Tipperary casino complex granted planning permission

Mon, Jun 13, 2011, 01:00

An Bord Pleanála has given the go-ahead for the construction of a €460 million "Las Vegas-style" sports and leisure complex in Co Tipperary.

The 800-acre Tipperary Venue, close to the village of Two-Mile-Borris, will include a 500-bedroom, five-star hotel; a 6,000sq m casino; an all-weather racecourse; a greyhound track and a golf course.

The site, which is located off the M8 Dublin-Cork motorway, will also feature a full-size replica of the White House in Washington which will be used as “a banqueting facility” and to host wedding receptions.

Planning permission for a 15,000-capacity underground entertainment centre was refused by An Bord Pleanála as it was deemed "inappropriate" given the location.

North Tipperary County Council granted planning permission for the project last year but the case was appealed to the board by some local residents and An Taisce.

Concerns included the level of traffic which would be generated by the venue, along with noise, carbon emissions, helicopter use, its distance from public transport and the sustainability of such a large-scale development.

An estimated 1,000 jobs will be created during the construction phase of the facility which is expected to take three years. Between 1,350 and 2,000 additional full-time positions are expected once the complex is completed.

The Tipperary Venue is the brainchild of developer Richard Quirke, a former garda from Thurles who is best known for running Dr Quirkey’s Good Time Emporium gaming arcade on Dublin’s O’Connell Street.  The venture has received support from the Coolmore Stud, Horse Sport Ireland, Bord na gCon, Shannon Development and Thurles Chamber of Commerce.

In a short statement, Mr Quirke welcomed An Bord Pleanála's decision and said his architects would now make a new planning application to Tipperary North County Council to get the project under way.

The decision was also welcomed by Independent TD for Tipperary North, Michael Lowry, who said the complex would generate "enormous economic activity and create thousands of sustainable jobs."

"All involved with the Tipperary Venue are heartened and encouraged by An Bord Pleanála’s ruling. There is a renewed commitment and determination to make this exciting development a reality," he added.

Mr Lowry later said in an interview broadcast on RTÉ News at One that no public funds will be involved in the project. He also denied suggestions the venture might be scaled down given current economic circumstances.

"The project will go ahead. The funds will be put in place," he said.

In a statement, An Taisce said the decision was regrettable.  “Once more this is evidence of short term expediency and developer-led planning overriding National Spatial Plan and regional planning guidelines,” it said. In particular, An Taisce said the issues of event capacity and traffic management are “left unresolved”.

Separately, architect Brian O’Connell said today the group behind the project would now be seeking to move to the next stages of development, which include land acquisitions.

He added that the group would also be applying to An Bord Pleanála to modify and extend the complex in order to create a world-class equestrian centre with open and closed arenas and a polo field.

Planning permission is granted subject to 32 conditions which include an archaeological appraisal, details of noise monitoring and mitigation measures, and the carrying out of road safety procedures. The developer is also required to make a financial contribution towards public infrastructure and facilities associated with the project.

The development is also still dependent on the Oireachtas passing proposed new legislation to enable the opening of casinos.

A consultation paper on legislative options for the gambling sector was published last December by then minister for justice Dermot Ahern. The paper outlined a framework for licensing and regulating small-scale casinos which operate as members’ clubs and included a proposal to allow a "resort" casino similar to that proposed by the Tipperary Venue developers.

The report indicated support for a casino with multiple gaming tables with between 1,000 and 1,500 slot machines. However, it added it would not be desirable to allow for more than one such large-scale resort.