Tramore has been greeted with a mixed reaction locally.
The ambitious plans of Islandikane Developments Ltd for a spread of holiday homes around a Jack Nicklaus-designed course and hotel-cum-clubhouse between Garrarus and Kilfarrasy prompted 281 objections from residents of the area, and environmentalists who contended that the project would ruin a two-mile “pristine stretch” of coastline.
The appeals board agreed, ruling that the “monolithic” scale of the scheme, covering 222 acres on an elevated site, was totally unsuitable for an unspoilt stretch of the County Waterford countryside. Such a “sporadic suburban-type development” would seriously injury the highly scenic landscape, it said. There was also the site’s location within a Natural Heritage Area, a Special Protection Area, and it was also designated under the EU Birds Directive.
Local businessman William Bolster, who was part of the consortium, said his initial reaction was one of “sadness” for the future of Tramore (see full statement elsewhere this page). “The objectors will view this as a victory within the cocoon they live in,” he said. As a native of nearby Westown, he hit out at the “blow-ins” who’d “never spent one euro to improve the local environment”, while opposing badly-needed foreign direct investment by their American partners.
The Garrarus & District Concerned Residents (GDCR) accounted for many of the 300 objections lodged with the Council, along with submissions from statutory bodies such as An Taisce, Dept of the Environment, Birdwatch Ireland, Irish Wildlife Trust and the Southern Regional Fisheries Board.
Spokesperson Mick O’Meara said they were delighted with the outcome which vindicated their campaign and the appeals against the permission.
As well as its potentially-damaging impact on views and wildlife, objectors had cited the creation of traffic hazard and congestion on the narrow, rural road network.
The Garrarus group argued that all that was at stake was the creation of an exclusive gated community for the well-off which would be of little real benefit to ordinary people in Tramore. Others, however, felt it would be good for the area and bring bigger spenders to the town and extend the tourist season to all-year-round. The controversy became so divisive within the community that it caused between neighbours and friends.
Willie Bolster said that as well as a worldwide association with the Nicklaus brand, the refusal had cost the local economy an injection of approximately €150 million, 400 jobs during construction and 150 in the longer term. The complex would have included a period-style, 142-suite hotel, dozens of lodges and holiday homes, a leisure centre/health spa, and a range of family-oriented facilities.
He commended Waterford Co Council for originally approving what was described as an “Integrated Rural Tourism Project”, and contrasted the local authority’s “vision” with An Bord Pleanála’s “clear vote of no confidence” in the economy of Tramore.
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It’s the second blow this year for Kildare developer Jerry Conlan, whose company Harlequin Holdings abandoned plans for a €100m luxury golf and hotel development at Wicklow’s Brittas Bay after council planners refused permission on scenic grounds.
Claimed by the Sunday Times to have been one of 10 businessmen who bought a collective 10% stake in Anglo Irish Bank, Mr Conlan was a 50% shareholder in the Islandikane consortium.
With the company having invested a total of €1.4m on design and planning, William Bolster said businesspeople wouldn’t be prepared to make that same “gamble” in the future, which would stunt growth and prolong the recession.
Local Fine Gael councillor Ann Marie Power said the decision was “a huge blow for jobs and tourism” in Tramore which “desperately needs a 5-star hotel and conference centre. This project would have had a huge spin-off for the whole town and its environs.”
Speaking at Monday’s meeting of the County Council in Dungarvan, she that while local authorities’ powers were being increasingly eroded, additional powers would be given to An Bórd Pleanála in the new Planning Act. This was dangerous, draconian and dictatorial and bad for democracy, she asserted. There was absolutely no accountability and the country would be run by faceless people.
Her party colleague, County Mayor Nora Flynn said the legislation was being followed up by the Planning SPC of the Council and it was hoped they would have a report completed by the New Year. The legislation was very important as it would have to be reflected in the County Development Plan.
The Council’s Special Planning Committee is due to meet with Senators and TDs to discuss the Planning and Development Act 2009 and report back to the full Council in early in 2010.