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OPW unable to reach public access deal with Castletown House developers

The Office of Public Works (OPW) has been unable to reach agreement with the developers at Castletown House and Parklands, in Celbridge, Co Kildare, about access for the public to the estate, according to a statement issued on Friday evening.

It comes after a campaign, Save Castletown, began, which was sparked by a disagreement over access to the estate, and subsequent actions taken by the Office of Public Works (OPW).

Killross Properties, along with another Kildare-based developer, purchased a large parcel of land – which includes the main vehicular access route to the estate and a 200-space car park – immediately adjacent to the Castletown House estate earlier this year. The State did bid for the parcel of land but ultimately failed to purchase the site.

Residents of Celbridge and other towns in north Kildare and west Dublin gathered at various entrances to the estate earlier this month, voicing concern over the impact that a new car park would have on rich biodiversity at Castletown and on existing traffic issues in the town of Celbridge. The protests received considerable attention and were covered by the national media.

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The OPW has been engaged in discussions with the landowners in recent weeks and attended mediation on Friday 29th September, however, it was “not possible to reach agreement”, its latest statement on the matter said.

The developer claims that efforts to formalise the licensing agreement broke down in July when the OPW refused to commit to installing public lighting along the M4 access route, and the existing car park.

The developers stated that, as a result, its insurance providers would not provide cover for the road and car park in question. Because of this, Killross says it is no longer in a position to facilitate access to the estate.

Killross has also alleged that the existing car park is an unauthorised development.

The OPW has twice approached Killross Properties to purchase part of the private-held land, the developers have claimed, but negotiations to date have been unsuccessful.

The entrance from the M4 side will not be open to the public on Saturday, the OPW’s statement said, asking the public to “co-operate with the landowners’ request that the public should not access or traverse their lands”.

“The Office of Public Works will not be responsible for any member of the public who enters onto the lands of the private owners,” it said.

“The OPW has cared for and conserved Castletown for over 20 years, we have 225 acres of beautiful historic landscape, award winning for biodiversity and Castletown House and Estate continues to be fully accessible to the public by our main entrance, the Celbridge gate”, the statement added.

Visitors were encouraged to walk, cycle or use public transport if they plan to visit Castletown, and “should be reminded that public access is not affected by the closure of the M4 route,” the OPW said, adding that there will be “limited parking available on site”.

Pedestrian access will continue through Celbridge and Battey Langley Gates.

Local resident Paul Wade told The Irish Times the update from OPW on Friday evening was “very disappointing news but not unexpected”.

“There is nothing the statement to say why the mediation failed, on what grounds were they unable to find any agreement. I find it amazing that OPW are asking the community not to go on the land owned by Kilcross,” he said.

“The outcome of this will be increased traffic through Celbridge village and the estates closest to Castletown,” Wade added.

The local community felt “let down by council and state agencies in Celbridge, just look at the lack of facilities and proper development around the town. One playground for the entire population and no council sports facilities at all,” he said.

Sinn Féin TD Reada Cronin said she was “really disappointed” by the development.

“The lands at Castletown are far more to us than an amenity. They are our historical, cultural and environmental heritage, which we must pass to the next generation. I love walking the lands with my grandson and we all want our children and grandchildren to make memories with their children and grandchildren like we made with them,” she said in a statement.

“It’s wonderful to see the community so united on this. Our journey on Castletown is only beginning.”