Two leisure centres forced to close after insurance cost hike

Rathbeggan Family Adventure Centre to shut its doors after 21 years on Sunday

Rathbeggan founder and owner Dave Robinson says the closure is a direct consequence of his insurance premiums going from €20,000 to €40,000 in a single year.  Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Rathbeggan founder and owner Dave Robinson says the closure is a direct consequence of his insurance premiums going from €20,000 to €40,000 in a single year. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

The owners of a family adventure park in Co Meath say they are closing their business this weekend after their insurance premiums doubled in a year.

Rathbeggan Family Adventure Centre outside Dunshaughlin, which features water sports, walking trails and a bounce and playground zone was founded in 1998.

The closure will mean the loss of 28 jobs.

It is the second leisure facility in a week to close because of the inability to source affordable insurance cover.

Spin Activity Centre in Newbridge, Co Kildare, which closed last Sunday, said it was quoted €100,000 for insurance cover, which is four times what it had been charged in the past. Its previous insurer, Leisure Insure, has withdrawn from the Irish market citing the costs involved.

Rathbeggan founder and owner Dave Robinson says his closure is a direct consequence of his insurance premiums going from €20,000 to €40,000 in a single year.

At the same time the excess on his premiums went from €300 to €10,000. He stressed that the insurance premium hike happened without a claim.

Mr Robinson said a €40,000 premium is “pretty much” his salary for the year and a small business like his cannot absorb the costs involved.

“We run a very small children’s park on a 22-acre site. We are limited to the number of customers we can have in a single day,” he said.

“Our ethos is not to overcharge people. We have already absorbed a 4.5 per cent VAT increase this year and then we get this insurance doubling.

“Not only has our insurance doubled, but we were left in limbo right up to the 12 o’clock point when our insurance expired and that is happening right throughout the country.

“People like us, a small family business, have to hang around and wait for whatever quote we are given because we need to stay in business to feed our families.

“No business can sustain a 100 per cent increase in one of its costs with the possibility of something similar the following year. If they do that to us this year, what in the name of God are they going to do next year?

“As a business person I am not prepared to take that risk. Morally, it is too high a price to pay for a park that really only offers entertainment and nothing dangerous.”

Mr Robinson said part of his remit as an employer was to train young people in their first job and many will now be deprived of that opportunity.

Peter Boland of the Alliance for Insurance Reform said the cases of Rathbeggan Lakes and Spin illustrated that this was a crisis which has wider implications for society.

“We have tried not to be hysterical about this, but there is a pattern of all the play infrastructure in the country being dismantled by this,” he said.

“That has implications in terms of childhood development, obesity levels and socialisation. There is a sense in which the fabric of Irish society is being undermined by this.”