PLANS FOR a large-scale retail, conference, tourism and leisure development over much of the 13-acre site surrounding the former Great Southern hotel in Killarney have been approved by An Bord Pleanála.
But permission for a controversial element of the proposal, a 91m (300ft) viewing tower, has been refused by the board.
It ruled the tower would be “incongruous and dominant both in the townscape and in the wider context of the world-renowned, highly scenic landscape setting of the town of Killarney”. It would also detract from the protected structures of the hotel and the adjacent railway station, it said.
The site, which includes the former Great Southern hotel, now renamed the Malton Hotel, was bought in 2006 at the height of the construction boom by BL Beara, a local consortium made up of neighbouring hoteliers and directors of the Sunday’s Well property company. The consortium paid about €45 million, the highest single sum paid for property in Killarney.
An application to develop the surrounding site was prepared. The plans included a perforated copper viewing tower that would have hosted corporate events, press launches and day-trippers, and provided views of the lakes, woodlands and mountains of Killarney.
The idea was to mirror in height or “pay homage” to the 19th century Pugin-designed St Mary’s Cathedral, the architects said at one of a number of public presentations of the project.
Most of the attention in the town focused on the tower, which was backed strongly by the tourism industry but opposed by some residents as well as An Taisce and two local councillors.While the tower element was rejected, the remainder of the development has been approved with only minor adjustments.
It includes a five-storey development with shopping malls of over 19,000sq m (204, 514sq ft)of retail space, and a significant public element including the provision of a courthouse and demolition of a town council-owned building and construction of a town park.
Along with the split-level shopping centre, a 121-bedroom hotel extension, apartments and a convention and exhibition centre, an indoor centre involving bowling alleys, indoor golf and games centres and underground car parking for 1,000 vehicles have been given the go-ahead.
The development company BL Beara is spearheaded by Killarney hotelier Pádraig Treacy and Sunday’s Well development company directors Michael O’Shea and Risteárd Ó Lionáird.
Representatives of the applicants have indicated they are committed to the development and are in discussions with a number of investors.
However, the planned timescale may be adjusted because of the economic downturn.