AN BORD Pleanala has granted planning permission for a controversial €300m marina development at Greystones in Co Wicklow.
In what was one of the longest planning processes ever adjudicated on by the Board, permission was granted subject to 13 conditions yesterday and work is expected to begin next spring.
Over 6,000 people had objected to the plans, first lodged in December 2004, but the board found the development was in keeping with the area.
The massive project will include a 230-berth marina, new retail facilities including cafes and restaurants, 5,625 square metres of commercial development and 341 residential units.
A new public square at the harbour and a new beach will also be provided, along with sailing facilities.
An inert landfill, the old town dump, which is on the site, must be treated and no homes built on it. The project should be complete in the autumn of 2012.
Wicklow County Council, which is developing the marina with private developer, the Sispar consortium, local councillors and the Greystones Chamber of Commerce, all said they were "delighted" with the Board's decision, but opponents said local people had not been listened to.
"We're hugely disappointed," Evelyn Cawley of Greystones Protection and Development Association said.
"The end result doesn't reflect our views. It's a huge development and there's no doubt that Wicklow County Council will benefit.
"It's disheartening to see this, given the huge public disquiet about it. Obviously the public wasn't listened to."
Planning permission was originally sought for the development in December 2004, and the plans were scaled down by 10pc after the Board raised a number of concerns with the developer late last year about the scale of the project.
The revised plans would not have "significant adverse effects on the environment", the Board found, and would constitute an "appropriate development proposal in terms of land use, scale and visual amenity, would be acceptable in terms of traffic safety and convenience, would not be prejudicial to public health and would therefore be consistent with the proper planning and the sustainable development of the area".
Greystones Chamber of Commerce said that new jobs would be created and the marina would attract tourists to the area. "We very much welcome it," said Chamber president Derrick McGovern.
"It's something we've supported for many years, and I think it will bring a lot of jobs and will be great for tourism."
Sean Quirke, Director of Services, with Wicklow Co Council, said it was hoped that work would begin in the spring and the project would take up to five years to complete. Fifty million euro worth of public infrastructure would be provided under the plans.
In a unanimous decision, the Board also approved the acquisition of 36 acres of the foreshore to facilitate development.
It is the first time the public foreshore has been subject to a compulsory purchase order to facilitate a private developer, and opponents said it would set a dangerous precedent.
The Department of Finance must approve the sale, but there was no indication last night as to how much the council will pay. Land in Greystones currently commands about €1m an acre.
The conditions include a requirement that material needed to re-instate the beach must be shipped in by seas to the harbour instead of being transported through the town in order to reduce traffic movements.
The old town dump will be treated and remain on the site, and the public park will be built above it.
The Board also ordered that a committee be established made up of the council, Sispar - a consortium of John Sisk and Son and Park Developments - and local interest groups.
Opponents of the project will meet in the coming days to decide if they will seek a judicial review of the decision.