Go-ahead for €460m sport and leisure venue

A €460 million sport and leisure venue in Tipperary – incorporating a major casino development – moved a step closer last night when it was granted planning permission by the local council.

Independent TD Michael Lowry, a supporter of the project, said last night he expected gaming legislation to be in place in time to allow the casino to be developed as part of the complex.

Included in the proposed Tipperary Venue – which it is claimed will provide up to 2,000 new jobs – are a casino, a turf and all-weather racecourse, a greyhound track, a full-scale replica of the White House, a 500-bedroom five-star hotel, and a golf course.

The project is earmarked for an 900-acre site at Twomileborris, close to Thurles and just off the M8 Dublin-Cork motorway.

Backers announced yesterday that the project will also include an international equestrian centre which could attract show jumping, eventing, cross-country and dressage activities from around the world.

The man behind the proposed development is businessman Richard Quirke, a former garda from Co Tipperary who runs the Dr Quirkey’s Good Time Emporium amusement and gaming arcade on Dublin’s O’Connell Street.

“Ireland has lacked a quality international arena and the Tipperary Venue Equestrian Centre will provide much-needed }facilities for international and world-class competitions in ireland,” Mr Quirke said last night.

The project is expected to take three years to complete and, if the planning permission decision isn’t appealed, infrastructural work could begin early in the new year.

Mr Quirke has attracted the support of some powerful and influential figures and organisations, such as champion racehorse trainer and jockey Aidan O’Brien, Coolmore Stud, Irish Greyhound Board and Horseracing Ireland, along with former minister Michael Lowry.

Mr Lowry said last night he was “delighted to have assisted” with the development and said the impact of the Tipperary Venue on the area will be “immeasurable“.

He referred to a Department of Justice commission set up to look at the country’s “archaic” gaming legislation and said that, when the Government acts on that commission’s report, the laws will have to be changed.

“We are expecting… that it will bring forward a framework of legislation which will allow us, and anyone that’s interested, to make an application for a [casino] licence.”

Backers say construction of the entire complex will generate up to 1,000 jobs while 2,000 permanent jobs will be created once its complete.

An Taisce lodged a formal objection to the plans last year and among the difficulties it raised was the amount of carbon dioxide emissions expected to be generated by travel to and from the venue.

However, architect Brian O’Connell said that the design team have addressed the issues raised by An Taisce and said he would be “disappointed” if the environmental body appeals the planning approval.

Along with a large casino, all-weather racecourse and greyhound track, the venue will also include a “Tipperary White House” which will be used for banqueting and receptions, a chapel, and an underground entertainment venue with space for 15,000 customers.

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