Longford County Council has submitted a report to An Bord Pleanala which refutes the arguments made against the Center Parcs development at Newcastle Wood made in three appeals which have been lodged with the national planning board.
In the report the local authority's Planning Officer, Dónall Mac An Bheatha, wrote: “The first two appeals from Mr Robbie Hannifin and Mr B Power are identical and therefore I will address them as one.”
Countering arguments that the development would be unsustainable, Mr Mac An Bheatha said, “the smaller available market has been taken into consideration in the design of the proposed development, which comprises 500 accommodation units, compared to approximatley 800 units in each of the existing five sites in the United Kingdom. The size of the development is considered appropriate to the Irish Market and the central location of the site makes it easily accessible to the entire Island including Northern Ireland. Also, it is not expected that all visitors will be from Ireland but that the establishment of such a facility will also attract visitors from overseas.”
He also responded to criticism of the design, saying: “I visited Center Parcs Woburn Forest and the quality and design of the buildings was notable there. Furthermore, it is clearly stated in the Design Statement submitted with the planning application that the rationale of the design approach is visually discreet buildings that blend with the landscape and with the landscaping remaining the dominant feature.”
Messrs Hannifin and Power also queried points relating to the Planner's Report, Wastewater Treatment, and Traffic – all of which were countered.
Referring to claims the development didn't comply with guidelines laid out in the County Development Plan because it is to be constructed in a protected area, he added: “The current proposal does not propose to develop the protected perimeter area of the forest, with the exception of the access roadway, which is designed to avoid any important trees.”
He also clarified that, “the site in question does not comprise a protected bog or peatland, as contended in the appeal submission.”
Addressing a separate appeal made by Ms Teresa Kiernan concerning road traffic, the Planning Officer stated that, “it is the contention of the Planning Authority that all traffic issues were fully considered and assessed as part of the planning application process, including assessment of the traffic studies carried out by the applicant's engineers.
He added: “it is clear from the evidence submitted as part of the planning application and as set out in detail above that the R392 has sufficient capacity to cater for all traffic generated as a result of the current proposal. Traffic will also be distributed throughout the wider road network, not only via the R392 to the east.”
Regarding a separate observation relating to wild deer present on the proposed site, Mr Mac An Bheatha said: “the site does not contain native deer species but there are non-native wild deer on the site,” before going on to explain how “any displacement of deer from the construction element of the site will be accommodated within the wider forest in the immediate area. Once operational, deer are welcomed onto the site and form part of the biodiversity for which Center Parcs developments are known...”