Owners of Cabü by the Lakes, London-based entrepreneurs JP Ledwidge and Olivia Hutchinson (centre), with Shane Kelly, General Manager (left), and Kate Carolan, Head of Marketing (right).

€1.5m investment to start at Killykeen complex

Following last weekend’s footballing heroics, Cabü by the Lakes is to offer 10% off all bookings to people visiting from Cavan.

Killykeen’s Cabü by the Lakes is set to spend close to €1.5 million in delivering the next stage of its plans to further enhance the forest tourism complex.

Designers met with the owners, London-based entrepreneurs JP Ledwidge and Olivia Hutchinson, this week to go over designs for phase two - a proposal to transform the former equestrian centre as rustic, yet state-of-the-art guest accommodation for up to 15 people.

Cavan County Council granted conditional planning permission for the development in November last year but that decision was subsequently appealed to An Bord Pleanála by Dublin-based campaigner R. Lee.

One year on, the national planning appeals board has moved to uphold the decision by planners at Cavan County Council to grant permission for the development, contrary to the Bord’s own inspector’s recommendation to refuse.

The Killykeen chalets were developed initially in the mid 1980s and managed under an umbrella of the Department of Agriculture, and later by Coillte.

The stables were added in the early 1990s but, much like the rest of the holiday complex, their use ceased in the mid 2000s.

In 2017, Killykeen Forest Holidays Ltd purchased the holiday village and, up until its opening last Easter, invested close to €5m upgrading the existing 28 holiday cabins within the 75-acre park site.

The objection by R. Lee of 21 Grove Park, Rathmines, centred on the impact the proposed development would have on native habitats in the area, as well as the ecology.

However, in their response, Killykeen Forest Holidays (KFHL) hit back, querying the validity of the appeal, based on the appellant’s name R Lee, stating that the initial ‘R’ is not a name.

They also queried the appellant’s “motive and intent”.

Through a series of expert submissions, the firm also sought to bat down various concerns raised.

Nevin Traynor of Traynor Environmental Ltd provided a noise impact assessment; while it was noted in the Bord inspector’s report, dated April 2020, that in 2018 extensive meetings had taken place with the council’s environment section regarding discharge licence permits and interests in protecting Lough Oughter.

Furthermore, Dr Chris Peppiatt, who has been carrying out bird surveys in Killykeen area since March 2019, noted for the Bord’s benefit that it was “unlikely” the renovations and use of the stables for accommodation will have any negative impacts on the birds in the surrounding woodland.

As part of the conditions, a 10-metre buffer zone to development from the lake shore will remain intact.

Despite the recommendation to refuse permission, the Bord over ruled its own inspector. Its direction to uphold planning permission states the Bord was “satisfied”, following receipt of further information consisting of a revised Natura Impact Statement with additional mitigation measures and a revised Bat Assessment, that the proposed development “would not adversely affect” the integrity of the Lough Oughter and Associated Loughs SAC.

Welcoming the Bord’s decision, Mr Ledwidge said that Cabü by the Lakes could continue with its ambitious plans for developing the site.

The business had only opened its doors post the first Covid lockdown and, following that, received a surge in interest from punters eager to sample a socially-distanced staycation at this smartly-designed, unique forest hideaway.

But the complex, which employs close to 35 people, has since had to shut once again due to Covid restrictions.

However, the business is now planning to reopen, with an firm eye on the festive season ahead.

“We were busy all summer, almost full to capacity, right up to when we closed again,” notes Ms Hutchinson, who accepts that Covid has been a big blow to the tourism industry, not just in Cavan, but nationally.

“We’re eager to reopen now welcome people back in,” adds Mr Ledwidge who, keen to further entwine the business to its local roots, and based on last weekend’s footballing heroics, unveils that the business intends to offer 10% off all bookings to people visiting the complex from Cavan.

“It’s been a big part of what we’ve always done here. In the construction phase, we employed locally, now we’ve staffed with as many locally as possible. So it’s very much part of our ethos, and nothing would make us happier, with Covid and all the rest that has happened, people being restricted to being with five kilometres from their homes, that for a break they’d come spend it with us.”

Ms Hutchinson further reveals that plans are currently being prepared for the third and final phase of investment at Killykeen’s Cabü by the Lakes.

She and Mr Ledwidge say it will involve adding several dozen more residential units. It’s hoped an application for planning permission could be lodged as soon as early next year.

“It seems like a funny time to press the button on project of such scale but really it’s been pre-planned. It’s part of our overall blueprint for the site. The feedback we’ve got since opening has been brilliant. It’s given us a real confidence in what we’re doing here. This is a lifestyle. This is a different type of holiday, a staycation in a natural environment, somewhere really special. We’re proud of what’s been achieved here and we hope to continue to build on it, and really put Cabü by the Lakes and Cavan on the map.”

Anyone looking to avail of the 10% off Cabü by the Lakes Cavan postcode offer, which runs up until March 31 next year, is encouraged to contact bookings@cabubythelakes.ie or 049-4894027.