Local groups who opposed the development of a €15 million visitor centre at Dublin’s Hell Fire club have described An Bord Pleanála’s approval of the project as “deeply disappointing”.
An Bord Pleanála confirmed last week it had granted planning permission to South Dublin County Council to develop a visitor centre in the Dublin mountains at the Massy’s Wood estate and Montpelier Hill which includes the Hell Fire club, a protected structure and national monument built around 1725.
The council welcomed An Bord Pleanála’s decision and said that the project team had taken into account “key local issues raised” and incorporated them into the design plans.
The project, which is being developed in co-operation with Coillte and the Dublin Mountains Partnership, will ensure the “preservation of the landscape, ecology and heritage features of the unique and natural environment of the Dublin Mountains in a manner that is socially and environmentally sustainable”, according to a statement from the council.
“The project will provide long-term economic benefits by increasing tourism, generating additional spend on local goods and services and creating new employment opportunities in South Dublin County,” said the statement.
Members of the Save the Hellfire Facebook group posted on Monday that they were “deeply disappointed and shocked” by the decision to push ahead with the project.
The group accused An Bord Pleanála of supporting a “vanity project”and said it would study the details of the decision. It also urged its members to voice their objections to local TDs.
The centre is set to cost €15 million and will be constructed using natural material and “integrated into the landscape”, according to the council. It will include a “tree canopy walk/pedestrian bridge”, interpretative exhibition, educational facility, cafe, shop and parking for 275 cars and five coaches.
The council said it would look to work with the local community and adjacent landowners in developing the site and would appoint a design and delivery team to ensure requirements laid out by an Bord Pleanála are met.
Independent local councillor Alan Edge posted on Facebook that he remained “implacably opposed” to the development and that “you don’t need a €22 million building in order to enjoy a wood”.
However, mayor of South Dublin County councillor Ed O’Brien said the decision to develop the site had been “measured and sets out conditions to ensure that any reservations the community has about the development are dealt with”.
Mr O’Brien noted that the project was part of a wider tourism strategy focused on developing the area and said the centre would enhance the natural beauty and historical significance of the area.
The council’s chief executive Daniel McLoughlin said the proposal would bring “badly needed structure to the management of the area including orientation and interpretation which will both add to the visitor experience as well as addressing issues of amenity provision and heritage protection”.