Oral hearing into Hellfire Club €19m tourism project continues
By Aideen O’Flaherty
AN ORAL hearing with An Bord Pleánala in relation to the proposed development of a visitor centre on the grounds of the Hellfire Club on Montpelier Hill is currently underway, reports Aideen O’Flaherty.
The €19m tourism project was proposed by South Dublin County Council last year, with hopes that the development could attract up to 300,000 visitors a year.
The Hellfire Club
It is proposed that the development will be housed across two buildings, consisting of a visitor centre with an exhibition space, a panoramic café, toilets, changing facilities, a walkers’ lounge, an education centre and retail.
Provision for car park facilities, a coach park, improved trail network with signage and minimal conservation works both at the Hellfire Club and Massy’s Estate are included in the council’s plans, as are plans for a tree top walk link between the two locations.
The plans have received a number of objections from locals, politicians and the Save the Hellfire group, which has led An Bord Pleánala to hold an oral hearing across three days, from November 20 to November 22, to discuss the plans with the council and the objectors.
Fine Gael TD Colm Brophy, who gave a presentation at the oral hearing on Tuesday, told The Echo: “I believe that there should be a process of reasonable development, like car parks and improving access, but I’m completely against the location of a visitor centre.
“I believe that it would be a complete overdevelopment and it would be unsustainable – it would lead to complete over-congestion for local people.
“[If the plans go ahead] people will be driving from all over the country, so the impact would be very substantial.”
A ‘do nothing scenario’
Members of the Save the Hellfire group are giving presentations as part of the oral hearing, citing their concerns about the impact the development could have on wildlife and on the ecology and archaeology of the area.
Speaking at the oral hearing on Tuesday, Paul Keogh, an architect for South Dublin County Council, said that a “do nothing scenario” would be unsustainable as visitor numbers are expected to increase in the coming years.
Mr Keogh said that the aim of the development was to “accommodate a large number and wider range of users” and that there would be economic benefits as the visitor centre would increase the “dwell time” of Hellfire Club visitors.
The hearing continues today, Thursday, November 22.