€19m Hell Fire Club visitor centre may be delayed by probe
South Dublin Council must investigate the environmental impact of a visitor centre at the Hell Fire Club in the Dublin mountains before any decision is made on granting permission for its development.
An Bord Pleanala has directed the council to carry out an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) at the site.
The decision followed the council and forestry agency Coillte, which is also involved in the project, seeking direction over whether such an inspection was necessary.
The council is in the process of securing permission to develop a single-storey and two-storey visitor centre that would accommodate tourists and visitors.
The €19m centre has been planned for a number of years.
Among the facilities it will provide are an exhibition space, an audio-visual experience and a cafe.
A treetop canopy walk has also been proposed.
The Hell Fire Club is a solidly built, desolate structure of two storeys, with a vaulted stone roof dating to 1725, according to ABP.
The building is fitted with gun loops on projecting bays to front and rear.
There are two passage tombs behind the former hunting lodge, which has been listed as a protected structure.
The planning board said the location was a sensitive but highly-frequented landscape.
"The board considered that the proposed development is such that further significant additional numbers of visitors will be encouraged to use the facilities provided.
"It is deemed appropriate that the effect of these, and other, impacts be properly assessed," it said.
The board added its decision to request a report was taken due to the prevalence of artefacts of cultural, historical and archaeological heritage throughout the general area and to the ecology of the area.
ABP's decision to seek an assessment means that the public will be able to lodge objections to the project. However, the council took the unusual step of suggesting to ABP that such an assessment should take place.
A separate proposal for the area, suggested last year, was that a cable car be installed to ferry people from Tallaght Stadium to the popular beauty spot. However, hopes of such a project were dampened when it emerged it would cost in the region of €50m to build.