Blarney Castle owner objects to housing estate plan

File photo of Blarney Castle.
By Seán McCárthaigh

The owner of one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions is concerned that a proposed new housing development in Cork will negatively impact on the historic character of the area.

The Blarney Castle Estate has lodged an appeal against the recent decision of Cork County Council to grant planning permission for a new housing estate near the famous landmark, to building firm, Muskerry Homes.

The estate, which is owned by Charles Colthurst, is opposing the 58-unit residential development at Kilnamucky in Tower which lies on a scenic route in the Shournagh Valley

Mr Colthurst is claiming the old abandoned Cork-Muskerry railway line which borders the new development should be preserved as an important piece of industrial heritage.

While acknowledging the current housing shortage, Mr Colthurst said the design and layout must “take into account and positively reinforce the historic qualities of the landscape”.

Consultants acting for the Blarney Castle Estate say that Mr Colthurst believes it is vital that the historic footprint of the Cork and Muskerry Light Rail line be retained.

In addition to providing access to the castle, they said the railway line also served the now derelict Hydropathic Institute, also known as St Anne’s Hydro, in Blarney, which is next to the new housing development.

The facility which closed in 1952 was the first modern Turkish baths in Britain and Ireland. Mr Colthurst said that the estate has invested time and resources in protecting the special historic and scenic qualities of the landscape which he claims are vital for keeping the area attractive for visitors and locals.

He described the Cork-Muskerry railway line as “regionally important industrial archaeology”.

Consultants for Mr Colthurst said: “Cork County Council are intent on increasing the dwell time of visitors in Co Cork and by protecting our heritage and proving an attractive place to visit, this can be achieved.”

They claimed the local authority is reneging on the objectives of its own county development plan in relation to protecting significant heritage.

By simply incorporating heritage features such as this into modern developments, the memory, stories and significance can be kept for future generations to enjoy,” they said.

Blarney Castle was the 12th most popular fee-paying tourist attraction here last year with 450,000 visitors.

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.

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