Glasson Lakehouse

Glasson hotel planning approval appealed to An Bord Pleanála

The award of planning permission for a multi-million euro redevelopment of the Glasson Lakehouse hotel has been appealed to An Bord Pleanála by the owner of a local marina.

On July 29 last, Michael Barrett, of Lakeside Marina in Ballykeeran, lodged an appeal against Westmeath County Council's decision earlier in the month to grant retention and planning approval for a revamp which the hotel said would involve a capital cost of €10 million.

Glasson Golf and Country Club Ltd had been granted permission or retention approval for works including 20 "eco cabins" on stilts, a new single-storey banqueting room and terrace, a seven-bedroom hotel extension, a new two-storey gym, and a 12-metre outdoor heated swimming pool.

The hotel was purchased from the Reid family by developer Paddy McKillen Jr's Oakmount company, for a reported €9 million, in 2019.

One aspect of the proposed redevelopment, a five-bedroom "owner's house" close to the hotel, was refused permission by the county council.

Mr Barrett's appeal against the council's approval of most of the redevelopment work involved a 65-page report which was submitted on his behalf by Jack O'Sullivan of the Castlepollard-based Environmental Management Services.

The appeal noted that the planning application on behalf of the hotel had been "complex" given that it involved "previously constructed elements for retention, demolition of some existing structures, and requested permission for new structures."

A planning history of the hotel site, which was included in the appeal, stated that between 1991 and 2021, "some 16 planning applications" were made for developments on the site, and that twelve of these were granted permission.

Mr Barrett's appeal said the developments at the hotel site had "resulted in the loss of a natural landscape and its replacement by a combination of buildings, artificial surfaces, and monoculture closely cropped grassland for the purpose of golfing."

The appeal stated that a jetty or marina which adjoins the hotel site was identified by the council as not having been the subject of a request for planning permission. The appeal said that, since planning permission had not been granted for this structure, it was, therefore, unauthorised.

The appeal said the jetty extended approximately 115 metres into Killinure Lough, and that this represented an encroachment into the Lough Ree special area of conservation (SAC), special protection area (SPA), and proposed natural heritage area.

It called on the planning board to "address the issue of both the unauthorised jetty and the incursion or encroachment of other portions of the development into the area of the Lough Ree SAC and SPA." The appeal argued that the need to protect the environmental sensitivity of Lough Ree should override other concerns such as the provision of tourism infrastructure.

It said the protection of "lake ecosystems" together with their water quality, appearance and general character" was "a primary or over-riding objective" of Westmeath County Council, and that An Bord Pleanála should take this into consideration in making its decision.

Lough Ree and the Shannon corridor was "a vulnerable area, already subject to considerable development pressure," and the appellant argued that "the intensity and scale of existing developments should be a reason for refusing permission for further intensification on the (hotel) site."

The appeal also included a section on climate change, stating that an intensification of activity on a site "with no public transport, and to which all users of the facility will travel by car, would simply add to the existing climate problems."

It said An Bord Pleanála should "take into consideration the substantial use of fossil fuel energy associated with the proposed development," adding that if some elements of the project were approved the hotel should be compelled to make a transition to renewable energy sources for all of its energy requirements.

The appeal called on the planning board to refuse permission for the development, which, it argued, was in conflict "with many of the policies and objectives" in Westmeath's County Development Plan.

An Bord Pleanála is due to make a decision on the appeal by December 1.