Expansion of Center Parcs village in Co Longford on hold following objections on environmental grounds

Plans for a €100m expansion of the Center Parcs holiday village in Longford have been placed on hold following a number of objections to the project over concerns about its impact on the environment.

wo appeals, including one from a Meath-based environmental group, have been lodged with An Bord Pleanála against the recent decision of Longford County Council to grant planning permission to Center Parcs Ireland to construct 198 new lodges across three zones at its Longford Forest tourist resort near Ballymahon, Co Longford.

The proposed expansion of the 160-hectare leisure facility also includes external saunas and pods, a new lakeside restaurant and coffee shop as well as an extension of several existing restaurants and additional staff facilities.

Other elements of the plans include an extension to the Subtropical Swimming Paradise and Aqua Sana spa with a new treetop sauna and additional treatment rooms.

Center Parcs is also seeking to provide a new “energy centre” and district heating system as well as to install solar panels on a range of buildings and to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant. A new car park will provide 313 parking spaces for staff vehicles.

In its appeal, environmental group, Sustainability 2050, claimed documents submitted by Center Parcs were not sufficiently detailed to allow the proposed development to be assessed with regard to EU environmental legislation.

The organisation claimed the plans were also “not sufficiently ambitious” in terms of emissions reductions, energy efficiency and renewable energy targets. Spokesperson John Callaghan said the proposed development did not “identify a path to net zero compliance by 2050”.

Another objector, a resident of Ballymahon, has opposed the plans for the expansion of Longford Forest over concerns about the exact location and condition of a significant quantity of asbestos-contaminated material buried in a disused nearby landfill at Ballymulvey which was operated by Longford County Council before it was closed in 1992

Consultants acting for the appellant, P J Walsh, claim Center Parcs has not assessed the risk posed by such material to human health and the environment.

Center Parcs said the concept of its forest holiday villages demonstrated that “business and sustainable rural tourism can thrive in synergy with the natural environment”.

It added: “Center Parcs has a long-standing and acknowledged track record of positively improving the natural environment of its woodland sites, enhancing biodiversity and safeguarding the forest through increased deciduous woodland cover and implementing well-informed management programmes and practices.”

The company said the proposed expansion, estimated to cost €99.8m, would bring the capacity of its tourist village in Co Longford, which opened in summer 2019, up to 3,500 guests. Its initial investment of €233m in the development of Longford Forest was the largest single investment in the history of Irish tourism.

Once operational, Center Parcs projected the additional capacity would generate an additional €27m per annum for Irish GDP. The company hopes the expanded facilities will attract around 375,000 visitor nights annually.

A ruling by An Bord Pleanála on the appeal by objectors is due by early March 2023.

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