A view of the picturesque Glasson Lakehouse Hotel.

An Taisce seeking changes to €20m hotel expansion plans

An Taisce has sought changes to plans for a €20m expansion of a Glasson hotel by asking for the vast majority of timber lodges close to Lough Ree to be moved.

The submission from the National Trust which aims to protect Ireland's natural and built heritage is one of three lodged with Westmeath County Council in relation to the massive development earmarked for the Glasson Lakehouse Hotel, Killinure.

On the other side of the coin, a submission from Fáilte Ireland is wholly positive and in favour of the ambitious plans envisaged for the four-star lakeside property encompassing a new gym with swimming pool, spa building, cinema, wedding barn, and golf clubhouse, along with 30 eco-cabins on stilts.

If given the green light, the project will employ 100 permanent staff and an additional 100 staff at peak events such as conferences and weddings.

In a brief submission, An Taisce asked for a revised application to be lodged, saying: “We consider that the part of the development comprising the 21 proposed lodges nearer Lough Ree are inappropriate in location and impact and should be relocated.”

Fáilte Ireland, on the other hand, has thrown its support behind the proposal, judging it a “valuable addition to Athlone” which is strategically located within Ireland's Hidden Heartlands.

“The tourism base of the county would support and be elevated by way of the alternative accommodation offering proposed with the provision of the 30 timber-clad cabins located in a parkland setting,” the State tourism agency stressed.

Last year developer Paddy McKillen Jnr’s Oakmount firm acquired the scenic hotel on the shores of Lough Ree for a reported €9 million. The deal saw the operation of the hotel and golf club pass from the Reid family, to the hospitality wing of McKillen’s business, Press Up Entertainment.

Elsewhere, the third submission from Tom and Colette Ryan, Bunown stressed while they don't have an objection to the plans, in general, they did want to make some observations.

Firstly, the local residents said they suffer from “mild noise pollution” when the doors are opened in the hotel, and they requested that the proposed wedding barn be soundproofed to a high standard. They also asked that outdoor amplified entertainment not be permitted anywhere or any time on the site.

In addition, since the current operators took over the running of the hotel, there has been a “marked increase” in traffic on the Killinure Road.

“A major problem is that a large proportion of the hotel clientele (and indeed the other businesses on the road) travel on the motorway network, and in some cases have not adjusted their speed to an appropriate level when they arrive on the road,” Tom and Colette Ryan maintained, adding that if planning is granted, at a minimum, a footpath and cycle lane should be provided in the more dangerous areas which they pointed out in an accompanying map.

The owners are banking on the €20 million expansion turning the popular hotel into “one of the leading tourist venues in the country,” according to the planning documents.

The thinking behind the project is to expand the indoor leisure offering in the hotel, formerly known as Glasson Golf and Country Club, by constructing a two-storey gym building covering 1,700 square metres with an indoor/outdoor swimming pool, and a new “almost entirely underground” subterranean single-storey spa building with external pool. The gym would have a link to the western bedroom block.

A wedding barn “inspired by traditional agricultural forms and finishes” is another eye-catching feature of the plans. It would be “designed as a standalone banqueting facility” with its own bar, reception, kitchen and dining hall.

Meanwhile, it’s intended that the 30 single-storey timber eco-cabins with double en-suite rooms will take advantage of the “wellness tourism market,” according to the plans, while an upgrade to the golf course is also on the cards along with a new clubhouse away from the hotel.

Westmeath County Council is due to announce a decision on the project by November 11 next.