Luggala Estate sold for less than asking price
THE historic Luggala Estate has been sold to an overseas buyer at a price believed to be ‘considerably less’ than the €28m asking fee.
Since being placed on the market in February 2017 the property, which was first built in 1787, has been the subject of much debate, with local politicians and community groups urging the State to step in and purchase what has become an iconic part of Wicklow’s heritage.
Meetings with Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan had indicated that the Government understood Luggala’s potential as both a tourist attraction and an amenity for local walkers.
However, despite receiving assurances that the safeguarding of the property was high on Minister Madigan’s agenda, it has now been sold to as of yet unnamed private party, casting its future into uncertainty.
Speaking after the sale of the 5,000 acre estate Wicklow TD John Brady said, ‘I am very disappointed that the Government has allowed this once in a lifetime opportunity pass to acquire the 5,000 acres in the Luggala Estate. Since the estate first came on the market I have been calling on the government to purchase it.
‘I have been engaging with the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan over the last 12 months and she has consistently told me that the State would only purchase the estate if the price fell into a certain range. It appears now that the Minister sat on her hands and allowed a private purchaser buy the estate for considerably less than the asking price.’
Over the course of its esteemed history the Luggala Estate has hosted world-famous stars such as Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger and Bono, and most recently available to rent for €22,000 per week.
It has also become an integral part of the burgeoning Irish film industry, with parts of all five seasons of hit television show ‘Vikings’ being shot there.
According to Cllr Jennifer Whitmore, those within the sector have been concerned about the property being sold to a private buyer since it first went on the market.
‘Many in the Irish film industry voiced their concerns to me over any potential sale. Luggala has been described as the “Jewel in the Crown” of the film industry here and is the one site that all overseas film producers want to visit. A significant amount of filming on the site happens each year, and includes series such as the Vikings. Any closure of this land could mean an end to the industry having access to those filming locations,’ said the Social Democrats Councillor.
The estate has for many years been popular among hillwalkers and mountaineers and, in 2006, land adjacent to Luggala was purchased, enabling the joining up of two sections of Wicklow Mountains National Park.
In October 2018 up to 30 protestors gathered outside the entrance to Luggala Estate in opposition to the closure of a pedestrian gate at 5.30 p.m. every evening.
Organisations such as Mountaineering Ireland and Keep Ireland Open had themselves called upon Minister Madigan to buy the land and incorporate it into the Wicklow National Park. And the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) had previously recommended that the State buy 4,000 acres of the property because of its ‘strategic importance’ to the State lands and its tourism potential.
The Wicklow Uplands Council had also been heavily involved in the campaign to preserve the property for public use and its Coordinator, Brian Dunne, reacted to the sale by saying, ‘Wicklow Uplands Council had lobbied for a state purchase of Luggala in order to see the estate added to the Wicklow Mountains National Park and to ensure continued access for recreational users as was enjoyed under the ownership of the late Garech De Brun. The Council looks forward to working constructively with the new owners on the discussion of future public access to the estate’
On that issue, Deputy Brady said, ‘There is now genuine fear regarding public access to the lands in the Luggala Estate. Luggala has been widely used by the public and has some fantastic walking routes. Last year a number of signs were erected in the area warning people that the Luggala Estate lands were private property. Public access to the lands must be protected and the new owner must ensure that remains to be the case.’
According to Sotheby’s International Realty, which handled the sale, the buyer is committed to maintaining ‘the delicate eco system of the estate’ ‘the historic fabric of the lodge and other structures’ and ‘continuing the sellers rules governing third party access’.