Lowry welcomes 'fantastic' boost for region

 

PROJECT LAUNCH ATTRACTED SUPPORT FROM HORSE RACING SECTOR:THE €460 million casino and leisure development proposed for Two-Mile-Borris will provide a huge economic fillip to Tipperary and the wider region, Independent TD Michael Lowry said yesterday.

“It’s fantastic news,” he said of An Bord Pleanála’s decision to grant permission to the Tipperary Venue, albeit without the 15,000-capacity indoor entertainment venue and against the recommendation of the board’s inspector.

He predicted that work on the basic infrastructure of the site – water, sewerage, roads, drainage, telecommunications – will start “by the end of the year” and that the entire scheme will take three years to complete.

Mr Lowry said the first time he met Richard Quirke was when the Tipperary-born businessman and former garda approached him about three years ago to inform him of his plans for the 800-acre site and to ask him for guidance through the planning process.

The refusal of permission for the indoor entertainment venue was not a setback, Mr Lowry maintained. “It was never the central element of the plan and there’s a lot of competition in that sector.”

Mr Lowry said he hoped the Minister for Justice would shortly bring forward legislation allowing venue operators to apply for a casino licence, based on the report of the Department of Justice’s Review Commission on Gaming.

An Taisce, which led opposition to the Tipperary Venue, said that the “split decision” of the board in granting permission to some elements of the project contravened the National Spatial Strategy policy of locating new development in existing designated regional centres, and national climate and transport policy in curtailing car-based development.

An Taisce chairman Charles Stanley-Smith said the country has over-capacity of 15,000 hotel bedrooms. “The decision exacerbates the spectre of ghost developments. Once more this is evidence of short-term expediency and developer-led planning overriding national spatial plan and regional planning guidelines,” he said.

Thurles Chamber of Commerce president Austin Broderick said the news was “unbelievable for the town”. Completion of the Tipperary Venue would be “as good as getting three factories” in the area, he said. “This is what we’re waiting for for the last couple of years. We have nothing in Thurles and nothing in the surrounding areas regarding jobs.”

Fine Gael TD for Tipperary North Noel Coonan said he welcomed any development which would create jobs for the area.

“I’d be disappointed that the concert venue has been knocked on the head because that would have suited the younger people around the area,” he said.

“Overall I welcome it and we’ll be hoping it will be built as soon as possible.”

Mr Coonan said he had “no problem” working with his Independent constituency colleague Mr Lowry to help advance the project.

“We’ve assured Deputy Lowry that he might have brought forward the plans, but we’ll [Fine Gael] be building it and we’ll open it.”

The Gaming and Leisure Association in Ireland said that resort-casinos of the type envisaged by Mr Quirke are “simply inappropriate” in Ireland.

“The size of the market does not support these huge developments and they often run counter to sustainable development,” said the body which represents private members gaming clubs who provide casino-like services.

Association director David Hickson said there was now an opportunity to “grow the wider gaming and gambling sector”, as part of the department’s review of the industry. “All our members are city or town centre based and therefore in line with sustainable development.”