Wicklow People (West Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - By SI­MON BOURKE

PLAN­NING per­mis­sion for a high per­for­mance row­ing cen­tre at Bur­gage Moyle on the Bless­ing­ton Lakes has been ap­proved by An Bord Pleanána af­ter an ob­jec­tion from a lo­cal res­i­dent was over­turned.

The cen­tre, which will in­clude a new boathouse, an­cil­lary build­ing, chang­ing ar­eas, a gym, meet­ing rooms and a carpark, is to be de­vel­oped by Row­ing Ire­land and will be used by row­ing clubs through­out Le­in­ster.

Wick­low County Coun­cil ini­tially re­ceived an ap­pli­ca­tion for plan­ning per­mis­sion for the cen­tre in 2017 and an ob­jec­tion to the de­vel­op­ment was sub­mit­ted to An Bord Pleanána from a Mr Ray­mond O’Sullivan of Wood­end, New­town, Eadestown, Naas.

In his ap­peal, Mr O’Sullivan raised con­cerns over po­ten­tial ‘habi­tat de­struc­tion and wildlife dis­tur­bance on Poulaphouc­a Reser­voir’. Not­ing that the in­tended site was si­t­u­ated close to the reser­voir and other Spe­cial Pro­tec­tion Ar­eas (SPA), Mr O’Sullivan said the ‘pri­mary pur­pose of the Poulaphouc­a Reser­voir SPA des­ig­na­tion was the pro­tec­tion of roost­ing sites for two species of birds, the Grey Lag Geese and the Lesser Black Backed Gulls,’ adding that ‘the pro­posal for an ad­di­tional row­ing club on this wa­ter body will have a detri­men­tal im­pact on the roost­ing habi­tat of the Grey Lag Goose and Lesser Black Backed Gulls’.

Mr O’Sullivan also cited the pres­ence of other clubs in the area which, he said, con­trib­ute to the dis­tur­bance of wildlife. The row­ing club at

Bless­ing­ton Bridge, the fish­ing club near Russ­bor­ough, an out­door ac­tiv­ity cen­tre at Avon Ri, a boat hire com­pany close to Lacken, and a sail­ing club near Balti­boys were all ref­er­enced dur­ing the course of his ap­peal.

How­ever, fol­low­ing an in­spec­tion of the site and a sub­se­quent re­port, per­mis­sion to go ahead with the project was granted on the grounds that: ‘the pro­posed de­vel­op­ment would be in ac­cor­dance with the pro­vi­sions of the Wick­low County De­vel­op­ment Plan 2016-2022, would not have an un­ac­cept­able im­pact on the land­scape, would not ad­versely af­fect the ar­chae­o­log­i­cal or nat­u­ral her­itage of the area, would rep­re­sent a pos­i­tive de­sign re­sponse to the site con­text and would, there­fore, be in ac­cor­dance with the proper plan­ning and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment of the area.’

The de­ci­sion to grant per­mis­sion came with a num­ber of con­di­tions. A de­tailed en­vi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment plan for the con­struc­tion stage is to be sub­mit­ted to the Plan­ning Au­thor­ity be­fore the de­vel­op­ment be­gins, an Eco­log­i­cal En­vi­ron­men­tal Clerk of Works is to mon­i­tor the project and en­sure sev­eral mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures are im­ple­mented through­out, and the boathouse fa­cil­ity is not to be used for the pro­vi­sion of overnight ac­com­mo­da­tion or com­mer­cial ac­tiv­i­ties.

CEO of Row­ing Ire­land Michelle Car­pen­ter wel­comed news that work could now be­gin on the cen­tre.

‘This is huge for us as an or­gan­i­sa­tion. Bless­ing­ton has al­ways been im­por­tant for us, we used to hold na­tional cham­pi­onships there. It’s been a long jour­ney in terms of plan­ning but it’s all for the ben­e­fit of the lake and the area,’ she said.

Stat­ing that funds would need to be raised be­fore work on the project could be­gin, Ms Car­pen­ter said the new de­vel­op­ment would fur­ther en­hance Ire­land’s bur­geon­ing rep­u­ta­tion in the sport of row­ing.

‘We have a big pro­gramme called “Get Go­ing, Get Row­ing” and had 30,000 stu­dents par­tic­i­pate in it last year, stu­dents from that have gone on to rep­re­sent Ire­land. This cen­tre will pro­vide Wick­low stu­dents with a place to row and de­velop,’ she said.

Also wel­com­ing the news was Cathaoir­leach of Balt­in­glass Mu­nic­i­pal District, Cllr Gerry O’Neill.

‘Row­ing is a recre­ational sport which we do well in in­ter­na­tion­ally too, so I wel­come any­thing which pro­motes it.

‘I’d like to see more of that on the lake here and have it used to its full po­ten­tial. We should have safe swim­ming ar­eas too, that could be done, they have them else­where in the coun­try.’.

The Bless­ing­ton Lakes.

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