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The hotel and spa.
staff shortage

Powerscourt Hotel to build new accommodation for staff despite objection from estate owners

The hotel said it was experiencing a chronic staffing shortage caused by a lack of housing availability.

THE POWERSCOURT HOTEL Resort and Spa has secured planning permission to construct a staff accommodation facility at the five-star hotel in Wicklow, despite an objection from the owners of the Powerscourt Estate.

An Bord Pleanála rejected a number of appeals against the decision of Wicklow County Council to approve the construction of a new 56-bed staff accommodation complex at the Enniskerry resort.

The Wicklow Hotel Partnership, which operates the 198-bed Powerscourt Hotel Resort and Spa, claimed the building is necessary to help it attract staff amid the current housing crisis.

It claimed it was “exasperated” at the lack of availability of affordable housing near Enniskerry which had created difficulties in attracting prospective employees.

The hotel said it was experiencing a chronic staff shortage which it predicted would continue for the medium to long term.

The hotel’s owners also complained that they had to use some hotel rooms to accommodate staff which was reducing its revenue and was unsustainable.

The hotel, which employs around 350 staff, has also been using buses to collect staff from Bray.

Plans for the staff accommodation provide for 56 beds in 29 rooms as well as a common room and communal kitchen, dining room and laundry room.

It will be used to provide temporary accommodation for new staff, seasonal staff and work placement students.

Subject to compliance with a number of planning conditions, An Bord Pleanála said the proposed development would not be visually obtrusive or out of character with the surrounding area.

The board also ruled that it would not seriously injure the amenities of adjoining properties and would provide satisfactory standards of amenity for future occupants as well as being acceptable in terms of pedestrian and traffic safety.

However, it imposed a planning condition that hotel staff cannot live in the extension for longer than six months, while no room can be used as overnight paying guest accommodation.

It also stipulated that the new accommodation cannot be used as a permanent place of residence by anyone.

Plans for the extra staff accommodation facility had been opposed by Scalaheen, a company linked to the Slazenger family – owners of the Powerscourt Estate.

A separate appeal was also lodged against the staff accommodation facility by Scalaheen’s planning consultant, Tom Phillips, who has a leasehold interest in a suite in the hotel.

The appellants said the development was for co-living/shared accommodation which had been prohibited by ministerial guidelines.

They claimed there had been an unauthorised change of use without planning permission by the use of hotel rooms for staff accommodation.

The objectors also claimed the Wicklow Hotel Partnership did not have sufficient legal interest in the property to make the planning application.

In addition, they argued that the standard of accommodation in the extension would not be acceptable without access to recreational facilities, public transport and inadequate storage, communal living and kitchen facilities.

They claimed the noise associated with the common room would make sleep in certain rooms impossible.

A planning inspector with An Bord Pleanála, Susan McHugh, said the provision of staff accommodation on the grounds of the existing hotel was acceptable in principle.

Ms McHugh also stated that she did not consider the use of hotel bedrooms for use by its staff constituted a change of use under planning legislation, while she was satisfied that the Wicklow Hotel Partnership had sufficient legal interest to make the application.

The Powerscourt Hotel Resort and Spa was bought in 2019 for more than €50m by a company linked to MHL Hotel Collection – a joint venture between US cable television tycoon, John Malone; Irish property developer, John Lally and Northern Ireland businessman, Paul Higgins.

The consortium’s portfolio of hotels also includes the College Green (formerly Westin) and InterContinental hotels in Dublin city.

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Author
Seán McCárthaigh
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