AN BORD Pleanála ended a four-year planning battle yesterday by giving permission to developer Jim Mansfield to go ahead with his controversial €90 million convention centre at Citywest in Saggart, Co Dublin.
The planning appeals board over-ruled an objection by heritage group An Taisce and the recommendation of one of its own inspectors to give the green light to the centre.
It will have the capacity to house over 4,100 delegates and will cost between €70 million and €90 million to complete.
The centre is partly built, but has been caught in a tangle of planning permissions and objections since 2004, when South Dublin County Council (SDCC) originally gave the facility the go-ahead. In its ruling, the board states the centre meets a specific objective of SDCC's development plan, in that it is in line with existing land use for the site - it is home to a golf club and hotel - and because Dublin's Luas light rail network will be extended to Saggart.
The board also pointed out that Mr Mansfield last year cut the centre's capacity from 6,000 to 4,161.
"In deciding not to accept the inspector's recommendation to refuse permission, the board had particular regard to the improved public transport facilities and the scale of the facility in relation to existing development permitted on the site," Bord Pleanála states in its ruling.
SDCC originally gave permission for the facility in 2004, and no party objected within the five-week timespan allowed for this. However, An Taisce and rival developer Harry Crosbie subsequently objected and Bord Pleanála ruled that the local authority should have informed interested parties of its decision.
The board allowed their objections, and Mr Mansfield had to take the project back to the drawing board. His group got permission last November, but An Taisce objected on planning and traffic grounds in January. Mansfield Group is one of three developers with interests in the area who are paying €13 million each to cover the cost of extending the Luas to Saggart from Tallaght.
Mr Mansfield welcomed Bord Pleanála's decision yesterday. "It's a great pity that this project has been delayed so long at an estimated cost of €1 million a week to the local economy in south Dublin, but we are eager to move this development forward as quickly as possible," he said.
His estimate of the loss to the local economy is based on research showing that each conference delegate that travels to Ireland is worth about €1,500 to the economy.
Mr Mansfield added that the hotel has been turning away "significant amounts" of conference business because the group was unable to complete the centre. Mr Mansfield's other interests include Citywest Hotel and business park, Finnstown House Hotel, near Adamstown, Weston Aerodrome and Johnstown House in Co Kildare.
The Irish Times