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Is something like this coming to a Co Longford forest?

A UK resort operator is reportedly planning a major development near Ballymahon.

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A "subtropical swimming paradise" at one of Center Parc's UK resorts

Updated 19.35

IF YOU BELIEVE the mayor of Longford, the biggest private tourism project in the history of Ireland will soon come to a forest near Ballymahon.

Major UK holiday-resort operator Center Parcs is reportedly planning a more than €100 million project for Coillte-owned land in the midlands county.

According to RTÉ, the company – which operates five, family-friendly forest resorts in the UK – wants to build over 200 lodges and villas, alongside spas, bars, restaurants and a swimming pool complex near the river Inny.

It will reportedly seek planning planning permission within the next six months.

But Center Parcs was keeping mum on any announcements today, with the company’s PR manager Simon Kay telling us:

No press release has been issued on this to any media outlets and the speculation this morning is factually incorrect. An official announcement will be made tomorrow.”

Spokespeople from Coillte and Longford County Council also said they had no announcements to make.

ogycc3mwcgayysnglbzb Center Parc's Woburn Forest resort in the UK Source: Creative Commons

Nice timing

The timing and the lack of official details were enough to set off the April Fool’s radar of Today FM’s Anton Savage, who asked Longford mayor Mark Casey if the whole thing was a gag.

“I’m not at liberty, because of the embargo, to say who is coming to Longford, but I can confirm that there is a major tourist development for Longford in the pipeline,” Casey said.

An absolutely fabulous company, a blue-chip company that anyone would be delighted to have in their county. We’re working on this for a long, long number of months now and we’re absolutely delighted that it has come to this.

“It’s going to be the single-biggest tourist private investment in the history of the state … all of it in Longford.”

The lease for the development was expected to cover “hundreds of acres” in the Newcastle Woods, which span 325 hectares and feature 28km of forest roads and trails.

Speculation

It has since been confirmed this evening that Taoiseach Enda Kenny will be in Ballymahon tomorrow to announce a major forest and tourism development project at Newcastle Wood.

A statement from a Dublin-based firm public relations firm says that some “speculation today has been inaccurate” but that, “the development will be one of the largest-ever investment and job creation projects in the Midlands”.

aqua sana day one An outdoor aqua sauna at Woburn Forest Source: Creative Commons

Parcs and recreation

The prospective new operator, Center Parcs, turned over £314 million last financial year from the 1.7 million guests it said went through its resorts. Its holidays are targeted at well-off families with money to spend on the company’s raft of adventure activities.

Last year its chief executive Martin Dalby said the company wasn’t planning to open any new sites in the UK but it was looking to Ireland and was “in talks with the government and tourist board there”.

“After that it could be the US, China, or India, for example,” he said.

Family foil fencing Source: Creative Commons

Center Parcs has been criticised for doing little to help local economies as guests typically stayed only for weekends and spent all their time in the resorts, where activities ranging from table tennis to paintball were typically offered at extra cost.

Non-guests have to pay for visitor passes to get in to the resort area.

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About the author:

Peter Bodkin  / Editor, Fora

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