Lug­gala Es­tate sold for less than ask­ing price

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - NEWS - By SI­MON BOURKE

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’.

Lug­gala House.

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