Planners approve Ireland's first Center Parcs resort in Longford
IRELAND'S first Center Parcs holiday resort has been given final approval by planners.
About 1,000 people, mostly aged 18-24 and local, will be employed at the forest village near Ballymahon, Co Longford, when it opens in 2019.
Management said about 750 construction jobs will be created while it is being built.
The plans were sent to An Bord Pleanala after four objections were raised by people living locally to Newcastle Wood.
Center Parcs chief executive Martin Dalby said the resort will transform the midlands in tourism and economic terms.
"Since we announced our desire to bring the Center Parcs experience to Ireland last April, we have been overwhelmed by the positive support we have received at both local and national level and we are looking forward to forging ahead to bring our plans to fruition," he said.
The 395-acre resort, Longford Forest, will have room for about 2,500 guests in 470 lodges, 30 apartments, treehouses, a spa, restaurants, cafes and a sub-tropical pool area with water rides.
The project involves an investment of about €230 million (£193m).
Center Parcs operates five short-break destinations in the UK at Whinfell Forest in Cumbria, Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, Elveden Forest in Suffolk, Woburn Forest in Bedfordshire and Longleat Forest in Wiltshire.
It took in two million guests last year.
Center Parcs announced plans for Longford last April.
It has gone through planning approval in the county council and now the appeals board, with some minor restrictions placed on the development.
Management have been asked to draw up a plan to encourage workers to use public transport, cycle, walk and car-pool to work including by offering a bike park and shower facilities for staff.
There is also an onus to recycle waste at the site and to plan for invasive aquatic species and terrestrial species, including fallow deer.
An environmental impact plan including explanations on the felling of trees and management of surface water will also be drafted, but water cannot be diverted from local rivers to top up lakes on the site during dry spells.
Anglers and staff from Inland Fisheries Ireland will also be given access to the Inny and Rath rivers.
An Bord Pleanala said the Longford resort "would not seriously injure the character of the area or the amenities of property in the vicinity, would not have unacceptable impacts on ecology, water quality or the landscape, and would be acceptable in terms of traffic safety and convenience".
It added: "The proposed development would, therefore, be in accordance with the proper planning and sustainable development of the area."
The lodges will range from two to four bedrooms and include one five-bedroom lodge with access for disabled people and the apartments will be in a three-storey block.
Amenities will include outdoor pools, a sports lake, nature pond and a tranquillity lake, rapids, flumes and water rides, a sports hall, a bowling alley, shops, the aqua sana spa and treatment rooms, a pancake house restaurant and beach kiosk.
A derelict house will also be transformed into a nature centre and the site will have parking for 1,435 cars.
Prices for breaks in the Longford resort have not been advertised, but average costs for a Center Parcs stay run to thousands, with management saying families spend more on activities and food and drink than on their accommodation.
A family of four, with two children under five, can expect to pay from about €1,069 (£899) to €1,248 (£1,049) for four nights mid-week in a two-bed lodge in any of the UK resorts in July next year - that is before the extras start to double the cost.