Center Parcs project hinged on gas deal in Ballymahon

UK lesiure boss lifts lid on importance in securing gas network extension

Liam Cosgrove

Reporter:

Liam Cosgrove

Email:

liam.cosgrove@longfordleader.ie

Center Parcs project hinged on gas deal in Ballymahon

Any failure to secure an extension of the national gas pipeline would have sparked serious question marks over Center Parcs' €233m Longford Forest, the UK leisure giant has revealed.

Those sobering prophecies were ones which come following confirmation yesterday (Tuesday) that a deal to bring gas supplies to Co Longford had been agreed.

Speaking upon the announcement of agreement with Gas Networks Ireland, CEO Martin Dalby underlined just how much weight had been placed on yesterday's contract signing.

In an open and forthright interview with the Leader, Mr Dalby described the news as nothing short of “transformational”.

He said: “We (Center Parcs) just wouldn't have been able to open a holiday village without gas going to the site.”

“That (gas) is what we needed in order to heat the various buildings and lodges that we are planning to build.”

In order to ensure there were no underlying infrastructural or economic hiccups standing in its way, Center Parcs have agreed to invest €3m towards the project.

Mr Dalby said that committment demonstrated its longstanding pledge to deliver a world class facility to the county while also aiding Longford's wider economic well-being.

“Securing a mains gas supply has always been a fundamental requirement for both the construction and the operation of our village and I am delighted to have finally secured it,” he said, while hinting at the possibilities now awaiting other state agencies in extending gas provision countywide.

“The significant investment (€3m) Center Parcs has made in this critical piece of infrastructure will result in a mains gas supply being brought into County Longford for the first time.

“I have stated from the very outset of this project that Center Parcs would have a transformative effect on both County Longford and the wider midlands region and it is now up to all the relevant authorities to make sure that the region makes the most of the huge economic benefits that this pipeline and the Center Parcs development will bring”.

Despite confiding in the all-round importance of shaking hands on the deal, the leisure industry boss held no reservations over whether an accord would be finalised.

“Not really, no,” was his straight-forward and succinct response.

That belief, he countered, was largely based on the emphasis various agencies, including Longford County Council had placed on negotiations in order for Center Parcs to “deliver the 1,000 jobs we are promising.”

His opposite number, Longford County Council CEO Paddy Mahon, said the development could not have come at a better time for the county.

“Today's news that Center Parcs are contributing significantly towards bringing the natural gas network to our county represents a major milestone in the economic development of County Longford,” he said.