Hellfire hath no fury: legal challenge to visitor centre

by Gazette Reporter

CAMPAIGNERS opposing controversial plans for a e19m visitor centre in the Dublin Mountains have launched a legal challenge against the project.

An umbrella group of resident and community groups called Save the Hellfire Club want the iconic Rathfarnham site preserved for future generations.

They argue that the development, being pursued by South Dublin County Council (SDCC), will spoil the natural landscape of the area and hamper views of the city.

An Bord Pleanala approved the plans and granted planning permission for the Dublin Mountains Visitor Centre in late June.

The scheme is a key recommendation of the council’s tourism strategy which was first adopted in 2015.

SDCC is advancing the project as a joint development with Coillte and the Dublin Mountains Partnership to create what it describes as a new “gateway” to the hills.

Its plans would see a visitor centre located at the combined Massy’s Wood/Estate and Montpelier Hill incorporating the legendary Hellfire Club site.

But Save the Hellfire Club in conjunction with Hellfire Massy Residents Association has lodged papers in the High Court seeking a judicial review of ABP’s decision.

A spokesperson said this was the only option “to overturn the irrational decision” adding: “This is a huge undertaking but it is essential if we are to stop South Dublin County Council.”

The proposed centre includes a 75-seater café, shop, toilets, changing facilities, a walkers’ lounge, exhibition space and education centre including a 50-seater auditorium.

One sticking point for objectors is a treetop canopy walk over the Kilakee Road connecting the centre with the popular walking route of Massy’s Wood.

Campaigners dispute claims by SDCC that a three-fold increase in visitor numbers would not result in significantly more numbers accessing other nearby protected habitats with a negative impact on local wildlife and fauna.

The group said it was encouraged by the massive support it had received from residents associations and community groups in the area with over 23,000 people signing an online petition objecting to the project.

In its ruling ABP said the proposed development was respectful of the existing character of the Hellfire Club and was acceptable in relation to traffic and pedestrian safety – two key concerns of objectors.

The case is listed for a hearing in the High Court in November 2020.

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