Campaigners urge new Luggala owner to keep public access to land

Keep Ireland Open makes complaint to Wicklow Co Council over erection of new fencing at estate

Luggala:  sale price is believed to be significantly less than the €28 million asking price

Luggala: sale price is believed to be significantly less than the €28 million asking price

 

Campaigners for countryside rambling rights have called on the new owner of Luggala to allow continued public access to parts of the Co Wicklow estate as was permitted under late Guinness heir Garech de Brún.

Keep Ireland Open has expressed concern at recent attempts to further restrict access to the estate since the death of Mr Browne in March 2018 following the erection of “private property” signs warning trespassers faced prosecution last year.

The group made a formal complaint to Wicklow County Council earlier this month that fencing has been erected over the summer without planning permission along parts of the boundary between the eastern edge of the estate and a Coillte forest at Slieve Buck.

It has called on the local authority to take enforcement action to have the fencing removed.

Keep Ireland Open spokesman Roger Garland expressed concern the Guinness family trust that owns the estate was trying to place new restrictions on access to Luggala that could be adopted by the new owner.

“Fencing which was put up about seven weeks ago has prevented people from accessing at least three traditional routes into Luggala,” Mr Garland said.

Keep Ireland Open expressed disappointment the Government had not attempted to buy part of the 5,000-acre estate after it was confirmed this week Luggala has been sold to a private buyer.

The sale price is believed to be significantly less than the €28 million asking price quoted when it was first placed on the market in February 2017 by Barbican International Corporation, the trustees of the estate.

“We really hope that the new owner will allow members of the public to enjoy the same level of access as was allowed by Garech de Brún. People have always respected the right not to go near the private house and we would have no objections if the new owner wished to place some gate at the entrance to the house,” Mr Garland said.

While there is a dispute over right of way over access to parts of the estate, Mr Garland said it was never an issue given the access that had been allowed to parts of Luggala by Mr de Brún.

Keep Ireland Open expressed hope the Government would still approach the new owner with a view to acquiring parts of Luggala on behalf of the State.

Mr Garland also called on the National Parks and Wildlife Service to adopt a more proactive policy on acquiring suitable private properties rather than waiting for them to come on the market.

“It really should have intervened in Luggala as it is an exceptional case,” he added.

Sinn Féin TD for Wicklow John Brady said he was bitterly disappointed the Government “sat on their hands” and allowed Luggala to be purchased by a private buyer, who is reportedly based overseas.

Mr Brady described the State’s failure to acquire the estate as “a missed opportunity”.

He claimed the estate, which is adjacent to the Wicklow National Park, had significant scientific and biodiversity values as well as tourism potential.

Mr Brady called on the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan, to explain why she had “allowed this once in a lifetime opportunity to slip through her hands”.

Luggala has been a popular retreat for musicians and other artists over many years, and its guests have included U2, Mick Jagger, Sinead O’Connor, Edna O’Brien, Michael Jackson, Edna and Ariana Grande.

It has also been used regularly as a location for films and TV series including Braveheart, Zardoz, Excalibur, The Nephew, King Arthur and Dancing at Lughnasa as well as period dramas including The Tudors.

A spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, said it would be inappropriate to comment on the sale of Luggala as it was a private transaction.

The spokesperson said the estate had in the past been an excellent neighbour to the national park in working closely on habitat management and the promotion of the Wicklow Mountains for tourism and film-making as well as allowing a permissive access to a hugely popular walking route for many decades.