Center Parcs to unveil model for €200m Longford site

Leisure giant set to seek planning permission for 375-acre facility in Ballymahon

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Centre Parcs UK chief executive Martin Dalby in Newcastle Woods during the announcement in April of 1,000 jobs for Co Longford with plans for a new Center Parcs in Ballymahon. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Centre Parcs UK chief executive Martin Dalby in Newcastle Woods during the announcement in April of 1,000 jobs for Co Longford with plans for a new Center Parcs in Ballymahon. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

Leisure giant Center Parcs is to unveil a scale model of its proposed Irish development in Ballymahon, Co Longford next month.

The €200 million Center Parcs Longford Forest, as it has now been named, will be situated on a 375-acre site outside Ballymahon.

The community consultation in Cooney’s Hotel, Ballymahon, on September 7th and 8th will be the last before a submission is made to Longford County Council for planning permission in October.

Following that, a further formal five-week consultation period will be held as part of the planning process during which time the plans will be on public display in the council offices.

Some 15 Longford county councillors and the four local TDs James Bannon, Willie Penrose, Robert Troy and Gabrielle McFadden visited its latest development, Center Parcs Woburn Forest in Bedfordshire this week.

Planning permission for the development will involve 500 chalets though not all will be built at the same time. The main focus will be a subtropical pool with water rides which is the central feature of all Center Parcs. There will also be an Aqua Sana spa and a range of indoor and outdoor activities.

Center Parcs chief executive Martin Dalby said the company will be bringing its architects, designers and ecologists with them to Ballymahon.

“We want as many people as possible to come and see us. We will be there to talk to as many as we possibly can,” he says.

He estimates that the Center Parcs Longford Forest, if built, will be worth €32 million a year initially to the local economy and €1 billion over 20 years.

Two-year build

If planning permission is granted, Center Parcs will move to detailed planning in the New Year with a two-year build culminating in an opening in the summer of 2019.

Center Parcs spokesman Simon Kay said the company had been “overwhelmed with the interest and general positivity” shown by local people in Longford towards the venture which will provide 1,000 jobs in the long run.

The concerns that have been raised to date have been in relation to traffic volumes at the site, he added. Center Parcs Longford Forest will operate on either a three-night/four-day Friday to Monday, or four-night/five-day Monday to Friday turnaround with the busiest days of the week for traffic volumes being Mondays and Fridays.

Center Parcs UK, (European Center Parcs is a separate entity) was sold earlier this year for a reported £2.4 billion (€3.3 billion) to Brookfield Property Partners, a Toronto-based firm, from from its private-equity owners, Blackstone.

He acknowledged that Center Parcs had a reputation for being an expensive destination and that it was orientated towards the “relatively affluent”.

“We are not a budget destination,” he said. “We don’t see the likes of Butlin’s or Haven Holidays as direct competitors.”

Prices range at Woburn Forest from £299 (€400) for a one-bedroom hotel room out of season for three/four nights to £3,500 (€4,800) at peak time for an executive chalet which sleeps eight and comes with a hot tub, play room and steam room.

The basic package includes access to the subtropical pool and the open children’s play areas but all amenities have to be paid for separately.

He conceded that while the brand is established in the UK and has a great deal of recognition and loyalty, there will be a job convincing Irish customers that Center Parcs will be worth it.

“The phrase, ‘we could go to Spain for the money gets thrown at us a lot’, but you will get a completely unique experience in Center Parcs,” he said.