Monday 14 March 2011

Hotel dependent on casino, says promoter

THE HOTEL element of a €460 million sports and leisure complex planned for a rural site in Co Tipperary will not go ahead if a proposed casino is not allowed, promoters have said.

A “resort casino hotel” with up to 500 bedrooms is part of the “Tipperary Venue” earmarked for an 800-acre site at Two-Mile-Borris near Thurles.

While gambling legislation is currently being reviewed by the Department of Justice, the venue’s architect said yesterday the hotel and the casino “are effectively one” and dependent on each other.

The Tipperary Venue also includes turf and all-weather horse racing tracks, a greyhound track, a 15,000-capacity indoor entertainment venue, a golf course and an equestrian centre.

Businessman Richard Quirke is behind the venture, while Independent TD Michael Lowry has been a keen supporter. They say about 1,000 jobs will be created during construction of the venue, while 1,350 full-time jobs would be in place when complete.

Architect Brian O’Connell told the third day of a Bord Pleanála hearing into the project the hotel/casino “is predicated on the licensing regime” and would depend on the Government’s decision regarding casino laws.

“There’s a new economic opportunity within the market for providing conference facilities within a casino hotel,” he said.

“The one wouldn’t proceed without the other.”

However, he said this would not affect the rest of the proposed complex.

The horse-racing aspect of the project is supported by Horse Racing Ireland, which invited expressions of interest for the development of an all-weather track in the Munster region some years ago.

Existing tracks in Thurles and Tipperary (Limerick Junction) are expected to close if the Tipperary Venue gets the green light.

During questioning by sustainable planning expert and barrister James Nix for An Taisce, Mr O’Connell said the urban locations of venues such as the O2 in Dublin and the Odyssey Arena in Belfast were “inappropriate”. This was because of the influx of large numbers of people into an urban setting in a short period of time.

There was a “strong argument” for building such venues outside city locations.

North Tipperary County Council granted planning permission for the project last year but the case was appealed to the board by some local residents and An Taisce.

Concerns include the level of traffic which would be generated by the venue, along with noise, carbon emissions, helicopter use, its distance from public transport and the sustainability of such a large-scale development.

The hearing concluded yesterday, and a decision is due at the end of this month.

Irish Times

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