Despite the severe downturn, leading developers are requesting rezonings for even more housing and retail centres in County Wicklow.
Gordon Ramsay at the launch of the Ritz Carlton hotel in Powerscourt in late 2007: Treasury Holdings, which developed the hotel, believes "tourist and visitor-related residential development" is important for the county
Property prices are falling faster than before, according to research from Sherry FitzGerald released last week – but that has not put off a number of well-known developers from recently making submissions in Wicklow seeking to have land rezoned for housing.
Treasury Holdings, the property development company owned by Johnny Ronan and Richard Barrett, said in relation to the Powerscourt estate that it "believed tourist and visitor-related residential development" was important for any integrated tourism development. Treasury, in partnership with landlords the Slazenger family, opened the luxurious Ritz Carlton hotel there in 2007.
Treasury is also involved in plans for an integrated tourism facility at the 370-acre Roundwood Park Demesne, 40 kilometres from Dublin. Treasury again said, "tourist and visitor-related residential development is essential to enabling the commercial viability of this type of product". The company also stated that it views Co Wicklow's current settlement strategy, which places restrictions on where people from outside the county can live, as "restrictive to the growth of
Wicklow, its economic development and the county's attraction as a place to live, work and invest".
Treasury added that there was potential at the western boundary of the demesne, where it meets the town, to develop low-density residential housing "bringing the two together as an integrated entity".
Meanwhile Real Estate Opportunities, which is managed and majority-owned by Treasury, owns more than 50 acres of land to the west of Enniskerry. The company wants the density of housing allowed on the site to be increased and also suggested it would be suitable for a neighbourhood centre so residents would not have to travel to Bray for services.
In a personal capacity, Ronan also made a submission in relation to 14.9 acres west of the N11 near Enniskerry. Part of the land has already been rezoned for medium-to-low residential development but Ronan wanted the option of residential development on part of the site earmarked for a hotel and for low-density housing in the central part of the site.
In Brittas Bay, Beacon Investments intends to make a future rezoning submission. In an initial observation, it said it wanted to further develop the "tourism product" at Ballynacarrig-Brittas Bay and examine the potential for "further expanding the village structure of Ballynacarrig" to provide for additional full-time residents.
Beacon Investments is a trading name that Companies Office records show is a partnership between developer David Agar and landowner George Tracey. Its properties include a 19-acre field, across the road from the 2.6 acre McDaniel's property – also in their ownership – which comprises a pub, restaurant, 10-bed hotel and eight townhouses. They also own the Bayview Holding Homes development.
Beacon is looking to develop an "integrated tourism facility" as well as the additional permanent residential housing. "We put it to the council that there is potential to further develop and expand the Brittas Bay tourist product," the submission states.
Bernard Doyle, a shareholder in the company behind Superquinn, owns the Brooklodge Hotel and Macreddin golf course in Aughrim together with his brothers Eoin and Evan. Their company Firefly Properties stated it was "committed to the expansion of the facilities currently provided at Brooklodge Hotel and Macreddin golf course". As part of their submission, the Doyles included a letter to them from the PGA European tour director of property and venue development David MacLaren stating that "a cursory glance at any financial model for modern golf courses will inform you that a substantial residential development is essential to provide the necessary funds to maintain the resort at the desirable level". The letter stated that their "ability to compete in the higher echelons is been (sic) significantly impaired by the seriously restricted range and number of accommodation options available".
MacLaren said that "the only secure way in the current difficult financial situation to continue to provide financial stability, is to develop a range of apartments and townhouses in Macreddin for sale to persons and companies, but which can be offered for rent individually or en bloc through the resort."
Firefly is asking the council to introduce a planning framework for the future development of the lands, setting out residential accommodation that would be developed "in association with the golf course or other tourism facilities".
Ayers Properties – owned by property company Ardawn Developments – has sought to amend the Newcastle Town Plan so that the 158 acres it owns around Blackditch House can be zoned for an integrated hotel, leisure and golf course facility.
"Due to the likely further increases in population in Newcastle and north Co Wicklow we contend that more land will be needed for recreational and leisure facilities," the submission states. There is currently an ad on Daft.ie offering Blackditch House for sale.
Ardawn is an unlisted public limited company that is headed up by former PwC partner Pat Shine. Others involved include former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Peter Murray, developer Seán Lyne, builder Brendan Fitzsimons and NCB director Greg Dilger.
The county manager said the development of a limited number of exceptionally high quality integrated tourism and recreational centres (ITRC) "at appropriate locations, particularly untraditional tourist locations, can have positive results in terms of realising the creation of new tourism products and in terms of promoting tourism growth". However, he also recommended that no reference should be made in the written statement to additional proposals for ITRCs and no additional land should be zoned for ITRC purposes.
Some other major developers also made submissions. The Cosgrave family made observations on design standard and densities for land around Bray while Cleary & Doyle Developments sought to have 31 acres in Ballymoney near Arklow rezoned for employment use. The land, currently unzoned, "does not represent a sustainable, efficient or appropriate use of the subject lands and is not consistent with national, regional and county planning policy".
Gerry Gannon's Gannon Homes meanwhile also made a submission in relation to nearly 150 acres south of Arklow. Gannon is seeking to have an additional 25 acres of the site rezoned.