A MAJOR tourism development on the shores of Lough Derg in Co Tipperary is one of the first two projects to be approved under the Mid-Shannon Tourism Investment Scheme, which provides tax relief.
There has been controversy about tourist development in the Lough Derg area.
The €10 million Old Court Tourism Project is to incorporate a marina, 30 houses and 24 apartments, an art gallery with artists’ studios, a bistro, an abseiling tower, heritage centre, creche, an English language teaching centre, a spa/wellness centre and a water-based activity centre, among other facilities.
The development, which borders a Special Protected Area, a National Heritage Area and a candidate Special Area of Conservation at Terryglass, was approved for tax-designated status on September 14th, three days before the project received planning permission.
Previous applications for intensive tourism facilities on the site were rejected by An Bord Pleanála last year.
The current proposal was opposed by local and national branches of An Taisce and a coalition of local residents.
The development site is about 1km west of the village of Terryglass, between the village and the lake. Terryglass won the national Tidy Towns competition in 1983 and 1997.
Speaking to The Irish Times yesterday, one of the scheme’s principals, Ray Ebbs, said funding was in place and construction work for the project could begin later this year if it is not appealed to An Bord Pleanála.
He added that negotiations were under way to cede Old Court Castle, a national monument which is on site, to the State.
A spokeswoman for Shannon Development, which administers the mid-Shannon investment scheme in association with Fáilte Ireland, stressed the tourism investment element of the scheme.
She said it differed from the upper Shannon tax relief schemes which have been run over the past decade and which concentrated on house-building.
These schemes have been criticised for the number of vacant holiday houses and apartments in tax-designated schemes which now lie along the upper reaches of the waterway.
The other project approved under the mid-Shannon investment scheme is the Cloughjordan Village EcoHostel and Learning Centre, an eco-education centre also in Co Tipperary.
The Cloughjordan project includes the development of ecologically friendly houses using only renewable energy for heating.