Malahide Demesne car park proposal approved

Plans involve five-hectare adventure facility and car park extension at noted amenity

Fingal County Councillors have voted to approve a controversial proposal to extend a car park and provide a forest adventure facility in the Malahide Demesne.

The proposal was approved by a slim margin, with 18 to 16 councillors in favour of the facility, which would involve the installation of tree-top zip-lines in a five-hectare area close to the main car park in the demesne.

Concerns had been raised about the development’s legality. Some councillors claimed public consultation had been inadequate and Fingal’s law agent warned that the proposal could be open to legal challenge.

Cllr Cian O’Callaghan (Social Democrats) said the council has failed to submit detailed plans or drawings. “Councillors are being asked to make a planning decision without sufficient information. This is not acceptable.”

In a letter to the council’s planning and strategic infrastructure department, Fingal’s law agent said “it would be anticipated that such a proposal be accompanied by plans and specifications setting out this detail, planners’ report, conservation report, arborist report, traffic safety report etc, appropriate to the overall development”.

She added: “An administrative body exercising decision-making functions is bound by the limits of the applicable legislative code which circumscribes its operation, and non-observance of that code renders it amenable to judicial review.”

‘Safe and enjoyable’

However, on Monday night council chief executive Paul Reid told councillors he was confident the law agent's concerns were being addressed.

The council said the facility “will provide children and adults with an opportunity to climb into and move between the canopies of large mature trees in the woodland in a safe and enjoyable way”.

The extension to the Bridgefield car park would involve developing a “multi-use reinforced grass area” which the council said could be used for overflow parking, public events and other activities. It will require the “reconfiguration” of existing sports pitches in the demesne.

The council received more than 50 local submissions on the plans, many of which expressed concern about the potential of additional car parking space to create traffic problems in Malahide by promoting car usage.

However, the council said it received a large number of submissions welcoming the initiative “to further develop the amenity facilities at Malahide Castle Demesne, and in particular the Forest Adventure Park”.

Speaking ahead of the vote, Green Party councillor David Healy, who opposed the proposal, said he would welcome a canopy walk or something similar but added that it would depend on its design.

He said the council has not provided adequate information on the proposed facility, and expressed concern that it risks damaging the nature of the area.

He added the proposal appeared to be two distinct proposals – the car park and the adventure facility – that should be put to consultation separately.