€19 million Hellfire Club Tourism project gets go ahead

By Aideen O'Flaherty

CONTENTIOUS plans for a €19m tourism project at the Hellfire Club and Massy’s Wood in Rathfarnham have been approved by An Bord Pleanála. 

The plans include the development of a visitor centre with an exhibition space, a panoramic café, toilets, changing facilities, a walkers’ lounge, an education centre and retail at the Hellfire Club, and a treetop canopy walk connecting the centre with Massy’s Wood. 

Artists impression of proposed visitors centre compressor

Artists impression of proposed visitors centre

Local farmers, conservationists and residents lodged objections to the plans, which led to An Bord Pleanála holding an oral hearing about the development across three days in November 2018. 

Twenty third-party submissions were made on the plans about a number of topics earlier this year, when the window for submissions reopened following a request from ABP for additional information from the applicant. 

The submissions included concerns about the red squirrel population, the bird surveys that were carried out by the applicant, the potential impact on biodiversity, and numerous submissions called for another oral hearing. 

The appeals body made three separate requests for additional information, which the applicant supplied in each instance, and last week permission was granted for the development. 

Permission was granted with a number of conditions, including the stipulation that the Operation Management Plan is to be updated to include proposals to ensure that there is no potential for conflicts between pedestrians and horses in Massy’s Wood. 

When speaking at the oral hearing in November 2018, Paul Keogh, an architect for South Dublin County Council, said that a “do nothing scenario” would be unsustainable as visitor numbers are expected to increase in the coming years. 

Mr Keogh said that the aim of the development was to “accommodate a large number and wider range of users” and that there would be economic benefits as the visitor centre would increase the “dwell time” of Hellfire Club visitors. 

For more on this story and local reaction see this Thursday’s Echo

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