By Rose Barrett
Next Tuesday will the see the Dublin Mountains Project under the scrutiny of a judicial review.
The project proposed and approved by South Dublin City Council in 2017 was given the thumbs up by An Bórd Pleanála (ABP) in June 2020, much to the devastation of a strong opposition body led by Save the Hellfire group.
A three day oral hearing in November 2018 heard submissions from those for and against the development which will be a collaboration between SDCC, Coillte and the Dublin Mountains Partnership.
Save the Hellfire, supported by local residents and farmers, environmentalists and ecologists, stated the development would be an imposition on Dublin’s largest remaining unspoilt green space, Massy’s Wood.
The Hellfire Club, one of Dublin’s most iconic landmarks is steeped in mystery, having been founded in 1735 by Richard Parsons. The remains of the club’s hunting lodge sits on top of Montpelier Hill with several more architectural features and the remains of two passage tombs located in the area.
At least 24,000 signatures signed a petition opposing the plans with a further 170 submissions made to ABP. These were individuals and groups who felt the unspoilt, natural beauty of the area should be retained and that the views of Dublin city from Montpelier Hill were the best in the county.
However, SDCC argued that it was not an option to do nothing, given the huge increase in visitors and walkers to the area. Together, the Dublin Mountains Partnerships would vehemently protect and preserve the unique “landscape, ecology and heritage” of Massy’s Wood and the Hellfire Club.
While Save the Hellfire described the proposal as a “vanity proposal” by the council, SDCC stress that along with protecting wildlife and fauna of the area (home to red squirrels, merlin, pine martens and bats), the project would bring economic benefits to the local community, increase tourism and therefore, boost the local economy and create further employment opportunities.
The tourism development reputedly costing anything up to €22m, will include a visitor centre with an exhibition and education space.
There will further be a café with panoramic views of the Dublin mountains and city; a retail space at the Hellfire Club, a walker’s lounge along with a canopy walk connecting the new centre with Massy’s Wood. SDCC also gave assurances that there would be no conflict between horse-riders and walkers in Massy’s Wood.
In granting permission, An Bord Pleanála issued conditions including the drawing up of a forest management plan with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the appointment of an ecologist to oversee the works.
So, all to play for as the judicial review approaches on June 8. Given the historic Satanic roots of the Hellfire Club, it would seem that each side will claim the site “is damned if we do, and damned if we don’t”.