No hotel without casino, architect confirms

THE hotel element of a €460 million sports and leisure complex planned for a rural site in Tipperary will not go ahead if a proposed casino is not allowed, promoters have confirmed.

A “resort casino hotel” with up to 500 bedrooms is part of the proposal which is earmarked for an 800-acre site at Two-Mile Borris near Thurles.

While gambling legislation is being reviewed by the Department of Justice, the venue’s architect said the hotel and the casino “are effectively one” and dependent on each other for progress. The Tipperary Venue also includes turf and all-weather horseracing circuits, a greyhound racing track, a 15,000-capacity indoor entertainment venue, a golf course and an equestrian centre.

Businessman Richard Quirke is the man behind the venture, while independent TD Michael Lowry has been a keen supporter from the outset.

Architect Brian O’Connell told the third day of a Bord Pleanála hearing into the project that the hotel/casino “is predicated on the licensing regime” and will depend on the government’s decision regarding casino laws.

“There’s a new economic opportunity within the market for providing conference facilities within a casino hotel,” he said. “The one wouldn’t proceed without the other.”

This wouldn’t affect the rest of the proposed complex, however, Mr O’Connell said.

The horseracing aspect of the project is supported by Horse Racing Ireland, who invited expressions of interest for the development of an all-weather track in the Munster region some years ago.

Existing race tracks in Thurles and Tipperary (Limerick Junction) are expected to close if the Tipperary Venue gets the green light.

During questioning by sustainable planning expert and barrister James Nix, for An Taisce, Brian O’Connell said the urban locations of venues such as the O2 in Dublin and the Odyssey Arena in Belfast were “inappropriate”.

This was because of the influx of large amounts of people into an urban setting in a short period of time.

There was a “strong argument,” he said, for building such venues outside of city locations.

Mr O’Connell was speaking during the third day of the oral hearing into the Tipperary Venue. North Tipperary County Council granted planning permission to the project last year but the case was appealed to the board by some local residents, along with An Taisce.

Concerns include the level of traffic which would be generated by the venue along with noise, carbon emissions, helicopter use, its distance from public transport and the sustainability of such a large-scale development.

The hearing concluded yesterday with closing submissions before senior An Bord Pleanála inspector Pauline Fitzpatrick and a decision is currently due at the end of this month.

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