Center Parcs secures approval for €100m extension to its Longford Forest resort

Its initial investment of €233m in the development of Longford Forest was the largest single investment in the history of Irish tourism.
Center Parcs secures approval for €100m extension to its Longford Forest resort

The expansion will include almost 200 new lodges.

Center Parcs has secured planning permission for an €100m expansion of its holiday village at Longford Forest which includes almost 200 new lodges.

An Bord Pleanála rejected an appeal by a number of parties including an environmental group against plans by the UK-based operator of leisure resorts for a major expansion of accommodation and leisure facilities at its Irish centre.

The board has upheld last year’s decision by Longford County Council to approve the construction of 198 new lodges across three zones at its Longford Forest resort outside Ballymahon, Co Longford.

The expansion of the 160-hectare holiday village also includes external saunas and pods, a new lakeside restaurant and coffee shop as well as an extension of several existing restaurants and additional staff facilities.

Other elements of the plans include an extension to the Subtropical Swimming Paradise and Aqua Sana spa with a new treetop sauna and additional treatment rooms.

The existing sports hall will also be expanded.

Center Parcs will also establish a new “energy centre” and district heating system as well as install solar panels on a range of buildings in the complex and upgrade its wastewater treatment plant.

A new car park will provide 313 parking spaces for staff vehicles.

An Bord Pleanála said the proposed extension of the facilities at the holiday village would not adversely affect protected conservation areas around Lough Ree.

The board was also satisfied that it would not have unacceptable impacts on ecology, water quality or the landscape and found the project acceptable in terms of traffic safety and congestion, subject to compliance with a number of planning conditions.

They include that the new lodges can only be used for short-term tourist accommodation and not as a place of permanent residence.

The board has also required Center Parcs to provide a shuttle bus service twice a week on changeover days to the resort to and from train stations in Athlone and Edgeworthstown in order to encourage the use of public transport by visitors.

In its appeal, environmental group, Sustainability 2050, claimed documents submitted by Center Parcs were not sufficiently detailed to allow the proposed development to be assessed with regard to EU environmental legislation.

The organisation claimed the plans were also “not sufficiently ambitious” in terms of emissions reductions, energy efficiency and renewable energy targets.

Its spokesperson, John Callaghan said the proposed development did not “identify a path to net zero compliance by 2050.” However, Center Parcs said the concept of its forest holiday villages demonstrated that “business and sustainable rural tourism can thrive in synergy with the natural environment.” The company estimated it would reduce carbon emissions by 30% from 2020 levels, while also reducing the amount of energy used over the same period by 5%.

It informed the board that it proposed that 50% of its energy would be obtained from renewable sources by 2030 with a reduction in water use by 10% and waste by 20% over the same timeframe.

It added: “Center Parcs has a long standing and acknowledged track record of positively improving the natural environment of its woodland sites, enhancing biodiversity and safeguarding the forest through increased deciduous woodland cover and implementing well-informed management programmes and practices.” The company said the proposed expansion, which it estimated would cost €99.8m, will bring the capacity of its tourist village in Co Longford, which opened in summer 2019, up to 3,500 guests.

Its initial investment of €233m in the development of Longford Forest was the largest single investment in the history of Irish tourism.

Once operational, Center Parcs projects the additional accommodation capacity will generate an extra €27m per annum for Irish GDP.

The company hopes the expanded facilities at Longford Forest will attract around 375,000 visitor nights annually with 15% of tourists coming from outside the Republic.

Longford Forest currently provides 466 self-catering lodges and 30 apartments.

The UK-based operator of forest holiday villages recorded its one millionth visitor to its Longford centre in 2022.

It is expected the project will create 300 jobs during the construction phase of the development if it secures planning permission.

Center Parcs, which already employs around 1,120 workers at Longford Forest, has indicated the expanded facilities will generate a further 280 permanent jobs once operational.

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