GREEN LIGHT FOR ROWING CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE ON THE LAKES
HIGH PERFORMANCE FACILITY TO BE BUILT ON THE LAKE IN BLESSINGTON
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.