Center Parcs holiday village project a ‘dream’ for midlands

‘When this was first mooted people said this is an April fools’ joke’, says Kevin Moran

An artist’s impression of the Subtropical Swimming Paradise planned for Center Parcs Longford Forest

An artist’s impression of the Subtropical Swimming Paradise planned for Center Parcs Longford Forest

 

Center Parcs’ plans to build the € 232 million Longford Forest holiday village have been described as a “dream” for the county and midlands region.

UK based Center Parcs say up to 750 people will be employed in the construction of the resort and a further 1,000 permanent jobs could be created when the project is completed in 2019. The plans are now moving to procurement stage and construction is expected to begin towards the end of September.

Set on a 395 acre site at Newcastle Wood in Ballymahon, the development includes up to 500 lodges-designed with families and the environment in mind- more than 100 indoor and outdoor activities, a spa, a range of restaurants and cafés and a ‘Subtropical Swimming Paradise’, with water rides and fun activities for all ages. The holiday village will be able to accommodate 2,500 guests in the natural and secluded woodland setting.

Longford/Westmeath Independent Alliance TD Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran welcomed An Bord Pleanála’s decision to grant planning permission with conditions. “For the people of Longford this is a dream,” he remarked.

“When this was first mooted people said this is an April fools’ joke,” Mr Moran recalled. He said: “I am overwhelmed. I am delighted and I am delighted for the people of Ballymahon and Longford.”

He said “it is not just about Longford, it is about the whole region and the country as a whole.”

Mr Moran said “whatever we need to do in Government to facilitate them, we have to do. We can’t be found wanting.”

Overwhelmed

He had previously asked Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor to visit the county because “the figures are frightening in terms of unemployment in Longford.”

Mr Moran said the people of Longford he had spoken to over the past 24 hours “are just overwhelmed”.

Longford County Council Chairman Cllr Mick Cahill of Fianna Fáil likened the news to the arrival of the ESB to the county.

“It is absolutely fantastic news and it is going to transform Longford,” Cllr Cahill said.

“It is going to create huge activity in Longford plus it is going to bring a huge volume of people into the hinterland of Longford.”

He said the people of Longford will now have to be ready to grasp the opportunities that the development will present.

Chief executive of Longford County Council, Paddy Mahon commended the Center Parcs management team and CEO Martin Dalby for their professionalism and engagement with the local community.

He said work is currently being carried out on the Mid Shannon Wilderness Park, the Royal Canal Greenway, the Literary Trail and the Rebel Trail in Longford.

“Longford County Council is confident that, when all these projects are delivered in the next few years, County Longford will be viewed as one of the top tourism and visitor destinations in the Country,” Mr Mahon said.

Former Longford Fine Gael TD James Bannon was involved with the project from an early stage. In the beginning he said “people laughed at me and said it was a white elephant.”

He linked this scepticism to some major projects which had failed to materialise for Longford.

Game-changer

While serving as a TD in Longford, Mr Bannon remained in contact with Center Parcs and visited CEO Martin Dalby in the UK as the Irish location was being selected. “We here in Longford were always looking for a project like this which will be a game-changer for Longford and now it’s delivered,” said Mr Bannon.

Centre Parcs initially had a list of 17 Irish locations which were then whittled down to just three; Longford, Cavan and Wicklow. “It is going to be a huge tourism attraction for the midlands. Local businesses will benefit hugely too from passing trade,” Mr Bannon said.

He said a midland hotelier had attempted and almost succeeded in enticing Center Parcs to set up in Belvedere House outside Mullingar in Co Westmeath around 20 years ago. However, he said the project failed to secure State backing at the time.

CEO of Center Parcs, Martin Dalby, warmly welcomed the planning approval. “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.

“We outlined from day one the transformative impact that Center Parcs Longford Forest will have on the midlands region in both tourism and economic terms. We will continue to work closely with all stakeholders over the coming years to realise this significant potential and, ultimately, to bring our unique short break experience to life for families throughout Ireland,” he said.

In granting permission on Tuesday, An Bord Pleanála included 21 conditions which include a requirement for a biodiversity action plan and a financial contribution towards public infrastructure. It also stipulates that the holiday lodges must only be used for short-term tourist accommodation.