Sunday 29 November 2009

Treasury appeals €250m plan for Co Wicklow 'kidnap' estate

Plans by Treasury Holdings' Real Estate Opportunities (REO) vehicle for a €250m hotel and leisure complex at Roundwood Park in Co Wicklow have been appealed to An Bord Pleanála. Roundwood Park was famously the scene of a failed kidnap attempt of Brown Thomas and Penneys owner Galen Weston in 1983, when gardaí arrested five men after a shoot-out that resulted in four of the attempted kidnappers being shot.

Prior to Weston, the land was owned by former president Sean T O'Kelly.

The 377-acre estate was bought by REO subsidiary Swinwood in 2005 for €17m. Swinwood has now appealed the 32 conditions imposed on the proposed development while a third party has also objected to the plan for a five-star hotel, two golf courses, an equestrian centre and a spa pavilion in the grounds.

As part of the conditional go-ahead for the project, Wicklow County Council said that Swinwood would have to pay more than €3.3m towards public infrastructure and facilities. It also said that the holiday units could only be four short-term lets and could not be used as places of residence. It also said that nine of the tourist lodges should not be built and that the hotel would have to be built in the first phase. It said too that retail units in the hotel should be for tourist-related retailing only.

Accounts recently filed for Swinwood for the 2008 financial year state that a "deterioration in the economic environment in Ireland" resulted in a decline of just under €9m in the value of the company's development property. It made a pre-tax loss of more than €660,000 last year.

"Further deterioration in the economic environment could have a material adverse impact on the value of the company's property portfolio and equity and as a consequence on the company's ability to obtain longer-term debt or equity financing required to meet its longer-term financing and liquidity requirements of the company," the directors' report states. The directors said they had sought and received an assurance that any shortfall in requirements until the end of next year would be met by REO.

Auditors KPMG inserted an emphasis of matter in the accounts stating "there are a number of material uncertainties which may cast significant doubt on the ability of the company to continue as a going concern". These include the ability of the REO group to successfully negotiate the rollover and renewal of some bank loans. The accounts were not qualified.

Sunday Tribune

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