THE €100 million-plus redevelopment of the Curragh racecourse in Co Kildare has finally been approved by An Bord Pleanála more than two years after permission for the development was first sought by the Irish Turf Club.
In what has been described by the Turf Club as the biggest development project in the history of Irish racing, the racecourse will be transformed to accommodate more than 50,000 spectators by 2010 on a 10-hectare site.
The main features of the new development are a five-storey grandstand incorporating a museum, bars, restaurants and tote halls; the redevelopment of the Stand House Hotel; a new parade ring; and a new champagne bar. Work is due to begin at the end of this year's racing season in September and is planned for completion in 2010.
The developments were applied for under two separate applications, one relating to the grandstand and hotel, the other to the parade ring and associated structures. In total, 24 conditions were imposed on the Turf Club by the planning board - however, several overlap and are unlikely to delay development.
The Turf Club sought permission for the redevelopment from Kildare County Council in February 2006. This was granted in October 2006, but was appealed to An Bord Pleanála by local farmer Percy Podger on behalf of Friends of the Curragh Environment.
Mr Podger contended the planning application was fundamentally flawed and the council's decision was made "on foot of an invalid application, and the site notice and newspaper notice were incomplete and consequently invalid". He said the environmental impact statement was inadequate, while car parking was on a national monument site and contravened grazing rights.
Mr Podger has taken legal action against this and other developments related to the racecourse and has made a complaint to the European Commission against the Irish planning authorities, the State, the applicants and the council regarding the breach of European Commission directives.
When contacted yesterday, Mr Podger said he had not yet had an opportunity to read An Bord Pleanála's decision and so was not in a position to comment.
Chief executive of the Turf Club Denis Egan said the club stewards and the Curragh Development Committee were in the process of examining the board's decision but were glad they could finally schedule a works programme for the redevelopment. "We are very eager to get going on this. It is going to be the biggest redevelopment project ever undertaken in the history of Irish racing," he said.
The delays had added considerably to the costs of the project, which had been estimated at €100 million. The full cost of the project would be calculated after the conditions of the planning permission were taken into consideration.
The Irish Times