Planning permission for a €40 million surf school, accommodation, restaurant and other facilities at Magheramore beach, Co Wicklow, has been rejected by Wicklow County Council.
Creatively Pacific, a subsidiary of building firm Oakmount, had sought approval for a resort facility at the site, near Brittas Bay, that was to include a gym, cinema, bar, an outdoor pool and 48 “high-quality accommodation pods”.
Magheramore is an undeveloped sandy beach accessed by steps down a cliffside at the end of a long laneway from a local road. It is popular with day-trippers, swimmers and surfers – some of whom objected to the inclusion of a surf school as part of the proposed development.
The application for development on a rocky headland at the southern end of the breach is the latest attempt by a succession of owners to commercially develop the site once owned by the Missionary Sisters of St Columban, whose mother house is nearby.
Creatively Pacific is backed by Paddy McKillen jnr and Matthew Ryan, who head the Press Up Hospitality Group, one of the State’s largest cinema, hotel, pub, retail and restaurant operators with headquarters in Dublin.
However, the application provoked a wave of opposition with almost 100 submissions against the development lodged with Wicklow County Council.
In its decision dated May 29th the council’s senior executive planner cited seven reasons for the refusal.
These mainly environmental considerations included the impact of the proposed development on the Magherabeg Special Area of Conservation; planning objectives that tourism development in rural areas does not adversely impact on the landscape or the environment; a requirement that new tourist accommodation be restricted to the existing development cluster at Blainroe or to existing well developed sites; and safety in terms of car parking and sight lines along the nearby public road.
Council planners said the planning application failed to clarify the number and extent of trees to be removed in the access laneway and the levels of erosion from the sea.
Planners also said the ecological assessment had failed to demonstrate “that the proposed development would not have a significant impact on locally important natural habitats, species or wildlife corridors”.
Expanding on the proposed location of the development, away from existing towns and villages, planners said the visual impact of the development would be injurious to the unspoilt beach setting of Magheramore beach, and the “undesirable precedent for similar type development”, all of which would be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.
Martin Dwyer of the Save Magheramore campaign group, whose online petition garnered some 12,700 signatures against the development, said the group greeted the council’s decision with “relief” and “vindication”.
He said the “next step is that Wicklow County Council buy the site off the developers and maintain it in public ownership”.
Mr Dwyer called on the developers to facilitate the sale of the site to the council.
Judy Osbourne, a Wicklow-based consultant planner and trustee of Friends of the Irish Environment, also welcomed the decision.
She said the council should offer the developers €200,000, which it had originally offered previous owners of the site, and rewild it.